While the year 2020 was projected to bring positive growth for the material handling industry, many companies have been in a state of readjustment since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Along with notable repercussions on the health of our nation, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the American material handling, manufacturing, and business industries.

In the United States, the widespread pandemic and its resulting public policies have prompted permanent closures for many small businesses. Most industries have been affected by COVID-19 in some way, namely through indefinite business closures, employee layoffs, and restructuring of business operations, processes, and procedures.

How COVID-19 Has Affected the Material Handling Industry

The material handling industry has unquestionably faced challenges that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. At HAWKER®, we’ve experienced the effects of the virus on our company and the industry as a whole. Together, we have worked collectively to create a safe and healthy environment for our employees and clients, while still providing our products and services throughout the North American market

Our HAWKER® team has been intentionally looking at the following effects of COVID-19 and how to best address them as the material handling industry moves further into 2020.

The New Normal: Social Distancing

Social distancing is now the norm whether in public or at work. The CDC recommends that everyone needs to stay at least six feet from other people at all times to prevent the spread of the virus. 

As a result, social distancing has changed how the average manufacturing company and distribution facility functions. To accommodate this protocol, material handling companies have had to change how they typically operate, which in turn impacts their productivity, sales, and profits. 

Some examples of changes that companies have made to allow for social distancing are reduced labor capacity in a facility, updated shift times and schedules, frequent temperature checks, and the addition of personal protective equipment such as plastic screens, hand sanitizer stations, as well as requiring face shields, masks, or gloves.

Heightened Demand on Supply Chains

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a trend that the material handling industry has known for a while - automation is needed for supply chains to increase efficiency. According to a recent study, only ten percent of supply chains felt fully prepared for the coronavirus impact. 

With a lack of preparation for the high demand that was placed on those in the supply chain, many companies were forced to reduce their labor force and faced massive revenue losses. On the other hand, some companies were scrambling to enhance their labor force to combat the surge of demand from online ordering to purchase essential supplies early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ultimately, many companies that operate in the supply chain are not fully equipped with the workforce, technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, or software to keep up with the demand that they are currently facing.


Reduction in Labor Opportunities

In the material handling industry, the workforce has faced an interesting paradigm. COVID-19 undoubtedly brought about massive layoffs for the American people. And recently, a study from Cornell University showed that as many as thirty-one percent of employees who were added back to payrolls after COVID-19 layoffs have been laid off again.

In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies such as Amazon, grocery deliverers, and dollar stores, were rapidly hiring to keep up with the high demand being placed on their markets. However, as a result of a turbulent job market, federal data shows that over thirteen million Americans are now receiving unemployment benefits. Even when labor opportunities arise in the material handling industry, the average person would rather remain stable and unemployed than take a job that they risk losing.

How Policy Plays a Role with the Material Handling Industry

Unquestionably, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the United States, Mexico and Canadian citizens, the economy, and our global presence. It’s critical to note that the public policy responses to COVID-19 also significantly impact not only companies like ours but the entire material handling industry. 

As politicians address the issues related to COVID-19, the effectiveness of their implemented solutions will dramatically impact the outcomes that COVID-19 has had on our nation. With the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading and an upcoming presidential election only weeks away, the future of the material handling industry remains unpredictable. 

Companies throughout the supply chain and in the material handling industry need to prepare for more changes and aim to stay ahead of the trends as much as possible. Together, the material handling industry can come through 2020 with innovation, automation, and perseverance.

HAWKER® - Consistent Products and Services in an Unpredictable Time.

Contact your local HAWKER® representative today by calling 1-877-7HAWKER (US Only) or click here.