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Iowa Manufacturing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

CIRAS Working with Iowa Manufacturers

March 30, 2020

The State of Manufacturing

Like many other industries across the world, Iowa manufacturing is in a state of flux. We started to get reports of Iowa manufacturers being impacted by COVID-19 in early February when the crisis began to close factories and ports throughout China. The disruptions rippled across the global supply chain impacting manufacturers in almost every industry globally. Just as global supply chains were beginning to recover, the virus took hold in the U.S.

Today, manufacturers across Iowa face unprecedented challenges on several fronts: keeping their employees safe; product demand is skyrocketing in some industries while collapsing in others; and stressed supply chains are unpredictable.

To keep the pulse of industry throughout the state, CIRAS is conducting and will continue a phone survey of manufacturers across the state.

As of March 26, the vast majority of Iowa manufacturers are open for business. They are implementing new cleaning and social distancing procedures, office employees are mostly working from home and many production employees are working staggered shifts. In addition to concern over the wellness of their workforce, many express uncertainty about changing regulations, the ability to keep their doors open in the event of a “shelter in place” order and maintaining cash flow through the next several months.

Stepping Up in a Crisis

In spite of the pressures and uncertainty, manufacturers are stepping up to help others in this time of need. With news of potential shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, face shields and gowns, manufacturers throughout the state of Iowa have reached out to CIRAS to see how they can help. From small shops to global corporations, manufacturers are banding together to solve problems at a scale that only they can. As of this writing, multiple manufacturers throughout the state have released pilot runs of PPE with plans to scale up to thousands of units in a matter of days. CIRAS is working statewide to identify capacity to produce hundreds of thousands of these products over the coming weeks.

Manufacturers have also been extremely generous, regularly donating PPE and other supplies to hospitals and emergency relief organizations statewide.

Where to Get Help

We’re lucky here in Iowa to have a great ecosystem supporting manufacturers. If you are a manufacturer and need help, there are plenty of people to help you. These include the State of Iowa, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Greater Des Moines Partnership. At CIRAS, we’re working remotely and have redeployed our resources to focus on helping industry survive through these uncertain times.

We’ve created a COVID-19 website with guides and checklists to help you filter the noise, plus links to trusted resources to help protect your business, respond to supply chain disruptions, understand workforce changes and more. If you need help, CIRAS’s response team is monitoring ciras.info@iastate.edu and will respond within 24 hours. If you need something faster, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at modonnll@iastate.edu. All our services to help you react to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic are at no charge.

You can also join me for the COVID-19 & Supply Chain Disruptions webinar on Friday, April 3 at 9 a.m. to learn how CIRAS can assist manufacturing firms with supply chain disruptions and other challenges caused by COVID-19.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.

Michael R. O'Donnell

Michael O'Donnell is the manufacturing program director for the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS). Prior to joining CIRAS, Mike spent eight years in the private sector in a variety of roles, including: manufacturing, supply chain, quality and program management and more.