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Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters releases 2020 Management Issues Survey


December 17, 2020
By The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

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The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters biennial Management Issues Survey shows the impact of the global pandemic on manufacturers, including disruptions in supply chain and increased labour and skills shortages.

More than 550 companies from nearly 20 industries responded, representing a broad cross-section of Canadian manufacturing. It was presented at the CME’s annual general meeting, held virtually.

Sixty per cent of companies surveyed say they have immediate labour shortages. This compares to 70 per cent in 2018; 40 per cent in 2016.

Thirty per cent of manufacturers have seen their production return to pre-pandemic levels of last February, however, 10 per cent are very pessimistic about the future of their businesses. A further five per cent believe their sales will never fully recover.

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“While the results tell us that many manufacturers believe the economic scars of the pandemic will linger for years to come, the survey also shows that Canada has an enormous opportunity to win back manufacturing investment,” CME’s President and CEO Dennis Darby said.

Manufacturers stepped up immediately as a result of the pandemic. The survey revealed that 15 per cent of manufacturers scaled up or retooled their operations to make components and products, such as personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers.

Not only are manufacturers making PPE, they are also big purchasers of it. In an effort to keep their workers safe, about 60 per cent of the companies surveyed said they will spend about $201,500 this year on PPE.

But as Darby notes the pandemic has also revealed that manufacturers need to diversify supply chains as they are too reliant on a limited range of markets.

“This should elicit a strong response from Canada’s governments to step up its global competitiveness so it can attract investment from firms looking to re-shore manufacturing,” said Darby.

Present at the event, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Melanie Joly touted the measures presented by her government in its fall economic statement earlier this week, while recognizing manufacturers’ important role in Canada’s pandemic response, particularly with regard to the production of personal protective equipment.

Also joining the meeting virtually, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole presented his vision of the manufacturing sector in the current context, reiterating the need for manufacturing to be a key part of Canada’s economy going forward.

Said Darby: “COVID is challenging all of us. But manufacturers have, and continue to step up. Canadian manufacturers are a key part of the COVID recovery. We have the capacity to provide those solutions.”

CME’s complete survey report is available here.