Many New York manufacturers, especially those in downstate regions, are bullish on reshoring their production operations or supply chains after the coronavirus pandemic put them through upheaval.
The Center for Economic Growth (CEG) and Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) recently unveiled a survey of manufacturers statewide that found that 44 percent of them plan, or have already started, to reshore their supply chains or production operations. But among downstate manufacturers, which sustained the heaviest pandemic job losses, that planned/implemented reshoring rate was 59 percent.
To support manufacturers’ reshoring plans, CEG earlier this year managed over $220,000 in COVID-19 Reshoring and Supply Chain grants across the state with other New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers. Five of the 23 manufacturers that received those grants were in the Capital Region, with their share totaling nearly $50,000.
They included Centrotherm Ecosystems in Albany, Free Form Fibers in Saratoga Springs, Unilux in Niskayuna, Stem Cultures in East Greenbush, and Next Advance in Troy. These funds were provided through a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) MEP $800,000 grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Our main product line is useless without the normally ubiquitous 5-cent parts used to hold samples. Since the pandemic, these parts have been unavailable or in very short supply. The New York state MEP grant enabled us to provide a solution so that our bread-and-butter product line is still in demand and scientists can use it to research COVID-19, cancer, Alzheimer’s, new pharmaceutical drugs, etc.,” said Ian Glasgow, president of Next Advance, a laboratory instrument manufacturer.
“Whether you’re making widgets or wafers, supply chain reliability is foundational, and the pandemic has reminded manufacturers statewide that it is something they cannot take for granted,” said Michael Lobsinger, vice president of CEG Business Growth Solutions (BGS). “That is why we see so much momentum behind reshoring in manufacturing. Reshoring can mean a lot of things but primarily it’s two things: either a company is physically moving a plant, operations, or process back to the United States, or it is replacing goods or services with new ‘domestic’ vendors and suppliers.”
To help economic development organizations and Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers statewide understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains for New York state small and medium-sized manufacturers and how it affected their business outlook, CEG BGS, through a state economic development sub-award, commissioned SCRI to survey the sector in May 2021, officials said. The study was supported by the NIST MEP CARES grant.
SCRI surveyed 332 manufacturers between July and October 2021. Among the manufacturer respondents, 36 percent were in New York’s North Central Region (Capital Region, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North Country), 30 percent were from Downstate (Long Island, Mid-Hudson, New York City) and 33 percent were from the Southwest (Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Western New York).
“Supply chain disruptions have impacted virtually every manufacturer across New York. While nearly two-thirds saw their distribution network impacted, almost nine of 10 faced problems in their acquisition system. Turmoil in the supply chain has resulted in rising material costs, delays and product scarcity. Not surprisingly, 71 percent of manufacturers say that since the start of the pandemic business conditions in New York have worsened,” said Don Levy, SCRI director.
Since the start of the pandemic, 95 percent of manufacturers report experiencing supply chain disruptions. Supply chain acquisition disruptions were most acute, with 83 percent of manufacturers statewide describing them as very or somewhat significant, compared to 76 percent of distribution disruptions, officials said.
The single greatest supply challenge for manufacturers is rising material costs (35 percent), followed by limited availability of materials (32 percent) and transportation delays (7 percent). In response to these disruptions, 74 percent purchased materials through alternative sources and 71 percent of manufacturers statewide report increasing prices.
Forty percent report reducing operations and 32 percent turned business away. Among the manufacturers that responded to the disruptions by purchasing materials through alternative sources, 95 percent of them ended up paying higher prices.
The reshoring plans reflect the heavy economic toll supply chain disruptions took on the sector. That toll was heaviest downstate, which sustained a 12.1 percent year-over-year decline in manufacturing employment – almost double that of the upstate regions, officials said. Ultimately, 84 percent of surveyed manufacturers somewhat or strongly agree with the assertion that “reshoring will enhance supply chain predictability.”