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Survey Says!

By Michael DAngelo

November 11, 2021

width=203AICC partner the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has shared The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research and national CPA and advisory firm BKD’s results from their fall survey of small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs). The biannual survey looks at workforce impacts and the “new normal” for manufacturers with 500 or fewer employees. The most recent survey, from August, provided the following highlights. I have emphasized some of the content where AICC members have shared similar experiences and/or where AICC has provided programming to assist members in these areas:

  • Workplace safety: Nearly 79% of small and medium-sized manufacturers have enhanced workplace safety measures and requirements since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In addition, firms reevaluated their supply chain, increased worker flexibility, instituted more remote work, and reengineered their production processes with social distancing in mind.
  • New normal: Many of the survey respondents reported additional workplace flexibility, with others noting supply chain and workforce challenges. At the same time, several companies noted that the changes they needed to implement have made them a stronger company and more prepared for future crises.
  • New workforce models: Since the beginning of the pandemic, companies have needed to adapt, with more work taking place remotely, understanding that much of the production process is not able to shift work away from the shop floor. Still, for those employees, where it is possible, companies have shifted their perceptions of the value of remote work, and many see a hybrid model continuing post-pandemic.
  • Return to work: More than 71% of respondents said their firms had not received any resistance or hesitancy to returning to work, where working remotely was an option, with 18.4% saying they had faced some resistance.
  • Transitioning the business: Nearly one-quarter of respondents said the pandemic had changed or heightened their desire to transition or sell their business. Of those who said this, 68.1% were working on a plan, whereas they might not have before.
  • Disruptive technology investments: One-third of SMMs had accelerated their investments in disruptive technologies since the pandemic began, with 61.4% noting that such investments were done to improve the operational performance in production. Worker shortages were also a factor.

There is a lot of very useful and interesting information in the survey. You can access the full report along with SMM comments at:

It’s reassuring to see a survey such as this from the broader manufacturing community and to have AICC’s members’ interests represented by such a powerful organization as NAM. While we don’t always agree with every position taken by NAM, we do benefit from the partnership, especially at this superheated time in Washington, D.C. Our members are at their core manufacturers, and AICC is at its essence a manufacturers association. AICC members share similar challenges with other manufacturers.

Speaking of similar challenges, I had the great honor to be interviewed at the beginning of September by Tim Gray, president of the U.K. Sheet Plant Association (SPA). We taped the interview, and it was presented on September 20 to SPA members gathered in Tewkesbury, England, during their first in-person meeting since the pandemic began. I made the point that like the SPA, AICC exists to bring members together, educate, and disseminate information and to provide a forum for them to learn from each other and to rely on each other. You and your U.K. colleagues share much.

These are challenging times for AICC members. Laborsupply chain disruptions, transportation difficulties, a business-adversarial Congress and administration, and inflation. All these are churning while box plants remain busy, with many members suggesting demand will last well into 2022.

And then what? Will we go back to the pre-pandemic trend? Or will some of the pandemic-induced disruptions continue to sustain the box business at better than historic growth?

Independents have always been the leaders. The disruptors. The embracers of the new. The risk takers.

You will show us the way.





Michael D’Angelo

AICC President