• External Contributor

Manufacturer Interest in Reshoring, Hiring, and Apprenticeships Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic

The latest Thomas Industrial Survey assessing the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on North American manufacturing revealed that companies are rethinking their supply chains and operation tactics to prepare for the new normal:

  • Supply Chain Shifts: Two in three (69%) manufacturing companies are looking into bringing production to North America (compared to 54% in February).

  • Hiring Trends: 38% of the companies surveyed are actively hiring. Our data also shows that industries that adopted more apprenticeship programs were overall less impacted by the lack of skilled labor available. 

  • Interest in Automation: More than half of the companies surveyed also reported that they meet or exceed the industry standard for automation, with 55% of the participants being likely to very likely to invest in Production Performance Automation in the next 12 months.

  • Confidence in the Future: 91% of the respondents believe the North American manufacturing sector can recover from the pandemic. 

With the growing appetite of reshoring and onshoring, respondents shared the top products they are looking to source domestically: metals (15%), machining tools and parts (13%), fabricated materials (13%), and personal protective equipment (12%).

Domestic buyers and manufacturing companies should be prepared for a potential surge in demand.

Skilled Labor Apprenticeships Can Accelerate Reshoring Efforts

Of the surveyed companies, 26% have apprenticeship programs in place. More than half of those programs were unaffected by the pandemic.

Additionally, industries that have adopted more apprenticeship programs were overall less impacted by the lack of skilled labor available. With one in three companies reporting that they are actively hiring, apprenticeships could prove to be part of the solution for the ongoing skills gap crisis and help accelerate innovative reshoring efforts. 

One in Three Companies Are Actively Hiring

Manufacturing companies are most interested in hiring the following positions: general factory labor (25%), machinist/machine operators (15%), and engineers (12%).

Confidence and Growing Interest in Automation  

More than half of the manufacturing companies surveyed reported that they meet or exceed the industry standard for automation, establishing a demand for automation and for further innovation and implementation. As automation continues to gain traction, industry needs to be proactive.

The top three automation technologies that manufacturers are most interested to invest in over the next 12 months are production performance (55%), product testing & quality assurance (48%), and process control (46%). 

Digital Marketing Accelerates in Wake of COVID-19 

Due to the in-person limitations of COVID-19, manufacturers are no longer able to avoid the reach and effectiveness of digital marketing and have adjusted their approach to generating new customers.

As expected, companies are 21% less likely to invest in trade shows while the use of webinars & virtual events (20%), search & social media (14%), and website (12%) all increased in light of COVID-19. 


These results are from an online survey completed by 746 manufacturing companies conducted by Thomas via Qualtrics on the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on manufacturing in May and June of 2020. 

Participating suppliers were mostly OEMs and custom manufacturers from a variety of industrial sectors with revenues spanning from less than $4.9 million to over $500 million.

The Thomas Industrial Survey series was launched in February 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and garnered a total of 4,653 respondents with 3,452 qualified responses.

Access the Complete May/June 2020 COVID-19 Survey Report

Click here to view the full report of the "May/June 2020 Thomas Report: COVID-19’s Impact on North American Manufacturing." You can download the report by clicking ‘File > Download’.

You can participate in and receive our future surveys by signing up for the Thomas Industrial Survey Panel


Recent Posts

See All

COVID-19 Relief on Its Way

After months of tense negotiations, Congress approved a bipartisan coronavirus stimulus package before it adjourned for the year, and President Donald Trump pledged to sign it. The measure combines $9