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While New COVID-19 Cases in Asia and Europe Flatten, Manufacturing Recovery Lags

COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Big Data, Manufacturing Intelligence
April 8, 2020

According to the latest Plex data on global smart manufacturing production, overall manufacturing activity (see graph, below) is still dropping, while reports that the rate of new COVID-19 cases in some Asian and European countries we’ve been tracking are flattening and slowing, respectively.



Here are some of the trends that Plex is seeing based on this week’s data, and possible outcomes in a post-COVID-19 world. Current graphs and more details on the data source are at the bottom of this post.

Overall, this week’s data builds upon broader, U.S. economic and industry-specific information shared at the beginning of the month. The Manufacturing Report on Business®, published by the Institute for Supply Chain Management, shows that manufacturing activity is in contraction, falling from 50.1 to 49.1, with food & tobacco manufacturing activity outperforming automotive manufacturing activity. Data from IHS Markit also reflects a market contraction, with their respondents showing a more significant slowdown, dropping from 49.6 in February to 40.5 in March.

According to Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the ISM® Manufacturing Business Survey Committee: growth expectations heading into April’s report are grim: “The coronavirus pandemic and shocks in global energy markets have impacted all manufacturing sectors. Among the six big industry sectors, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products remains strongest, followed by Chemical Products, which in addition to the pharmaceutical component, is a significant contributor to the Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products Industry and beneficiary of low energy and feedstock prices. Transportation Equipment and Petroleum & Coal Products are the weakest sectors. Sentiment regarding near-term growth this month is strongly negative, by a 2-to-1 ratio.”

What’s Next

As we continue to watch certain countries in Europe, we will be analyzing whether it follows the same trend we see China, with manufacturing activity experiencing a resurgence approximately one month after experiencing a rapid decline. Whether following a similar trajectory or not, as more countries recover from COVID-19, we should be able to identify increasingly accurate models for manufacturing’s post-pandemic future.

Global food and beverage data set


Global automotive data set


Italy data set


Germany data set (Please note the 2019 spike reflects plants coming online, reflecting increased activity.)


Spain data set


U.S. Data Set


Details on the Data Source & How to Interpret Graphs

Plex Systems solutions are cloud-based, giving us access to 20 years of anonymized, compiled operational data from the approximately 700 manufacturers we serve. This group collectively runs 1,200 active production facilities in 29 countries, representing the aerospace, automotive, fabricated metals, food and beverage, industrial machinery, and plastics and rubber industries. For scale, in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, this group together processed over 1.4 million shipments. Daily, they record upwards of 8 billion transactions (such as barcode scans, moved inventory, shipments, etc.).

Note this data reflects two periods of activity to compare year-over-year trends: the blue trend line is production transactions from January 1, 2020 to April 5, 2020 and the orange trend line indicates production transactions from January 1, 2019 to April 5, 2019. Keep in mind that Plex customers added more facilities in 2020, so it’s not necessarily important to look at the absolute number of transactions but rather the relative shape of the curves year-over-year. There is a margin of error of +/- 2%.

About the Author

Jerry Foster Chief Technology Officer, Plex Systems

Jerry Foster is CTO and leads our technology strategy, along with research and design initiatives focused on next-generation cloud solutions for the manufacturing enterprise. A founding member of the Plex team, Jerry has been instrumental in the entire evolution of Plex, overseeing the technical transitions in each phase of our growth. Jerry earned his degree in Computer Science at Liberty University.