Barbara Sirotnik, Ph.D. on the State of Manufacturing in San Bernardino County Amid the Pandemic

August 31, 2020
August 31, 2020 Nikki Metzger

Dr. Barbara Sirotnik conducted the High Desert Survey last Fall for The Bradco Companies, and she will be one of the main speakers during the High Desert Survey: The Strategy (Part II) event on Sept. 30th. Dr. Sirotnik was recently featured in the San Bernardino County Economic Development Weekly Newsletter discussing manufacturing in the county and how it has weathered the pandemic:

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Barbara Sirotnik, Ph.D.is Professor, Information and Decision Sciences; Director, Institute of Applied Research at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). In this role she is engaged in statistics and business analytics as well as supply chain management/logistics. The Institute of Applied Research started in 1985 and provides data and analytics services to the region encompassing everything from program evaluation to economic forecasting, survey research and polling. Sirotnik also oversees a monthly purchasing managers’ index survey for Riverside and San Bernardino counties – a regional version of the national PMI produced by the Institute for Supply Management.

Barbara Sirotnik, Ph.D.

How is the County manufacturing community weathering the impact of coronavirus?
The manufacturing community has been affected but nowhere near as much as sectors such as retail, leisure and hospitality, health and education, and professional services, for example. I think initially when COVID hit, manufacturers panicked. Nobody really knew what was going on. But many of the manufacturers that I spoke with said they were able to continue to work by implementing policies of social distancing, wearing face masks, alternating shifts, etc. They tried to pivot to reinforce their role as essential businesses. Some of them started making plexiglass barriers or masks or other kinds of PPE. This is how they’ve weathered the storm.

How soon do you see a recovery?
People seem to be focused on either health or the economy, but you can’t single out one or the other, they go together. There’s no way the economy is going to improve until you also deal with the pandemic and the outcome of the pandemic. So I don’t see things significantly improving until 2021 when there will hopefully be a safe and effective vaccine.

Why do you believe logistics is such an opportunity for the future?
The location is perfect for logistics. That is why companies like Amazon are here, and that’s why universities, community colleges, and high schools are offering programs in logistics. The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program in collaboration with Inland Economic Growth and Opportunity (IEGO) looked at industries that had the most promising jobs. They reported that industries that fuel the region’s trade with other regions, including logistics, wholesale, and manufacturing, together account for 23 percent of the region’s good and promising jobs. That is why they believe the region can be a home of global innovation in the logistics industry. Unfortunately many people think of logistics as nothing other than driving a truck. It’s definitely not only that. Logistics professionals deal with every aspect of getting products from manufacturers to consumers. Career paths in logistics are as diverse as customer service, supply chain management, warehousing, inventory management, materials management, and more. These are good-paying jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a five percent increase in employment in the industry by 2028.

What other trends do I see? Well, automation and technology will affect the region in the future, so anything that has to do with automation, IT, or cyber security holds promise for people seeking to get a good job. There is also a real need for professional education, or management-level training. The four year schools, such as CSUSB, have certificates where a person can take four or five courses to obtain the skills that they need. It’s not a full degree, but it’s a faster way to get it done. And of course community colleges have wonderful certificate programs to train people for the workforce.

What is the current mindset of CEOs that you survey?
We conduct a monthly survey of manufacturing firms in 18 NAICS codes, across San Bernardino and Riverside counties. This results in the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) which describes the state of the manufacturing sector and the economy as a whole. In August we reported that area purchasing managers doubt the region will see a quick economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. Respondents did not agree with the relatively few economists who believe that a “V” shaped recovery is likely. Thirty-eight percent of the purchasing managers who were surveyed believe that the economy will become even weaker in the coming quarter. Only 29 percent think it will be stronger over the next few months, and the remaining 33 percent think the economy will continue struggling.

How can manufacturers join your PMI survey?
Any manufacturer that wants to participate can email me to join our list. The survey takes maximum five minutes.  Barbara Sirotnik at BSirotni@csusb.edu or iar@csusb.edu

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