More than 90% of engineering services firms fear impact of coronavirus

Initial responses to a major new engineering services survey have revealed that more than nine in ten businesses (93%) say they are ‘concerned or very concerned’ about the impact of coronavirus on their business over the next six months.

BESA, ECA and SELECT launched the joint survey this week to obtain an early picture of the current and anticipated business impact in the engineering services sector and its supply chain, to enable effective representation and advice on important issues.

To date, more than 60% of respondents are ‘very concerned’ about coronavirus while perhaps remarkably, 1% of respondents suggested they were ‘unconcerned’.

Half of the engineering services respondents (51%) said that they have already encountered ‘delays and disruptions to current projects’, with 61% of larger businesses reporting current disruption. Around half of respondents already report ‘delays and disruption to future work’.

Over half of respondents (53%) said they were now ‘preparing business contingency plans’ as a result of developments, a figure which rose to 71% in larger businesses.

The most commonly cited business activity in response to coronavirus to date is ‘reducing business travel’ and ‘asking or allowing staff to work from home’, followed by ‘business contingency planning.’ However, around 10% of businesses say they have ‘shut down at certain premises or sites’, and over 10% of respondents also say they are ‘updating their contracts’ and ‘looking into alternative suppliers’.

ECA CEO Steve Bratt said: “Coronavirus is already having a significant impact across our industry and wider society. ECA is aware that many businesses are already encountering work delays, site access issues and cancellations.

“We are actively working with industry bodies and government to represent the concerns and interests of the industry. Key to this is ensuring that government understands that early, significant and practically useful support is needed to help our industry with cashflow, but also to provide as much certainty as possible.”
BESA director of legal and commercial, Debbie Petford, said: “Though these are just preliminary findings, the sheer scale of the disruption to the sector is alarming. We will be working around the clock to provide as much guidance as possible to our members, and calling on the government to keep providing additional stimulus and support as the situation evolves, to ensure businesses make it to other side of this crisis in one piece.”

SELECT managing director Alan Wilson added: “This is clearly an extremely worrying time for SELECT members and the wider industry. Each day brings fresh concerns, with the threat of shutdown still looming large.

“Like ECA and BESA, we are taking proactive measures to help electrical professionals address their concerns at this unprecedented moment in history. The knock-on effects of this pandemic could be catastrophic for the industry, particularly when it comes to payments, so it’s essential that vital cash flow continues.”

The survey, which is still live, has already received over 600 responses from across the industry, including nearly 180 from larger businesses in the sector. The coronavirus situation is fast moving and further survey responses are expected to show increasing impact on the industry in the days ahead.

Engineering services plays a critical role in developing and maintaining the UK’s built environment - which includes businesses, housing, hospitals and care homes, and the UK’s wider infrastructure, and is fundamental to employment and keeping the UK economy moving.

‘Larger businesses’ for the purposes of the survey mean those with over 50 employees.

The survey is live and closes at 4pm on 27 March.

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.

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