LONDON – In January, when British brewer Ralph Broadbent was preparing to launch a new silent home brewery, he was confronted with an outbreak of the coronavirus that delayed the arrival of the injection moulds he had ordered in China.

By the time the tools arrived, a national lockdown in the UK had forced him to reduce the number of workers who could work safely in his warehouse from 20 to 4. He just released his product called Pinter in September.

That fall, when the infections resumed, Broadbent added another, larger warehouse to give employees a distance from social media and a safe place to go. The Greater Good Fresh Brewing Co. was able to supply the ingredients needed to produce 50,000 pints of beer in one week.

It was difficult, but not as difficult as the first time, he said.

The resurgence of coronavirus infections in the West this autumn has dealt a new blow to the global economy. But the impact is much less, partly because companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, have learned to protect their employees and keep them in business. The rise of the East Asian economies, especially China, has also stimulated many Western manufacturers.

Moreover, in contrast to the spring wave, there were fewer interruptions in supply as more and more parts and raw materials arrived at the factories.

The US economy contracted by 9% in the three months of June, partly due to a 15.8% drop in industrial production in April. Since then, however, the country’s factories have recovered, increasing production by 0.8% in November. Economists expect the ongoing recovery to contribute to a 1% increase in gross domestic product in the last three months of the year.

The British economy shrank by almost a fifth in April compared to March. The manufacturing sector fell by a quarter and the services sector by almost 18%.

Early this year I thought it would be limited to China, Broadbent said. Most people were surprised. We could go on, but it was very slow.

Last month, during the national embargo, Britain experienced a much less severe economic slowdown than in the spring.


Dominic Lipinski/Pa Wire/Zuma Press

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research, on the other hand, estimated last month, when the government imposed a nationwide freeze, that economic activity had fallen by 9.3%.

In response to the attack of the fall, authorities in many Western countries have imposed new restrictions on entertainment and hospitality, while Europeans and Americans are wary of close contacts. As a result, some catchment areas have been affected as badly as in spring.

Production in British restaurants, bars and hotels fell by 14.4% in October. However, production in the UK increased by 1.7%, reflecting the capacity of factories to adapt to the pandemic.


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In France, although production in November last year was 60% lower than the previous year, it was only 5% below the level recorded before the pandemic reached imminent proportions.

The European Central Bank estimates that the eurozone’s GDP will contract by 2.2% in the last quarter. In contrast, GDP fell by 11.7% in the three months to June.

After a gloomy spring, the Power Curbers are now reaching their most ambitious prognosis yet, as construction resumes.


Andy McMillan for the Wall Street Journal.

In March, as the virus spread across the United States, Stephen Bullock, president of a company that manufactures road equipment used by builders to set up roadblocks in new subdivisions, presented four possible scenarios for the year, ranging from very serious to optimistic.

In the weeks that followed, the company collapsed and the Power Curbers Cos. began demanding masks, banning employees from meeting during breaks and checking the temperature at the door. He stated that the company had reduced its production and that certain actions related to coronaviruses had led to a loss of efficiency and productivity.

For the first two months I felt like I was out of production, Bullock said. I used to run the Covids.

But as the weeks passed, none of the employees got sick and started coming back again. Even with the current wave of new cases at CFB Salisbury, North Carolina, fewer than 10 out of 120 employees have become ill.

The builder is currently realising his most ambitious forecasts, as the number of newly built houses has exceeded pre-crisis levels.

The chairman of Power Curbers, Stephen Bullock, said he felt he was managing the covids during the first wave of the coronavirus.


Andy McMillan for the Wall Street Journal.

We know what we’re doing now. We know how to react, he said. Our production manager juggled a lot.

Moreover, for many producers, export markets are more open than in the spring, which is particularly beneficial for markets in China and other parts of East Asia, where the economy has already recovered or is about to recover.

German exports to China in October were higher than a year earlier, although sales to the United States and the United Kingdom were significantly lower.

Paul Horn GmbH, a manufacturer of precision tools in the southern German city of Tübingen, reduced the working time of its approximately 1,000 local employees by 20 to 60 percent in June after orders fell by approximately 50 percent in April and May, says Christian Thiele, a spokesman for the company.

The company, which produces tools for medical equipment, cars and airplanes, suffered from the disruptions in the large German automobile and aerospace industry.

But after a strong increase in new orders in September, all employees returned to full time employment in October, Thiel said. While exports to the U.S. have declined since 2019, the company has seen an increase in sales to China, particularly to customers in the automotive and hydraulics sectors.

December has been surprisingly good, Thiel said.

However, the manufacturing sector is not completely disconnected from service sectors, which are most affected by new infections and associated restrictions. Arthur Price is a British cutlery manufacturer that has been operating since the beginning of the last century in Lichfield, a town about 125 miles north of London.

Most sales are to private households and are supported by online sales. Export markets in the United States, the Middle East, Russia and East Asia are also a source of demand.

But one-fifth of the turnover traditionally comes from the hotel business, including many hotels in London. If they were not closed or severely limited in what they could offer, they would suffer greatly from a collapse of tourist and business visits.

It would be a great help if the hotels came back and stayed, says Simon Price, who is the fourth generation in the company.

Covid-19 security panels at Salisbury Power Kernels.


Andy McMillan for the Wall Street Journal.

Email Paul Hannon at [email protected], Austin Hufford at [email protected] and Tom Fairless at [email protected]

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