The impact of COVID-19 on engineering


Like most industries across the country, engineering has felt the harsh impact of COVID-19. As the industry looks to bounce back from the worst effects of the pandemic, we’ve dedicated our blog this week to taking a deeper look at what the virus has done to the sector and how engineering has helped in the fight against the pandemic across the UK.

Engineering: The economic impact of COVID-19

Unfortunately, engineering has certainly not escaped the negative economic impact of COVID-19. In fact, as early as March, surveys showed that nine in 10 engineering businesses were concerned about the effect of coronavirus on their business over the next six months.

As this went on, many of these concerns were realised as supply chains were cut short in some cases and many factories and plants were shut down, resulting in redundancies and mass furloughing of staff at some firms.


However, it’s not been all doom and gloom for the industry. At WR we have seen a number of examples of engineering companies using their resources and expertise to help halt the spread of the virus, adapting their services to provide PPE and many other offerings to the frontline keyworkers battling Covid-19. Here are a few notable examples:


On March 16th, 2020, the government called on the UK’s engineering industry to help make up the anticipated shortfall of ventilators by producing and assembling life-saving devices. This led to engineering companies coming forward to offer their assistance.

For example, advanced material cutting business, Bindatex, has altered production to begin die-cutting discs that can be used in filters for NHS ventilators. Similarly, engineers from UCL and doctors at University College London Hospital (UCLH), along with engineers at Mercedes Formula 1, have worked together to create a specialist device that delivers oxygen to the lungs, without the need for invasive ventilators.

PPE equipment for healthcare staff

Engineering firms were also quick to help address the shortage of PPE amongst key workers. For instance, engineers at The Royal Mint announced their design and production of medically approved visors and are planning on releasing their designs online so other engineering and manufacturing companies can follow suit.


Finally, with widespread testing such a crucial step in the fight to halt COVID-19, engineers in China came up with an innovative solution, designing a robot to treat and test patients while allowing healthcare workers to remain at a safe distance from the highly infectious virus. The remote-controlled, wheeled machine can take mouth swabs, perform ultrasound scans and listen to organs with a robot stethoscope.

High infection rates among health care workers prompted the designers to see if a robot could provide some form of additional protection. Medical staff can operate the robots from a safe distance using on board cameras to monitor the patient, reducing the chances of exposure.

The robot’s chief designer, Tsinghua University Professor Zheng Gangtie, converted two robotic arms similar to those used on space stations or lunar explorers to build the robots, which were almost entirely automated, and could even disinfect themselves after performing actions involving contact with a patient.

Reshaping the industry

Looking forward, it’s clear that many engineering companies believe COVID-19 will continue to impact engineering by reshaping the industry for good. In fact, a survey of firms from The Engineer revealed that 40% of respondents believe the UK will be forced to create a stronger domestic supply chain as COVID-19 has exposed the lack of procurement resilience in the globalised economy.

In addition, 26% agreed that there will be increased adoption of automation and digital tools, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. 28% of the vote was split equally between those who think there will be a more nimble approach to design and manufacturing, and an enhanced climate of collaboration.

However, only 6% of respondents thought the crisis would improve the public’s perception of engineering, despite the many companies in the industry that are coming together together to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Getting back to work

While the industry will certainly be adapting and evolving as the virus continues to impact the UK and the rest of the world, we are now at a stage where some elements of ‘normality’ are being instigated. As the lockdown eases, companies are now looking to get back to work where possible and this has led engineering and manufacturing firms to produce a number of innovative technologies to ensure social distancing so that companies get can get up-and-running again.

For example, Tharsus, one of the UK’s most advanced robotics companies, has announced the development of ‘Bump’ – a cutting-edge technology system specifically designed to help keep people safe in the workplace.

Bump’s technology uses wearable and static devices that communicate with one another using sophisticated Radio Frequency (RF) technology. This creates a Personal Motion System that immediately alerts wearers when they are getting too close to another person.

The peer-to-peer system seeks to change and improve personal-distance behaviour by recording the interactions between devices every time someone comes into contact with another person. The wearable device will alert them if contact is made, with each interaction recorded and made available for the individual wearer to review.

WR Engineering: Here to help

At WR Engineering, we’re proud to see the work that the engineering sector has done throughout the crisis, with the industry weathering the storm and adapting to best survive the negative impact COVID-19 has had on us all. During the lockdown, we have continued to provide our expertise remotely, fully adapting to the conditions imposed by the pandemic. However, as we begin to open up the office next week, we are looking forward to getting back to some sense of normality.

We are encouraged by our initial conversations with clients in the last couple of weeks, as we are seeing more positivity from firms and look forward to continuing to serve the industry as it gets back to full strength.

In fact, in order to do this most effectively, we now will be offering all of our premium WR Search recruitment solutions at no extra cost. And, for those hiring while still on lockdown we are offering an extra 20% off. Hiring with WR is risk free with our 100% money back guarantee and up to 12 months free replacement guarantee.

So, if you’re looking for talent, or looking to support the UK demand for Engineer staff, why not reach out to our team today?