This editorial letter originally appeared in WWD May 2020 issue as "COVID-19 Survey Results"
Coronavirus. Coronavirus. Coronavirus. It has dominated the news cycle for the better part of the past two months, and it looks as though it will continue through much of the summer. In this issue, we have shared a report with you on the impact it has had on the industry based on our audience survey to which many of you responded. There are some more statistics worth noting that did not make the cut for that feature, so I’d like to share them below.
Primarily they fall into three areas on which the coronavirus has had the greatest impact: scheduling and staffing (33%), billings and revenue (27%), and workflow (20%). I discussed these three areas with a webinar panel April 9 (visit bit.ly/wwdcovidwebinar to watch it in full) and the comments from the utility perspective indicated that cloud-based SCADA has been a life saver for workflow, staffing and scheduling, especially if remote monitoring has been installed. This has allowed staff to work at remote locations throughout the network while still coordinating workflow through other communication channels.
As for billings and revenue, the engineering firm and original equipment manufacturer perspective indicated that most projects are still being pursued, albeit at a slower pace. In many ways, it is “business as usual,” said Doug Riseden, 2019 WWD Industry Icon.
The crux of the billings and revenue outlook could also dramatically shift with the approval of a stimulus package, assuming inclusion of funding for water and wastewater utilities. Due to rate structures, members of the public struggling with payments, and in some cases, utilities halting water bills, water utilities in particular are likely to struggle financially after this passes. The American Water Works Association notes as much in its research, suggesting a more than $15 billion impact.
Additional comments from the webinar panel included disinfection of work spaces and the consequences of using incorrect disinfection chemicals on human machine interfacing displays or other equipment. Knobs, switches, railings and touch screens are all touched by multiple workers throughout the day, so ensuring safe usage and disinfection practices is also critical for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
We are conducting a follow-up survey regarding the impact of the virus to compare the responses to this first survey. The average time to complete the survey is 3 minutes, so please take some time to share your thoughts with us for future reports that we will share with you and your peers to better understand the state of the industry during this pandemic. Take the survey at bit.ly/wwdcovidsurvey2 and see detailed reports from the first survey by job description at bit.ly/wwdcovidreport.