Over the past few months, the stories of economic, social, and human carnage wrought by the coronavirus have been shocking, heartbreaking, and seemingly endless. As of this writing, the U.S. death toll from the virus stands at more than 104,000, the unemployment numbers have topped 40 million, and many industries have been severely affected and continue to suffer.

The manufacturing sector alone has suffered jaw-dropping declines. From February to April, production plummeted 18%. Even with improvements by the end of the year, which are still uncertain, production is forecast by the NAM to be down 6.6% for the full year.

Yet, during this wrenching time, the responsiveness, the inventiveness, the adaptability, and the courage of people throughout the manufacturing industry have been on display. Since the first days of the crisis manufacturers have rallied to keep their people safe, pivot production to protective materials and equipment, and help their communities combat the virus.

But manufacturers are doing even more. Perhaps because concepts like continuous improvement and safety are so hard wired into the culture of manufacturing, manufacturers are now turning their attention to what can be learned and improved as a result of the unfortunate pandemic experience.

This issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal, the largest ever published since the MLC’s founding in 2008, is dedicated to the idea that a better future lies ahead for the manufacturing industry as it emerges from the clutches of COVID-19. Whether it is accelerating investments in digital technology, to rethinking supply chain footprints, or to redefining safety beyond accidents, the industry’s spirit of innovation has been energized to a degree not seen perhaps since World War II.

Three sections of the Journal deliver on this idea: a series of essays by the MLC and the NAM on subjects such as Manufacturing 4.0, the economy, the workforce and what the shape of the recovery might be; manufacturers’ own stories from the front lines of fighting the virus; and a series of articles examining what the so-called new normal might look like.

Our efforts to chronicle the impact of COVID-19 on manufacturing will continue. Let us know your story.  M