The Pandemic’s Affect on Labor and Supply Chains


We’re now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and with many Americans now vaccinated, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. However, even as we all begin to grow more optimistic with a return to “normal” seemingly just around the corner, the reality is that the effects of the pandemic are still being felt.

For example, the industrial textile industry, in particular, is still facing challenges with supply concerns. According to an Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) survey, nearly 65% of respondents say that the pandemic had a large or moderate effect on their business, and 70% of the survey respondents said the biggest challenge they faced in 2020 was domestic supplier delays.

On top of supply issues, there were also labor shortages, when employees were out sick with the virus or quarantining after exposure. Michael Tharpe, a National Sales Manager for one of these surveyed companies explained:

“The economic conditions created by the pandemic were far-reaching. Production was brought to a temporary halt, purchasing decisions were delayed, stocking levels were reduced in order to survive. Basically, the pandemic created an entire shift in our ability to produce because we did not know what to produce until new markets prevailed.”

Tharpe went on to say:

“Lead times for raw materials were extended, production lines were taxed to meet [new demands created by the pandemic] and quarantine became the new common factor as employees or their families tested positive for the virus.”

Demand also varied throughout 2020, as many industries shut down, leaving some suppliers with a surplus of goods.

Reason for Optimism

The good news is that hope is on the horizon. In that same IFAI survey, 43% of respondents said they expect to hire new employees in 2021, anticipating new growth as the vaccine continues to roll out.

While demand for many fabrics went down in 2020, as some industries shut down production, they’re now ramping back up. As a result, Market and Market reports that the industrial fabric industry is expected to grow from $108.3 billion to $162.9 billion by 2025.


As the labor and supply chain returns back to normal over the next several months, Acadian Industrial Textiles will continue to be here for you to meet your fabric needs as they evolve with new or increased demand. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions at any time.