In responding to the changing business environment and the multifaceted challenges facing the manufacturing sector during the COVID-19 crisis, clustering has proven to be a critical success and recovery mechanism to support industry. A manufacturing cluster refers to a group of geographically concentrated firms working together to address a series of generic and cross cutting industry challenges. Cluster facilitation remains a core competency of B&M Analysts.

We currently facilitate 10 manufacturing sector clusters across automotive, clothing, textiles, furniture and chemicals value chains. These entities are longstanding, with the oldest being two decades strong. During the COVID-19 crisis, we very quickly had to pivot our support to cluster members and focus our delivery on assisting firms to mitigate the largest risks facing their business sustainability. We asked ourselves – what must companies do, and what support do companies require in order to survive Day 1 to Day 180+ once they could re-commence operations and their people were back at work. During this period, we developed the COVID-19 Business Continuity and Recovery Programme which assisted our cluster members with addressing challenges associated with reduced demand, increased uncertainty and the pressures on their cost base.

Supported by both public and private sector partners, we launched a nation-wide recovery programme for the manufacturing industry. While our clusters are predominantly locally based, one of the learnings from the programme was the value in cross-sector learnings and knowledge sharing. Through our nation-wide networks, we were able to put industry in touch with other firms dealing with similar challenges across South Africa and ultimately deepen and strengthen the support given to our cluster members at the time they needed it most. Over the period we have engaged with approximately 7 500 industry executives and leaders in nearly 400 Working Group sessions to share, learn and strengthen the manufacturing sector’s resilience against the crisis. Clustering brings different manufacturers together under a shared vision, and ultimately in responding to a crisis, the value of closer ties with one another was never more apparent.