See more of the story

3M cannot make protective respiratory masks fast enough as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The Maplewood-based company continues to ramp up production of the masks at plants in China but also other countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America, as well as the United States.

Even so, global demand is still “exceeding supply,” said 3M spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich in an e-mail. “3M expects demand for respirators to outpace supply for the foreseeable future.”

St. Paul-based Ecolab, which provides sanitizing and disinfecting chemicals, said it is selling more disinfectants in China. But even as hand-sanitizing and disinfectant sales rise there, demand for other products is falling, investor-relations head Mike Monahan said last week.

The coronavirus effects will likely decrease Ecolab’s earnings this year by 5 cents a share, even as the higher disinfectant sales in China and perhaps other countries affected by the virus will increase.

Many hotels, restaurants, airlines and cruise ships in China, South Korea, Italy and elsewhere are losing revenue as locals stay home for fear of getting sick.

U.S. manufacturers are waiting to see just how hard the coronavirus will slam business this year as they cope with supply delays, partly staffed factories and thousands of office workers sequestered and working from home.

Effect on supply chains

Minnesota producers with suppliers or factories across China have banned employee travel, set up morale-boosting phone calls to homebound workers, launched factory washdowns and changed supply schedules and routes. All in the hopes of coping with an outbreak that originated in China in December but has since fanned out worldwide, claiming nearly 3,000 lives and making more than 80,000 ill.

The situation has U.S. producers on edge and stuck in “wait-and-see” mode.

“The coronavirus is rapidly slowing the momentum of the global economy and sucking the oxygen out of financial markets,” Bank of the West economist Scott Anderson noted in an e-mail Tuesday.

“A brief period of global economic and financial market optimism [that had occurred] over the past four months is quickly going dormant as the global economic impact of the novel coronavirus comes into greater focus,” he said. “China’s growth rebound is not expected to be realized in 2020.”

China right now is operating at about 50% to 60% capacity, but auto sales and travel in China are down about 90% from a year ago.

“The impacts are just now starting to be felt on global supply chains beyond China’s borders and we think U.S. companies could see more negative fallout in the second quarter than they acknowledge in the first,” Anderson wrote.

3M is closely monitoring and responding to any potential impact to “its broader supply chain,” Ehrlich said, but did not elaborate on where delays are occurring or for which products.

3M generally manufactures goods in China for the Chinese market and not for export from that country, she said. “The majority of our products made in China are sold in China. 3M’s manufacturing model is local for local.”

During a conference call with analysts Jan. 28, 3M CEO Mike Roman said 3M China was initially expected to contribute a “sluggish start” to 3M’s first quarter because of declining automotive build rates. But now, there is also the coronavirus and “it’s kind of changing things as we go,” Roman said.

The $33 billion giant hasn’t yet estimated the virus’ cost, noting that it’s hard to predict, especially as demand surges for its facemasks.

Minneapolis-based Graco, which makes industrial spray and pumping machines, has a factory in Suzhou and its Asian headquarters in Shanghai.

“About 80% of our employees at our production facility in Suzhou have been able to return to the office at this time, while most employees in our Shanghai office are choosing to work from home,” said Graco spokeswoman Charlotte Boyd. In addition, “employees from the Shanghai office who live closer to our Suzhou production facility are working from Suzhou to limit travel between cities.”

While staying home is “isolating” for many workers, she noted that Graco is still following strict health protocols in an effort to keep everyone in good health.

Keeping all operations running smoothly remains a bit of a challenge. “We are seeing some supply-chain slowdown, but we took some early steps to address it. We were able to get some masks to our employees in China, which seemed to be very helpful,” Boyd said.

‘Rapidly evolving situation’

NVent Electric, which is managed from St. Louis Park and makes electrical enclosures and construction fasteners, has 600 workers in China and sources about $25 million of supplies from vendors there.

CEO Beth Wozniak told analysts this month that nVent’s first concern is to help workers affected by the health crisis. Beyond that, a disrupted supply chain is expected to be “a lower impact,” given nVent’s small supply exposure there, she said.

She couldn’t say how the virus might affect nVent long term. “It’s still too early for us to tell. But we’re evaluating it on a daily basis,” Wozniak said.

So is Donaldson Co., which is currently constructing a new plant in Wuxi, China. The Bloomington-based truck and industrial filtration giant generates less than 10% of its $2.8 billion revenue from China. Chinese employees make up less than 10% of Donaldson’s global 14,100-member workforce, said Donaldson spokesman Brad Pogalz.

“The coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly evolving global situation, so we are monitoring it closely. Our top priority has been, and will remain, the safety and health of our employees,” he said.

When possible, employees are working from home and adhering to other travel restrictions while Donaldson provides hard-to-get masks to workers and launches “incremental cleaning cycles at certain facilities,” Pogalz said. He declined to say more, noting that Donaldson releases its quarterly earnings next week.

Pentair filed its annual report Tuesday to regulators.

“Our overall business could be negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, but the significance of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on our business and the duration for which it may have an impact cannot be determined at this time,” the report said.

The pump and water filtration giant earns 3% to 4% of revenue from China, so officials are studying how the virus and government containment actions there affect Pentair’s employees, customers and global supply chain, officials said.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725