'React quickly:' Economic impact of coronavirus is still developing, impacting Wisconsin companies

MILWAUKEE -- China is a force unlike any other in the realms of manufacturing and economy. So when the second-largest economy ceased doing business as a part of anti-virus controls, it sent a ripple across the global economy.

Jeff Turmel

"If you get a global pandemic, there can be significant interruptions in product flows in many sectors," said Jeff Turmel, director of the UW-Milwaukee Supply Chain Management Institute. "I don't know that we've seen that just yet. We've certainly seen the fires pop up, very unpredictable, and so we're all kind of watching the news."

Turmel says that, while the markets have tumbled, businesses have mostly held their own -- so far. However, as outbreaks continue to pop up, he says redundancies from supplies, manufacturers and transportation are key.

"In terms of operations, it's try to be as flexible as we can, and react quickly," Turmel said.

Wisconsin companies, like Johnson Controls, are suspending non-customer or business air travel, monitoring developments and working to ensure customers' needs are met. Small-engine maker Briggs & Stratton is limiting employee travel, but adds that its Chinese facilities are back in production, and most, if not all, supplies are back to work delivering parts.

Briggs & Stratton

"Providing customers my products and services often means a difference between no revenue or maybe a little less margin on my current revenue," Turmel said.

What's still unknown is how much damage the virus may do -- not just on a human scale, but on an economic scale, too.