Skip to main content
Submitted by Suzanne Scanlan on 23 December 2020

Preparing for 2021: 10 Manufacturing Trends

2020 is coming to a close…thankfully. While this is a relief, it is more important than ever to be prepared for 2021. There have been unprecedented changes in how people behave and buy, how businesses operate and interact with their customers—and manufacturing is no exception. To say the least, we learned a lot about what we need to do moving forward. 

How do you adapt quickly and stay competitive moving forward? Here are 10 trends to note as you build your strategy for 2021.  

Trend #1: A Bigger Role for Emerging Technologies

Because of the need for fast response around COVID-19, emerging technologies, including 3D printing and augmented reality (AR) headsets, have come to the forefront, where in the past they met with resistance for many reasons. Manufacturers need to seriously look at emerging technologies and how they can be integrated to increase productivity, particularly in remote situations (think touchless service options for field service and 3D printing for reducing tooling time and costs).

Trend #2: Collaborating More Closely with Customers and Suppliers 

Supply chains suffered significantly during the pandemic, so they need to become more resilient in 2021. This can be accomplished by manufacturers pooling their data, businesses investing in logistics operation centers, and the emergence of supplier trust networks. The key is to collaborate with customers and suppliers and creating a seamless network.  

Trend #3: Adapting to New Customer Preferences 

One of the most significant changes resulting from the pandemic is how people and businesses buy. Digital enablement must be a top priority. Companies must help customers understand product acquisition costs, implementation, utilization, and post-sale requirements, but they need to maintain a positive customer experience. That means hiring the right people and getting the right technology—like eCommerce platforms—in place. 

Another area to adapt is channel strategy. With the pandemic, manufacturers need to offer online options to customers, partners, and distributors. It’s also extremely important to look at B2C if not already doing so. This is a potentially huge revenue stream but will require adjustments in the form of B2C sales platforms, order fulfillment and tracking, secure payments, customer service management, and sales/marketing activity tracking.

Trend #4: Investment in Knowledge Workers

The role Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will continue grow in 2021, which will require people with complementary skills. Manufacturers should start now with staffing, as workers with these skills—content analytics, knowledge management solutions, digital worker analytics, and more—are difficult to find and in high demand. 

Trend #5: Disaster Recovery Plans Being Replaced by Resiliency Strategies 

Disaster recovery looks only at the short term, and the pandemic made it very clear that companies need plans for long-term resilience. This includes a shift to being able to run and manage production floors remotely, which will require investments in new smart manufacturing equipment and networking technology. That, in turn, will yield more long-term projects and investment. 

Trend #6: Putting Predictive Maintenance In The Mix

For manufacturers, when equipment breaks down, there is a big cost. To prevent breakdowns, more companies are turning to predictive analytics and maintenance, which has been proven to prevent breakdowns and extend machinery life by years. With predictive analytics, manufacturers can monitor performance and automate the process of collecting data process, which they can use to better understand how their systems work, when they will fail, and what they need to stay in operation—which they can use to plan predictive maintenance.  

Trend #7: Putting Employee Safety Front And Center

After 2020, safety in the workplace has a whole new meaning. While it was very important in manufacturing before, the way workplace safety is viewed is entirely different and yet just as important. Every 2021 plan must include measures for social distancing, sanitizing workspaces, monitoring those who enter and exit, and how people interact with each other and equipment—including when they’re in the field.  

Trend #8: Reshoring Manufacturing 

For decades now, manufacturers have been offshoring to cut costs and stay competitive. But now the trend is coming back due to economic advantages and concerns about quality and supply chain issues. Part of any 2021 plan should be to consider if and how to onshore all or part of manufacturing processes. To learn more, download our eBook, Onshoring Your Manufacturing Operations: Is It Time…and Are You Ready?

Trend #9: Ensuring Visibility Across The Organization 

With the continuing trends towards IoT and predictive maintenance, data has never been more important. Manufacturers must have the ability to collect data from many sources plus the ability to analyze and report on that data to have a full understanding of their business, which will require cloud computing capabilities.

Trend #10: Rethinking ERP 

ERP has always been a cornerstone of manufacturing. With the pandemic, however, the way manufacturers use their ERP has changed. The need for the ability to quickly respond and pivot requires an ERP with the agility to keep up with the pace of change. In addition, manufacturers can look to tools that will allow them to quickly, easily, and cost-effectively build apps for specific processes or tasks that integrate with ERP systems, reducing the need for major customizations that take too much time and money—without requiring any modifications to the ERP system.

Be Prepared for 2021…And Beyond\

There’s a lot to think about, but nothing is out of reach with the right people and tools to support your efforts. Learn how ArcherPoint can help you prepare for 2021 and years to come.