How Manufacturing Leaders are Adapting Their Business in 2021

In order to understand the future of manufacturing, it's important to understand the industry's current situation and how leaders are positioning their companies for future growth. We surveyed 50 manufacturing executives to understand how they were adapting their business to the current state of manufacturing and what is to come in 2021.


We first asked these executives how prepared they felt to handle business once the shutdowns began and COVID-19 created shock waves across the system. Many of the manufacturing executives surveyed felt that they were at least somewhat prepared when the pandemic arrived. Of those surveyed, 44% felt they were very or mostly prepared to handle the challenges of the pandemic, with 32% were moderately prepared, and 24% were slightly or not at all prepared. We then asked their opinion on what helped to prepare them most and how they, and other manufacturers, can make sure their prepared for whatever may come our way in the future.

Here’s what they said:

  • Introducing advanced data collection and analytics that can provide an accurate view of what's happening on the shop floor in real time without requiring managers to be physically present.
  • Utilizing tools such as cameras, IoT monitoring devices, smart glasses, and collaboration software that can facilitate remote inspections and troubleshooting, as well as meetings and other communication.
  • The ability to cloud compute, in which systems and data are run and stored offsite and accessed online, allows companies more possibilities for remote work and collaboration.
  • A report from the Manufacturing Leadership Council highlighted the example of printer manufacturer Lexmark, which was able to execute its global business continuity plan in just two days because it has all systems in the cloud. They went from only a few employees working at home to 94% [with some plants still open], without impacting system performance.

Next, we asked about confidence in their supply chain resiliency in the aftermath of COVID-19. We found that following the pandemic, manufacturers are largely confident in the resiliency of their supply chains — and they are actively working to make those chains stronger. Of those surveyed, 40% are very confident or mostly confident in their supply chain resilience in the wake of COVID. Of those surveyed, 34% are moderately confident, while 24% are slightly confident and 2% are not at all confident. Going forward, these executives said that supply chain resiliency will continue to be a priority and investment in technology is key to enable a nimble response to supply chain variables.

They shared the largest benefiting technology investments to be:

  • Digital supply chain management platforms that create a single source of truth for more transparency and enhanced coordination and risk management.
  • These can provide real-time data on essential information such as prices, inventory, lead times, transportation, and more.
  • Advanced analytics that can provide predictive insights to spur proactive planning rather than only relying on past data.
  • Visualization technology that can help leaders detect patterns to make sense of analytics results.

Manufacturers are already adopting the technologies that can help them survive the present and move into the future. And they plan on implementing even more going forward. Technology will be the key to unlocking a future where manufacturers can better see what is around the bend and are nimble enough to take on whatever surprises may be in store.

To view the full survey and report, visit the full Manufacturing Trends Report here.


Author: Doug Bulla, VP of Solution Development

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