manufacturing in 2021

What can we know about manufacturing in 2021?

by Tom Lovell

As we look back at any of the predictions made during the beginning of 2020, we realize that most couldn’t hold up against a global pandemic. For example, in early 2020 industry analysts in manufacturing predicted it would be the year for manufacturers to get smart about data operations and realize ROI for servitization. While there may have been some marginal gains there, it paled in comparison to the supply chain disruption and remote work pivot—both curveballs no one foresaw for 2020. And yet those are the trends that have left 60 percent of manufacturers still feeling an impact on operations to this day. 

But what we could have accurately predicted was the human ingenuity to pivot and excel, which has always been the trademark of our species. We surely saw that same ingenuity shine through last year in the manufacturing industry, and it will continue to shine through in 2021 and beyond. So while we look forward at the expected industry trends for manufacturers in 2021, we rest easy knowing that if nothing else 2020 reminded us of our incredible ability to adapt.

Let’s review what top analysts foresee for manufacturers in 2021 and, more importantly than that, let’s discuss hands-on strategies to make transformation goals a reality no matter what the year may throw at us.


Trends and forecasts: Predictions for manufacturing

A quick look at the predictions from many manufacturing analysts and you can easily tell that now is like no other time in the industry. Digital transformation is table stakes for doing business, and digitization is no longer an initiative that warrants delay. However, taking on transformative projects as a knee-jerk reaction to the landscape can bring an organization to its knees if it isn’t done thoughtfully and with cross-department needs in mind. So while these may be some of the hottest topics dominating the industry right now, bear in mind that hasty reactions rarely yield the results you’d hope for. 

1. There will be a continuing shift to localized production and reshoring amidst tumultuous world affairs. 

2. Manufacturers will seek improvements to forecasting accuracy more than ever before to have a clearer understanding of reserves for times when demand and revenue recognition falter unexpectedly. 

3. Customer loyalty will be a critical business objective for organizations, demanding more experience strategy and “people-centricity” to reach buyers where they are. 

4. Manufacturers will lean on data more heavily to build resilient supply chains

5. Consumers will increase e-commerce spending by 18 percent over the year, raising demand for manufacturers for supplies. 

6. Manufacturers will start to leverage sustainability to recruit more employees and sell more products. 

7. The workforce will remain dispersed and require more comprehensive planning to coordinate the “anywhere” employee and cloud technologies supporting remote processes.

8. Emerging technologies like IoT, AI, and robotics will play a bigger role in the future of the factory floor. 


Simplus has run into countless organizations trying to keep pace with predictions such as these. The problem, however, is these companies come with past baggage: what could have been a phased transformation that gradually fixed outdated processes is now a massive recovery effort that disrupts all levels. Organizations have already thrown their money at systemic problems, desperately trying to change without truly addressing the cultural blind spots fostering the issues. That’s why technology investments, and the processes and people that keep them running, have to be considered with a long-term future-proof…



Want to keep reading? The complete ebook is available to download for free: Addressing the Manufacturing Labor Shortage.


Tom LovellTom is VP, Manufacturing CoE here at Simplus. For over 15 years, Tom has helped companies implement data and process-driven strategies to bridge the gap between business and IT. These strategies have improved patient outcomes, reduced financial risk, and improved operational efficiency in healthcare organizations while bringing to bear streamlined costs, reduced risk, and improved revenue at manufacturers. His passion is architecting and sharing practical solutions that deliver valuable results for customers.

[email protected]

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