Manufacturing Trends in 2021

PMG works in the heart of manufacturing. We work with those doing the manufacturing (clients) and those who make the manufacturing happen (employees). Because of that, we have a perspective that allows us to see all of what’s happening in manufacturing across the United States. In 2021 a lot happened, especially after coming out of 2020.Here’s some manufacturing trends that we saw:

Supply Chain Issues

There was a global shortage of materials for manufacturing thanks to 2020. The United States was hurt the most by international supply chain networks. Bottlenecks in the supply chain led many (consumer and manufacturer alike) to reconsider American made production, and it’s importance.

On another note, if you’re curious about the supply chain, check out our article titled The History of the Supply Chain.

A Surge in Plastics and Packaging Manufacturing

Thanks to restaurants closing down, and higher levels of sanitary requirements, the manufacturing of plastics and packaging surged. Everyone needed their food to-go once restaurants opened back up and we all needed to get creative about how we stored items (thanks to rethinking sanitation & hygiene habits).

Process Manufacturing

While discrete manufacturing was shut down and/or struggling with the supply chain, process manufacturing couldn’t stop. Process manufacturing includes the food and beverage industry, some plastic manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, soap, and personal hygiene (or consumer goods) items. In fact, many manufacturers of consumer goods altered their product lines to create critical (and hard to find) items like hand sanitizer and disinfectants.

Parts Manufacturing

Car parts and electronic components were hard to find in 2021. Mostly thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020 and the reliance on offshoring common in American manufacturing. That reliance, coupled with supply chain issues, really caused a stir. We are still seeing scarcity for these parts as we near the end of 2021.

Equipment/Machine Manufacturing

Without a full workforce in manufacturing facilities, companies needed to get creative and find workarounds. Machine and equipment manufacturing skyrocketed. Without employees performing hands-on tasks in production, manufacturers realized there was an opportunity (sometimes, a forced opportunity) for automation and robotics. As a result, orders for more automated (and customized) machinery were made than ever before.

Heavy Equipment/Off-road/Agricultural Vehicles

This industry is an interesting one in 2021. As new equipment orders were delayed due to supply chain issues, owners of this type of equipment leaned on repairs or alterations to keep old equipment moving. That, coupled with the very seasonal nature of the industry (and thus, critical timelines), ensured there was high demand across the US for skilled workers to help these types of manufacturers succeed (and do so on schedule).

Distribution Centers (DCs)

DCs became all the rage. Companies quickly learned the criticality of strategically placed distribution centers (or strategic alliances with third party DC partners). Getting product to the consumer, and getting it to them quickly, was important. As a result, there were many needs for Order Selectors, Order Pickers, Material Handlers, and Forklift Operators at DCs across the United States.

Attracting & Retaining Employees

This was a huge trend in 2021 in ALL industries, not just manufacturing. Companies had to get creative while also stretching their budgets. Pay rates went up and sign-on bonuses (as well as referral bonuses) were everywhere. In fact, some companies were offering sign-on bonuses upwards of $100,000! Additionally, more companies were leading their teams with empathy and a little tough love. More companies are recognizing the world is a crazy place and employees need a little more flexibility and understanding.

What manufacturing trends did you see in 2021?

Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney

Technical Manager & Coach