2021 started with one fact abundantly clear: Manufacturing is essential. 

When the world felt the COVID-fied punch of 2020, manufacturers stood tall. Manufacturers figured out a way to adapt, survive and eventually, thrive. How did manufacturers hold their heads up and pull their shoulders back as COVID-fueled fear, policies, and regulations ripped through their companies and rattled everything from their supply chains to their workforce, you ask? Forbes answered this question in a piece entitled What We Learned About Manufacturing In 2020, and it made the following repeat-worthy points:


  • “There are two competing narratives about human work in manufacturing during and after COVID. On the one hand, there’s a real anxiety that firms are going to fast-track their automation programs, leaving workers out of the job. On the other, there’s the story that I heard from a number of manufacturers: No people, no production.”
  • “In short, we learned that manufacturing will only be as successful as its people.”


  • “… the massive collaborations we saw this year were a difference in degree, not kind. And it was a huge difference.”
  • “Girish Wabel, a Senior Manager of Strategic Capabilities at Jabil, captured the distinctive nature of these collaborations when he noted, ‘You saw manufacturing giants take on projects completely out of business plans but not unlike their character, for example PPE and ventilators. It showed the power of great collaboration and what can be achieved or the devastation it can cause when people don’t selflessly collaborate.’”

Distributed manufacturing

  • “To date, manufacturing has been site-specific. It’s done at the plant, or as part of a carefully planned and integrated supply chain. This year [2020] showed us there are other ways.”
  • “When shutdowns and supply chain interruptions halted production, manufacturers looked for capacity anywhere they could find it. What emerged were distributed manufacturing networks, where individuals in spatially distant geographic areas worked collaboratively on the same projects.”
  • Example: “Additive manufacturing organizations asked their customers to volunteer their machines to print nasal swabs and PPE. Others offered their intellectual property– in the form of CAD files, BOMS, work instructions, and supplier lists– to manufacturers with capacity to produce ventilators.”


  • “Organizations learned that rigidity is risk, and that being able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances is a competitive advantage.”
  • “We learned that change is the status quo.”


  • “As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it, the world experienced two years of digital transformation in two months. This pace is set to continue. In a recent survey, 58% of operations leaders reported that accelerating digital transformation was a top priority.”

Remote Work

  • “… manufacturing has adapted to a remote world.”
  • “We’ve learned we can deliver even complex projects entirely remotely. Gone are the days of endless flying around the world supporting manufacturing IT implementations!”~ Dave Margetts, FactoryTalk
  • “Audra Kirkland of Terex found that moving to remote provided an opportunity to update their training processes. ‘We normally have peer training,’ Kirkland started. ‘We’re moving through a guided work approach where we’re having people learn on the job as they’re doing the work, but through a guided process without a human having to be right next to them.’”

Manufacturing’s Staying Power

Slater Mill, Samuel Slater’s Rhode Island cotton-spinning factory, gave birth to modern manufacturing in 1790, and manufacturing remains part of the landscape and fabric of society to this day. Manufacturing’s longevity and legacy in an ever-changing world cannot be denied. Manufacturing wasn’t just essential in 2020; it’s been essential since the moment of its inception.

If you want to work for a business with staying-power, who the world deems essential and who understands more than ever the power of a workforce who feels appreciated and proud of their work, consider a career in manufacturing. 

Manufacturing isn’t just a job; it’s a career full of pride and financial possibilities. Stop waiting for greatness to find you, and go grab it!