Disruptive Innovations in 2020 to Manufacturing Trends in 2021

Posted by Jim Hancock on Apr 7, 2021 8:21:51 AM

disruptive innovation 2020Say what you want about 2020, but it forced each of us to push our personal and professional boundaries of accepting change and quickly adapting to our new reality. One of the greatest lessons we should take away from this year is that we are capable of accelerated change when forced to do so. We now know that we are capable of rapid change and it will be the norm in our professional lives moving forward. We now must embrace change more quickly than ever. With industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (iIOT) on our doorstep, we have the opportunity to make the greatest leap forward in manufacturing in 2021 that we have seen in 50 years.

Data connectivity to transform business will include machine sensors, Industrial Internet of Things (iIOT), cloud computing, and advanced analytics. Greater visibility for productivity, Total Predictive Maintenance (TPM), and operators cost-effective methods of retrieving data will work towards reconciling data from siloed environments.   The optimization of Electronic Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), and Quality Management Systems (QMS) will need to work together seamlessly to gather data into a single, manageable location. Information will need to be manipulated through cloud computing to leverage this data to give everyone a view of the entire organization.

Supply Chain Lessons and moving forward.

COVID taught manufacturers some tough lessons as to the vulnerability of their supply chain. 2021 will see more diversity, onshoring, and modernization to the supply chain than ever before. Digital tools will be required to gain better visibility, more options for resources, and the ability for remote quality activities such as supplier audits, qualifications, and corrective actions. Supplier networks will need to adjust faster, be more nimble, and ultimately more robust. Digitization of supplier networks will be a must to improve visibility and options to make quick, strategic, well-informed decisions. Employees must remain well aware of potential risks within your critical supply chain.

Employee Engagement and the Reality of Working Remotely

Probably the most surprising element that came out of 2020 was our ability to adjust to a remote work environment and to maintain, if not increase our level of productivity. While the office staff adaptation was reasonably straightforward in 2020, essential production staff remained on site. 2021, however, will see a shift in operations to enhance operational staff’s productivity with a variety of digital tools. Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become more common in our standard work and onboarding. Wearable technology, machine monitoring, and automation will change the environment for operational personnel. Regardless of what you prioritize for your digital path in 2021, you must listen to the voice of your workforce. They know best how to work in their environment and which technologies are most likely to have the greatest impact. You want to give your employees ownership or at least “buy-in” of the technology deployed. Technology should be viewed as a way to enhance a worker’s skill, not replace it.


2021 will bring opportunities for positive change and a workforce that is more willing to accept it. No longer will the phrase “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” be considered acceptable. Employees' attitude towards change is more understanding now more than ever. This, combined with the new and emerging digital tools at our disposal presents manufacturers the opportunity to make the greatest leaps in productivity in the last 50 years. As difficult as 2020 was to accept, embrace the opportunities it has presented to manufacturing in 2021 and well into the future.

If you have questions or need help, contact IMEC.

Jim Hancock

Written by Jim Hancock

Topics: manufacturing, supply chain, trends, Industry 4.0, technology adoption, digital transformation

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