Manufacturers have been improving their processes since they first existed. However, manufacturers have never needed to improve as quickly as they have over the past year. The pandemic changed many things for our world, but manufacturing was one of the industries that was hit first. Many of those changes will likely stay even after COVID-19 cases drop to 0. Has your shop made these changes? 

More Technology 

With COVID restrictions came more technology to help us work with them. Using ERP software on the cloud meant more employees could work from home, cutting down on the number of people in the building at a time. Some companies also leaned on their ERP software to help them get more done with fewer people and in less time. Things such as scheduling are quick for ERP software but could take a human a good chunk of their day. 

Shops also used employees’ cell phones instead of passing around papers, such as job travelers. The fewer people that touch something, the less chance there is for germs to travel between people. Being able to call up a digital copy of a work order, or anything else, made it much easier for folks on the floor to keep their distance while still getting work done. 

Reshoring/Localized Production 

manufacturing calendar

Everyone has been having supply chain issues since the pandemic started. One solution has been for customers to buy from manufacturers that are physically closer to them to cut down on travel time. This also decreases the chance that COVID restrictions could delay a shipment. As long as manufacturers can get the parts they need, it’s much quicker for them to deliver the finished goods to their customers. 

Local manufacturing saw a renaissance during this time out of necessity, but there are many positives in using a local manufacturer. For one thing, it’s much faster for customers to get the product they need. If customers need to talk through any changes, they don’t have to worry about time zones; they can just get on the phone. Or, as restrictions loosen, customers can drive to the manufacturer and talk to them directly. There is also no language barrier when customers use a local manufacturer. 


The population, in general, has been becoming greener over the years. Manufacturers have been finding the benefits of using less or reusing for years, but the need for it has jumped over the last year. As resources become more expensive and/or scarce, it’s great to be able to do more with less. The combination of supply chain issues and JIT (Just In Time) meant that manufacturers had to find new ways to finish their jobs. And whether those ways were buying materials closer to their shop, recycling what they could, or simply using less, all of those methods increase a shop’s sustainability. 

In addition, according to a recent survey done by GreenPrint, customers are 78% more likely to purchase a product that is labeled as environmentally friendly. As more brands are striving to increase their sustainability, manufacturers are feeling the pull as well. Becoming environmentally friendly became a necessity to please their customers as well as because of supply shortages. Manufacturers who were already making do with less were able to tell their customers about their efforts to be more sustainable without having to make additional changes. As long as these methods of making do with less are efficient, manufacturers will almost certainly continue using them. 

High Mix/Low Volume and Personalization 

Personalization has been a trend in many industries recently, and manufacturing is no exception. Job shops are already used to high mix/low volume orders, but other manufacturers have had to learn to run their shops this way as well. The desire for personalization is only going to grow, so job shops are uniquely positioned to meet this need. 

When people stayed at home more, they had more time to think about things they wanted and how those things could be personalized. Online retail sales increased 32.4% year over year in 2020, and with that increase in shopping came a drive for more personalization. 77% of shoppers prefer a personalized brand or experience. Some of that personalization falls on the companies selling directly to the customers. However, some of it falls on the manufacturers making the products for those companies. And shops that are already used to doing high mix/low volume jobs will be in a great position to meet those needs. 

Fads come and go, but this past year has brought about some changes that will likely stick around. Manufacturing has had to adapt to the new environment by using more technology, reshoring or localizing production, increasing sustainability, and increasing personalization in products. Manufacturers have had to adapt to change before, but this past year has had some dramatic changes. How has your shop adapted? 

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