Manufacturing has had one wild year and, in the wake of COVID-19, many industry experts, boardroom executives, and men and women on the production floor are “shopping” their theories for 2021 manufacturing trends.

Theories for what 2021 will hold run the gamut, but there is plenty of crossover shared among contributing voices. Here are some of the most often mentioned subjects we are sure will emerge as the most impactful 2021 manufacturing trends.

The Reshoring of Manufacturing

When the mechanisms of manufacturing all but ground to a halt in Q1 of 2020, it became vividly apparent just how dependent nations were on the capacity and capabilities of a select few manufacturing powerhouses. A year on and COVID-scarcity has driven the prices of raw materials up 100-200% when compared with the same period last year.

In the wake of this glut, more than one fifth of US manufacturers surveyed by BDO are committed to the reshoring of operations as a top priority in 2021.

While both the current and previous administration are pushing for consumers to “Buy American”, the same sentiment is ringing loud and clear through the EU, Japan, South Korea, and many other leading nations.

The world bought in to cheap and abundant labor out of China for decades, which left supply chains around the world bottlenecked and vulnerable. Today, diversification of the supply chain is widely regarded by manufacturers as a must-have and countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Mexico are raising their hands to offer the capacity and talent to meet the needs of more local-focused supply chains.

Addressing The Education And Skills Gaps In Manufacturing

With decades of reliance on external manufacturing capacity, US-based manufacturers have seen an ever-increasing skills gap needed for their operations at home.

A tremendous contributing factor is the perception of manufacturing as a Triple-D sector. That is, dirty, dangerous, and dull. Whether on the shop floor or at the engineering desk, manufacturers are struggling to fill a gap in skilled jobs that Deloitte expects to reach nearly 2.5 million positions by 2028. Fortunately, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), manufacturers are willing to pay to close that gap.

Chad Moutray, NAM Chief Economist, said “Manufacturers consistently cite the inability to attract and retain talent as their top concern, and as this survey underlines, they are taking strong proactive steps to overcome it.” The Institute surveyed US-manufacturers on their spending in the sector, which totaled more than $26 billion targeting training programs for new and existing employees.

Trade schools, analytics, sensor technology, robotics, AI, VR, etc. are garnering considerable investment to draw in the talent required to fill the deep need these manufacturers are experiencing.

Experts say that simply throwing money at the problem is not enough. Manufacturers and institutions need to share in the investment and collaborate to ensure that what students are learning now is what will be relevant in the manufacturing sphere by the time they graduate.

Talent simply cannot be trained to meet the needs of businesses because tech is changing at such an exponential rate. Agreements between schools and manufacturers will have to provide work experience opportunities while studying to close the gap.

In Encompass’ own backyard, Guilford Technical Community College has received both considerable financial investment and buy-in from regional manufacturers with the institution’s recently opened Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Jamestown, NC. There is just as much investment from other manufacturers around the country who are hungry for an engage and talented workforce produced locally.

Global Shortages Of Computer Chip Manufacturing Hit Home

With climate change a topic of ongoing significance globally, the reliance on regionally produced tech has put the entire world’s supply of computer chips on thin ice.

Regional environmental conditions are now playing a much larger part than before in how we view the risk associated with supply chain. For example, the majority of the world’s motherboards are manufactured in Taipei, Taiwan. This region is categorically prone to massive and disruptive weather events and earthquakes. For decades, this has been a reality the US, and frankly the rest of the world accepted as part of navigating a global supply chain.

Initially, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit, semiconductor factories shut down, causing delays in the supply chain. Because it can take up to several years for these factories to reach their  previous production levels, the shortage will likely persist for some time.

Everything from TV’s to cars are affected by the shortage of chips, which effectively function as the brain of electronics. To put it in perspective, Apple, the phone manufacturers with a $2 trillion value and semiconductor budget of $58 billion annually, could not get enough of these in-demand chips for their iPhone 12 launch last year. The result was a two-month delay and things are only getting worse for manufacturers big and small.

According to Mirabaud tech analyst Neil Campling, “There is no sign of supply catching up, or demand decreasing, while prices are rising across the chain. This will cross over to people in the street. Expect cars to cost more, phones to cost more. This year’s iPhone is not going to be cheaper than last year.”

Med Device And Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Look Pale

Such supply chain bottlenecks as mentioned above exposed overreliance on external manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices over the last year, as well.

Supply chain resiliency, through redundancy and duplication, is a costly and time-consuming effort. However, manufacturers are increasingly adopting a shift in thinking to ensure they can avoid the pitfalls COVID-19 has exposed.

Many medical devices and pharmaceuticals are only sourced through specific geographies. As a result, strategic goods and services will need to be tackled first in a new wave of focus from US manufacturing industries and policy makers. Luxury and consumer-driven products will have to take a backseat until those top-shelf items can be secured at home.

Shifting Trade Policies From Corporate To Congress

US manufacturers are driving the demand for diversity in capacity beyond East Asia. However, many of the west’s manufacturers, big and small, are making moves to end reliance on the East Asian manufacturing hubs. Recent upsets in trade policy, like free trade agreements, Brexit, tariffs, the repositioning of NAFTA, etc. all impact these efforts.

While not directly parallel, policymakers and legislators are approaching the problem from their own perspective. Regulators’ opinions on the evolution of the supply chain are translated through a different lens than manufacturers. Geopolitical relationships and national security may not translate into he most favorable outcomes for business back home. Manufacturers want speed, efficiency, and capacity to deliver products to the hands of consumers. Government will view its priorities through a different lens.

Digital Taxation and Role Reversal

As the border between big tech and manufacturing become more blurred, digital taxation and who does what are the new hot topics. With an increase in digital cross over into the material realm, the mechanisms of how to handle taxation have not quite caught up.

Namely, this involves the lines between tech and tangible and where the border between industries is truly defined. Perhaps the broader question is, can it be defined?  With companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and others, who traditionally created digital products, now constructing marketplaces, and investing in tangible goods, like autonomous vehicles, are they considered the new pioneers in manufacturing?

Where does that leave traditional process and discrete manufacturers? As discrete manufacturers create IoT and IIoT solutions to complement their tangible goods, like sensor and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) software, do they share the profile of Big Tech? The waters grow muddy. One thing is for sure, the landscape of both tech and manufacturing are sharing more overlap than ever before.

Access to Cash and What it Means for SMBs

Borrowing and access to capital is a defining issue for smaller manufacturers. With interest rates low for manufacturers, questions about effective tax rates, trade relationships, and capital expenditure have been conservative. Fortunately, trade talks with the Biden administration and China have started to take shape, vaccinations are rolling out, and outlooks are generally optimistic.

One leading indicator of this upward trend is found in the number of bankruptcies experienced by manufacturers over the last year. Not nearly as many bankruptcies emerged as were predicted by researchers, analysts, and economists. The big change may have been the fact that banks do not want to become owners like after the 2008 housing crisis. There is simply too much to manage in manufacturing and rather than take on the headache of an industry banks may not know enough about to run effectively, they opted to work with businesses in the sector to find solutions that worked for both sides.

Robotics and Automation

Robots and automation have been four letter words for decades, essentially scaring people away from manufacturing. Unfortunately for fear mongers, the need for skilled labor is even more necessary with the inclusion of these advanced technologies. More engineers, more cobot operators, maintenance personnel, and even truck drivers to fuel the internal distribution networks of the United States re in high demand. There will certainly be upset in the world of manufacturing as these technologies proliferate. However, the timeline by which that proliferation overtakes a human workforce grows ever longer as technology proves to be just as reliant on us as we are on it.

The New Contract Manufacturers

New methods of manufacturing, such as 3D printing or additive manufacturing, are upsetting the traditionally held roles in Industry.

Take, for instance, the effect these technologies have bestowed on traditional distributors.

Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) like Fed Ex, UPS, and others are entering the manufacturing arena, cutting out a space for themselves, and cutting off competitors, in some cases manufacturers, by assuming certain aspects of manufacturing. By leveraging additive manufacturing technology, these logistics providers can cut out the middleman to handle production and delivery of simple parts and components on a decent scale. You can send your CAD file direct to the 3PL, who will then print out the part and ship it directly.

For the recipient, potentially a manufacturer themselves in this case, there is a degree of control that is relinquished. Depending on your product, at some point you will need to verify that your vendor (3PL) is meeting your quality requirements. While the approach is in its infancy with a foundation shaky enough to keep some at arm’s length, it could be a trend that picks up steam quickly. If these providers are able to achieve the quick turnaround they promise and meet quality standards that manufacturers and consumers demand, there could be a real shift on the horizon.

Green Materials Propagate in 2021 Manufacturing Trends

Sustainability has never been a topic weighing as heavily on consumers’ hearts and minds as it is today. This puts more weight squarely on the shoulders of manufacturers.

If consumers want more environmentally conscious products and production methods, it’s up to manufacturers to adapt and educate their customers of the changes taking place.

Take for instance the textiles and plastics being replaced by renewable and eco-friendly materials, like mycelium.

Major global brands like Dell Technologies and IKEA have already committed to adopting a Styrofoam packaging replacement made by Ecovative Design.

Indonesian manufacturer MYCL will soon launch a series of sneakers, sandals, wallets, luggage tags and watch straps made of its mycelium-based leather, Mylea.

The trend has even proliferated into the world of high-fashion, with U.S. manufacturers Bolt Threads and MycoWorks aiming to make mycelium-based leather products more widely available this year.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

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Encompass Solutions recently celebrated another successful go-live with a longtime partner and client. This company has several divisions, though this project took focus on Medical Device Manufacturing With Epicor ERP. The project focused on on-site locations in the United States and Costa Rica. The company’s primary Epicor team consists of three resources, supporting approximately 700 employees. The medical device manufacturing company utilizes several Epicor ERP components including all major modules, Advanced Material Management (AMM), Quick Ship, and Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

The Project

The project scope was to upgrade an existing Epicor 9.05.702a to Epicor 10.2.400. The upgrade project would also need to account for hundreds of custom BPMs, Dashboards, Reports, SQL Tools, and linked systems that had built up over the years. Additionally, a transition to an FDA validated environment with proper change control was necessary. All of this happened on a typical non-holiday weekend, with some manufacturing departments on-site and actively working.

The Encompass Solutions Team was responsible for:

  • Project planning and estimating
  • Project management
  • Technical assistance uplifting customizations, reports and dashboards,
  • Hardware configuration and sizing recommendations
  • All aspects of the data conversion
  • Conversion planning and preparation
  • System test planning

The Plan

An Encompass Solutions project manager was handed the sequencing and timing authority to map the timeline, deliverables, and overall upgrade project plan. At a high level, there were timelines created for Test Conversions, Technical Uplift Tasks, UAT, and Validation.

The project would follow Encompass Solutions’ standard upgrade methodology. This began by estimating the uplift effort, as that would drive the remainder the schedule.

The Execution

Once the project plan was established, Encompass and the client stood up the new 10.2.400 environment and performed the first pass conversion.

The next phase of the project, and most lengthy, focused on uplifting and unit testing over 800 objects (UI customizations, reports, BPMs, dashboard, and more)

Once the uplift was complete, a second pass conversion was performed. This served as the first conversion where we started to look at the length of the conversion, cleaning up errors and started to put together the conversion validation steps. This conversion served as the basis for system test.

System test planning started three months prior to the test. The actual test was conducted over a three-week period by the client and Encompass Solutions.

Upon completion of system test, we executed a third pass conversion.  This served to further test our conversion process and procedures. This also provided a clean database for the client to perform their validation process as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. After FDA validation was complete, we executed a fourth pass conversion to finalize all conversion weekend steps, processes validations, timing, and reconciliation.

As part of planning, a series of test and practice installs took place prior to Go Live. During the weekend of Go Live, the project was within15 minutes of the anticipated Go-Live time. Encompass was onsite for the event, and post-Go Live, as needed.

“Perhaps the most surprising detail was that [Encompass] have taken ownership of most errors and bugs and seen them through resolution, which takes a lot of work off our team.”

– IT Business Analysis Manager

The Results

Go live was a smooth process. The client was able to successfully make jobs, ship parts, and collect payments. Aside from a few hiccups, 90% of the users are having a better experience with the updated Epicor ERP system. Of the 10% that didn’t have as great of an experience, these were mostly due to changes in behavior from Epicor 9 to Epicor 10, almost all of which were discovered during UAT. This means that during Go-Live there were very few surprises.

Next Steps

The company’s next steps including taking the Epicor 10 foundation and expanding it to two more locations in 2020 and a third in 2021. The client has already invited the same Encompass Solutions project team to assist in those future projects.

Encompass has also been engaged to support projects that will provide order integration with the client’s European operations, implement a vendor management inventory solution, as well as bring additional sites onto Epicor ERP.

Company Details

  • Established: 1999
  • Location: USA, Costa Rica
  • Industry: Manufacturing, Medical Devices
  • Previous System – Epicor ERP 9.05.702a
  • Current System – Epicor ERP 10.2.400
  • Deployment – On Prem

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

When it comes to medical device manufacturing, the FDA has maintained rigorous standards for manufacturers to satisfy. Traceability, quality management, and reporting are among the many areas that manufacturers need superior performance to meet those standards. The FDA push for digital means of achieving and providing a record of how standards are met has many businesses looking to ERP software for medical device manufacturing.

Fortunately, ERP systems have been delivering on these demands and more for decades and are suited to meet the changes of regulatory environments. Such powerful systems help to increase reliability on processes and reduce the instances of failures, recalls, and corrective actions. Not only this, but the benefits of ERP make maintaining compliance and records easier and more cost-effective.

The Benefits Of ERP Software For Medical Device Manufacturing

When it comes to the requirements placed on manufacturers by the FDA, it’s easy to see why ERP is increasingly being leveraged to reduce the difficulty in meeting those obligations.

Data is available at every turn in the manufacturing process and ERP systems can help medical device manufacturers leverage that data in the validation process. This data enables management regulatory obligations, optimization of manufacturing processes, and the resulting increase in customer satisfaction. ERP systems capture this vital information to lessen the risks associated with compliance standards and turn efficiency concepts into real-world results with ease.

How Medical Device Manufacturers Use ERP

Compliance is the top motivator for adopting ERP software for medical device manufacturers. FDA regulations, as well as those for international regulatory bodies, are constantly evolving alongside new technologies, products, and research. ERP provides a means of establishing protocol and processes to satisfy the latest regulations at every stage in the manufacturing life-cycle.

Accessibility is another important factor driving the adoption of modern ERP systems. Whether in the board room or on the shop floor, teams need the latest data and documentation to make informed decisions, in real-time. Legacy ERP systems lack the connectivity to this data that modern, cloud-based ERP systems provide. Even sales teams on the road require such access when a customer wants to know how a manufacturer’s products conform to the latest regulations, as well as the proof to back it up.

Auditing is a process required both internally and externally for medical device manufacturers. Audits may be scheduled or conducted at random. In any case, a manufacturer wants to know they are able to retrieve and report data on every process in the manufacturing life-cycle. ERP software provides all that in a centralized and secure location.

The tracking and traceability ERP software provides will ensure that each stage of the manufacturing process comes with oversight. Easy to follow audit trails streamline the process and identify where, when, and how problems emerge. Recalls, while never an easy process, are swift and efficient thanks to ERP software that leverages automated lot and serial tracking to keep customers safe and businesses insulated from risk.

Through automation, manufacturers can remove the manual tasks associated with logging data, such as billing and manufacturing execution. This cuts down on human error that causes most delays and downtime in manufacturing and sales cycles. While not necessarily a matter of regulatory compliance, the efficiency ERP software provides in this regard only strengthens the case for its adoption.

FDA Requirements Of ERP Software For Medical Device Manufacturing

The electronic records and signatures requirements set by the FDA are stringent and any system of manufacturing must comply with the regulations in order to receive approval. The full body and outline of these regulations as they relate to ERP software for medical device manufacturing can be found in 21 CFR part 11 – ELECTRONIC RECORDS; ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES:

Subpart A–General Provisions 
§ 11.1 – Scope.
§ 11.2 – Implementation.
§ 11.3 – Definitions.

Subpart B–Electronic Records 
§ 11.10 – Controls for closed systems.
§ 11.30 – Controls for open systems.
§ 11.50 – Signature manifestations.
§ 11.70 – Signature/record linking.

Subpart C–Electronic Signatures 
§ 11.100 – General requirements.
§ 11.200 – Electronic signature components and controls.
§ 11.300 – Controls for identification codes/passwords.

and 21 CFR §820 regarding quality:


About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.

Medical device manufacturing has grown more and more complicated as products become more intricate and their regulators become stricter about conformity to rigid standards. These two industry trends have driven Medical Device Manufacturing ERP systems to command an increasingly larger portion of the conversation on where the industry is headed.

an image of items that can be created through medical device manufacturing erp with encompass solutions consulting services

Medical Device Manufacturing ERP And Encompass Solutions 

As a result of the growing trend, Medical Device Manufacturing ERP implementations and integrations into existing business systems are in high demand. But that doesn’t mean all implementation specialists are created equal. Encompass Solutions delivers proven implementation and consulting experience to an array of medical device and bio-science clients. The longstanding partnership with ERP vendor Epicor has kept Encompass on the forefront of ERP and manufacturing industry developments.

What A Medical Device Manufacturing ERP Can Do For You

The platform is one that allows all facets of business to derive data from a single source. Epicor ERP allows users to control accounting, production, forecasting, performance metrics, product lifecycle management, 360-degree visibility, and much more. Encompass Solutions empowers clients with the training and support to utilize these powerful tools to their fullest extent in heavily regulated markets like medical devices, aerospace and defense, and aviation.

Whether a medical device manufacturer is regional, national or international, the same essential tools can be leveraged to manage quality, meet demand, and facilitate the corporate and operational growth of their organization. Automating manual and non-value-added back-office tasks with an ERP system will provide talented staff to take on more value-added tasks, such as customer care, sales, and ensuring conformity to government and industry standards.

Encompass Solutions Is Your Medical Device Manufacturing ERP Partner

Encompass clients utilizing medical device manufacturing ERP systems work with our consultants regularly to automate manual tasks, improve processes and maintain their organization from the shop floor to the top floor with less effort and fewer costs.

Our position as subject matter experts ensures that clients not only have a partner that speaks their language, but can value-add to their organization for the lifetime of their partnership. From implementation, to upgrade, and beyond, you bring the vision and bring the tools with business systems to fit the build.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.