“Unprecedented” is a word frequently used to describe the events of the past year. From the global pandemic and accompanying shutdowns to record voter turnout and more than 50 legal cases challenging the ballots cast, 2020 was unusual to say the least. However, one thing remained constant despite continual upheaval: the perseverance of the American manufacturer.

Though the previous 12 months were not without obstacles, the companies profiled in CompanyWeek this year adapted to new ways of doing business, developed innovative new products to suit changing market needs, and — in many cases — are emerging from the chaos of 2020 even stronger than before.

2020 Industry Breakdown

From January through December 2020, CompanyWeek writers profiled more than 190 manufacturing businesses in a wide range of industries.

  • Aerospace & Electronics: 17
  • Bioscience & Medical: 8
  • Brewing & Distilling: 23
  • Building & Construction: 14
  • Cannabis & Hemp: 16
  • Consumer & Lifestyle: 34
  • Contract Manufacturing: 26
  • Energy & Environment: 4
  • Food & Beverage: 23
  • Industrial & Equipment: 17
  • Supply Chain: 9

Q4 Top Five Challenges

Among the companies profiled in CompanyWeek from October through December 2020, the most often cited challenge — managing growth — mirrored that of Q4 2019. However, in contrast to last year, market uncertainty, expanding distribution/sales, and supply chain challenges also figured prominently.

  • Managing Growth: 20%
  • Market Awareness: 18%
  • Market Uncertainty: 18%
  • Supply Chain: 14%
  • Expanding Distribution/Sales: 9%

Q4 Top Five Opportunities

Though some were once again asked to carry on with fewer staff on premises due to the pandemic, and many were dealing with supply chain issues, the manufacturers CompanyWeek writers profiled from October through December were still identifying new opportunities for growth and future success. The most common opportunity cited in Q4 was a growing market for their products or services.

  • Growing Market: 39%
  • Market or Product Leadership: 23%
  • New Products: 23%
  • New Markets: 16%
  • Technology/Innovation: 11%

Q4 Top Five Needs

The needs of the manufacturers profiled in CompanyWeek from October through December 2020 weren’t all that different from those cited in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Marketing replaced new suppliers/service partners in the top five, and finance and funding-related needs ranked equal to workforce concerns for the first time in the last 24 months.

  • Finance/Funding: 30%
  • Workforce/Labor/New Employees: 30%
  • New Customers: 25%
  • Marketing: 16%
  • Real Estate/Space: 14%

Angela Rose is CompanyWeek’s data editor. Reach her at angela@thequirkycreative.com.