In 2021, CompanyWeek writers profiled 232 manufacturers across California, Colorado, Texas, and Utah. In addition to sharing the latest on manufacturing innovations, new products and markets, and growth realizations and goals, each manufacturer spoke about the challenges they’ve encountered, their company’s biggest needs, and where they’re seeing opportunities for expansion. The resultant data serves as a snapshot of the current manufacturing environment compared to the first year of the pandemic.

Top 5 Manufacturing Challenges 2021

  • Supply Chain 23%
  • Managing Growth 20%
  • Workforce 18%
  • Market Uncertainty 14%
  • Market Education 13%

Supply chain challenges were the most often mentioned by the manufacturers profiled last year. This challenge figured prominently each quarter, rising from 29% at the beginning of 2021 to 33% by the end of the year. In Q4 2020, only 14% of the manufacturers profiled noted supply chain as a challenge. Instead, market uncertainty was their biggest concern as the pandemic continued to sweep the globe, changing the way business was done in nearly every way possible.

Top 5 Manufacturing Needs 2021

  • Workforce/Labor/New Employees 51%
  • Finance/Funding 22%
  • Real Estate/Space 17%
  • New Customers 12%
  • New Suppliers/Service Partners 8%

The Great Resignation may have begun in early 2021, but workforce needs have made the top five noted by manufacturers profiled by CompanyWeek since well before then. More than 50% of the businesses we spoke to last year said workforce and labor factors, including finding new employees, were their biggest need. This is an increase from 35% in 2020 and, given the conversations we’ve had with manufacturers so far in 2022, is a trend that’s likely to continue.

Top 5 Manufacturing Opportunities 2021

  • Growing Market 45%
  • New Products 28%
  • New Markets 23%
  • Technology/Innovation 13%
  • New Partners 9%

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that U.S. manufacturers are resilient. Despite the challenges of this new pandemic world we’re all living in, they’ve continued to find opportunities for growth and expansion. A significant 45% cited a growing market as their biggest opportunity in 2021, followed by new products, new markets, technology and innovation, and new partners. The top five were nearly the same in 2020, though market or product leadership took precedence over new partners that year.

Angela Rose is editor of CompanyWeek California and SCoP product manager. Reach her at