As we embark on a new year, our Industry Group leaders reflect on the changes spurred by 2020 — stories of novel products and services, shifting market trends, and new M&A strategies — and consider the implications for 2021. Access more industry perspectives in our related insights tab.
Resilience is the key word: Our industrials clients say they managed the challenges of 2020 more readily than they had expected and are excited about pivoting to a more promising 2021.
The packaging sector has been especially resilient through the pandemic, thanks in part to increased e-commerce volumes and more takeout and delivery in foodservice. An increased focus on health and safety is also driving innovation in packaging materials, while the migration of fresh grocery items to delivery is spurring new ideas in temperature-controlled packaging suitable for cold chain distribution. We expect the mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines to further support these trends, especially in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. This recent focus on product protection has temporarily given the long-standing priority of sustainability a run for its money. Given the strong tailwinds behind the push for environmentally friendly packaging, however, we expect continued innovation in that space as the pandemic gradually passes.
On the industrial technology front, automation has been getting a lot of attention. Manufacturers of all types and sizes have seen the role automation can play when fewer employees are allowed in a facility at the same time. They've also seen how automation can help employees do their jobs more safely, quickly, and efficiently. In fact, one of the silver linings of 2020 has been productivity—manufacturers have been able to maintain or even increase volume more profitably, and many are now looking at ways to maintain those gains at high quality, health, and safety standards. Automation is an integral part of the solution.
Overall, the challenges of 2020 pushed industrial companies to accelerate their adoption of operating innovations like automation, while fundamentally strong consumer spending bolstered demand for packaging solutions and a wide range of building products and services. We join our clients in their excitement to see what 2021 has in store.
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