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2021 Manufacturing and Sourcing Trends

Graphic by Amanda Pedersen / MD+DI 2021 industrial sourcing and manufacturing trends
Thomasnet.com data shows vaccine-related sourcing categories such as syringes and medical injection-molded plastics have increased massively.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive unprecedented trends in the manufacturing universe. Last year we saw companies like Fitbit and even General Motors answering the urgent call for manufacturing ventilators, and now that vaccines have been developed for the virus, new trends are emerging that will likely have ripple effects throughout the life sciences industries and beyond.

MD+DI recently spoke with Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas about top sourcing trends related to COVID-19. While some of these trends might be easy to guess, others were an interesting surprise.

"We're seeing, ironically enough, a huge surge in thermal printer demand," Uphoff said.

Graphic by Amanda Pedersen / MD+DIsourcing for industrial printing services, screen printing, digital printing, commercial printing services

Uphoff attributes that trend to three primary drivers: COVID-19 testing (because every test requires printed materials and clear labeling), e-commerce growth (because of the surge in online shopping), and patient-related printing requirements for the patients who get vaccinated. Then there's the increased need for RFID tagging for, basically, all of the above.

"All those types of things, believe it or not, are driving this huge demand for thermal printers," Uphoff said. "...It's kind of a fascinating dynamic of what's going on."

Another sourcing category seeing major growth is medical injection-molded plastics, which is up 133% year-over-year, and that category has jumped 77% just in the last quarter, and 316% in the past month. This isn't surprising considering the need for vaccine syringes, as well as syringes for delivering certain therapeutics related to COVID-19.

"The latest estimate just in the United States was that we're going to need an incremental 850,000,000 syringes above what an average year would be because of vaccines," Uphoff said. "So you can see the dramatic impact."

Similarly, sourcing for disposable syringes are up 61% year-over-year, and 175% just in the last month on Thomasnet.com, he said. The broader syringe category is up 187% year-over-year, and 403% month-over-month.

"We're also seeing a massive increase in pharmaceutical processing equipment ... that's up 63% year-over-year and up 1250% just in the last month," Uphoff said. "...Part of this is vaccine introduction to a certain extent, but you're also seeing a series of related production of pharmaceutical products and services that are obviously booming right now."

He also noted that laboratory equipment and supplies is up 34% year-over-year due to COVID-related research and testing.

Thomas recently launched a new product category on Thomasnet.com for vaccine-related solutions in response to increased sourcing demands for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

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