Manufacturing Day

Virtual Manufacturing Day 2020 – Remaining Agile to Celebrate the Industry

A Global Pandemic Won’t Stop Manufacturing or NJMEP 

Manufacturing Day is always celebrated on the first Friday of October. COVID-19 put that into question.  

The Real Face of Modern Manufacturing 

Manufacturing has a difficult time leaving a positive impression on the public. An outdated picture of a soot filled factory at the turn of the 20th century is still imprinted on many minds throughout the United States. Manufacturing Day is a time to help put that outdated sigma to rest by highlighting how far the industry has come and to invite the public to see modern manufacturing in action.  

‘MADE in New Jersey’ Manufacturing Day is hosted by NJMEP each year and it is New Jersey’s largest manufacturing networking event. Hundreds of manufacturers and business professionals flock together to reflect on the past years achievements and uncover new ways to help their business expand and thrive in the year ahead.  

Recommended Reading: Essential New Jersey Manufacturing 

Packing hundreds of people into a convention hall was not going to work as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on far beyond what anyone would have first imagined. NJMEP had to remain agile and rework the celebration to ensure the industry was still recognized. Manufacturing Day and the associated recognition was even more important in the shadow of COVID-19. All New Jersey manufacturing was considered essential. The employees showed up to work every day to ensure the world never stopped moving. It was absolutely vital that a Manufacturing Day celebration still took place. However, the challenge was creating a COVID-19-friendly way to honor the workforce and connect the industry.  

Nothing Can Stop ‘MADE in NJ’ Manufacturing Day  

A dramatic re-envisioning of Manufacturing Day took place in early June. There was no way NJMEP could move forward hosting an in-person event since COVID-19 concerns only grew as time went on. Two simple goals were established, honor the ‘Unsung Heroes’ – the manufacturing workers that continued to show up to work so the supply chain didn’t crumble, and connect the industry to jumpstart business for the states 11,000+ manufacturers as well as all industries associated with the sector. 

Manufacturing Day usually includes an award component, ‘Manufacturer of the Year’. These awards are given to manufacturers that showed exceptional advancements and progress over the past year. Awards are presented in specific categories for start-ups, small, medium, and large businesses. A COVID-specific reimagining of Manufacturing Day removed the award component. Every manufacturing business in New Jersey stepped up in the face of tremendous adversity. Many of which went above and beyond by retooling to manufacture Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) during a time where the state, and country was facing a massive shortage. Others donated funds to community food banks or did what they could to support the workforce, local communities, and state.  

Since the award component was being removed, it was critical every New Jersey manufacturer was honored. This led to the production of ‘Unsung Heroes’, a professionally developed song that pays homage to the industry and its workforce. Instead of rewarding individual manufacturers for their accomplishments, NJMEP worked together with Andy White to create ‘Unsung Heroes’ and debuted the song on October 2nd in front of the Manufacturing Day audience.  

NJMEP worked tirelessly to ensure all manufacturing was considered essential in New Jersey. The economic fallout from shutting down this entire industry would have been staggering. ‘Unsung Heroes’ highlights the importance of the industry, commends those that continue showing up for work, and thanks businesses for turning to NJMEP to identify best practices and CDC-recommended operating guidelines. 

A Look at Virtual Manufacturing Day 2020 

Even though Manufacturing Day was virtual, the celebration followed the same basic pattern as a normal event. The celebration was hosted on a unique platform that was designed to bridge that digital divide that’s so prevalent in these virtual conferences. Clarity Experiences was able to create a seamless virtual environment to allow attendees to ‘walk’ the event and engage with other attendees on a deeper level.  


Keynote speeches are a vital aspect of the industry celebration. Industry leaders and state decision-makers have a chance to set the tone of the event and provide a strong overview of how the past year impacted business and the industry.  

Sponsored by; Withum; RSM, and Investors Bank, attendees heard from prominent names including… 

  • John W. Kennedy, Ph.D., CEO, NJMEP 
  • Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey 
  • Josh Gottheimer, US Representative – 5th Congressional District, New Jersey 
  • Jason Alexander, Principal, Risk Consulting, RSM 
  • Steve Sweeny, Senate President – 3rd Legislative District 
  • Linda Greenstein, Senator – 14th Legislative District 
  • Kevin Cummings, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Investors Bank 

Recommended Reading: ‘Manufacturing Day: Saluting those who kept N.J. running, and promising to do more going forward’ 

Manufacturing Talk Radio captured the entire morning during their special coverage of virtual Manufacturing Day. The entire recording can be found on YouTube or visit 

Virtual Exhibit Hall 

One exciting aspect of Manufacturing Day that was a challenge to recreate in a digital environment was the Exhibit Hall. Usually, sponsors set up booths at the live Manufacturing Day event where attendees can experience the latest technologies and network with potential future partners. Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, none of these platforms were able to truly develop that same kind of one-on-one networking experience. Virtual Manufacturing Day found a way.  

The Virtual Exhibit Hall featured over 40 booths from MADE in NJ sponsors, Media sponsors, Breakout Session sponsors, and Main Event sponsors. Each included a live stream window, a company description, a space to include marketing collateral, a list of the people monitoring the booth along with their headshots, and the ability to engage with individuals 1-on-1.  

Including the virtual booths not only allowed for sponsors to get involved with Manufacturing Day on a deeper level but helped bridge that digital divide. Giving attendees the option to engage with the entire community that made Manufacturing Day possible facilitated critical business connections and paved the way toward a successful and COVID-safe networking opportunity.  

Breakout Sessions 

A Manufacturing Day doesn’t go by where attendees don’t rave about the informative breakout sessions that make up a substantial portion of the celebration. These focused conversations and collaborative opportunities get to the bottom of the most disruptive industry trends and how to overcome. NJMEP refused to omit this cornerstone of the ‘MADE in New Jersey’ Manufacturing Day celebration, even if it was a challenge to make them a reality. 

Recommended Reading: ‘NJMEP’s Manufacturing Day Delves into Issues, Trends & Solutions’ 

After countless hours identifying the top challenges manufacturers are currently facing, developing a virtual environment that would be conducive to a breakout session, and then organizing the moderators, speakers, and breakout session portals, this critical part of Manufacturing Day was made available, virtually.  

Recommended Reading: ‘NJMEP panel discusses safety, creativity amid food manufacturers’ 

Manufacturers were able to ask questions, engage in conversation on screen with the moderators, or ask questions via the Q&A chat. The platform NJMEP chose provided a truly engaging and collaborative environment that lends itself well to breakout sessions. Even with a virtual event, Manufacturing Day provided actionable insight into the industry and gave these business professionals a way to collaborate, even if business leaders couldn’t share the same physical space.  


Throughout the journey of creating an effective and impactful virtual Manufacturing Day, each one of the sponsors played an invaluable role. Their insights, expertise, and support ensured NJMEP was able to deliver on its promise, to honor the ‘Unsung Heroes’ that kept the world moving throughout the pandemic. The entire NJMEP team wants to thank them all. Manufacturing Day would not have been possible without these incredible organizations. Learn about each one, below.  

Main Event Sponsors 

Breakout Sponsor 

Media Sponsor 

MADE in NJ Sponsors 

Manufacturing Day 2020 – The Most Important So Far 

Manufacturing Day is a time to celebrate the industry. This industry doesn’t get many chances to take the spotlight. For years students and the public as a whole has been force-fed misinformation about manufacturing and made to believe the United States has no industry left. That is simply untrue.  

Full Access attendees can view the Breakout Sessions on-demand, here.

The United States is still home to thousands of manufacturing businesses. In New Jersey alone there are over 11,000 manufacturers that call the state their home. Each one of these New Jersey businesses was considered essential when the government began forcing businesses to close. Manufacturers had to remain open. Many even retooled, purchasing new equipment to begin producing Personal Protection Equipment.  

It is extraordinarily challenging, impossible in most circumstances, to work from home producing products. Instead, employees had to show up every day to ensure the supply chain remained stocked. Every ounce of food, every life-saving medication, critical infrastructure all depends on a productive manufacturing industry. These ‘Unsung Heroes’ ensured that the world would not come to a grinding halt on their watch. This makes them heroes and for that, NJMEP salutes them.  

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