The Future of Manufacturing in the US Continues to Brighten

Let’s review a few facts about manufacturing—-facts we should all be familiar with and ready to share whenever a chance presents itself:

  • Manufacturing contributes 12 percent of US GDP
  • Manufacturing employs roughly 12 million people
  • US manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to the economy, as compared to only $0.54 for retail and $0.58 for wholesale
  • For every job created in manufacturing, four additional new jobs are created in the broader economy. In addition, between 2015-2025, more than 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, partly due to the growth of the industry and partly due to the retirement of Boomers.
  • According to recent studies, 84 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly-skilled production positions, as well as engineers and management positions
  • About 80 percent of manufacturing organizations indicate they’re willing to pay more than the market rates in critical workforce areas. Clearly, there’s significant demand within the manufacturing industry for top talent. (Source: Deloitte, The Manufacturing Institute, and National Association of Manufacturers)

I’m afraid I still harbor scars of a different era when manufacturing in the US was looked down on, often most vocally by our own senior management. In the 70’s and 80’s, Japan was king in manufacturing and seemingly they could do no wrong.  We could do little right.  We were second rate in our abilities, performance, and quality.  I have to confess some of those judgments were warranted, as uncomfortable as it is to say.

The intervening years have seen massive changes in the majority of our industries.  The survivors of the Japanese dominance and then the rising of the Chinese “invasion” have had to adapt or become simply a historical footnote.  It brings a personal note to the saying: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

We stand on the threshold of regaining world dominance in manufacturing—and we have earned it.  We saw what the Japanese were doing right (some of it coming from our own Dr. W. Edwards Deming who found a more accepting audience in post-war Japan than in the US) and we have managed to improve on it in many ways.  To coin another old phrase: “we’ve earned it”!

We need to share this success story.  One of our biggest challenges in the years ahead is attracting and holding the level of talent we need—and the necessary expertise of that talent will only increase with time.

We need to share this success story where it will do us the most good in the future, with our future “partners” in our businesses.  The image of manufacturing careers is improving but we still have a long way to go to improve our position.

We need to be marketers of our own value by increasing our visibility in our schools and our communities.  Work with your local school boards as well as civic organizations. Be active in Manufacturing Days—rent a bus, bring students, parents, and educators into your facilities—show off! You’ve earned it!