How We Can Reignite America’s Manufacturing Engine

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How We Can Reignite America’s Manufacturing Engine

In a recent study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting,1 1,000 Americans were asked their views on manufacturing in the United States.

  • 60 percent of respondents believed U.S. manufacturing can effectively compete globally, 28 percent disagreed, and 12 percent had no opinion.
  • When asked how they thought manufacturing would change over the next 12 months, 32 percent said it would weaken, 41 percent said it would stay the same, and only 13 percent said it would strengthen.
  • When asked to look out even further, 55 percent believed the U.S. manufacturing sector would weaken, 26 percent said it would stay the same, and only 8 percent felt it would strengthen.

It's interesting that, despite the general optimism about our ability to compete in the global marketplace, a similar majority believes that U.S. manufacturing will lose ground in the long term. It could be they intuitively understand our capabilities, which makes them optimistic, but they are influenced in their long-term thinking by all the negative talk that ensues when disappointing economic growth indicators are reported.

There is a constituency that quickly weighs in whenever bad numbers come out, proclaiming:

  • We have lost our competitive edge to other countries.
  • Manufacturing is in decline due to off shoring.
  • Our days as a manufacturing leader are over.

However, balancing these negative voices are positive ones, which have not been as sensationalistic.

Manufacturing Jobs vs. Productivity 1987-2005

Manufacturing Jobs vs. Productivity 1987-2005

So who is right about manufacturing's future: the optimists or the pessimists? To answer this question, Booz & Company and the University of Michigan's Tauber Institute for Global Operations2 recently completed a sector-by-sector analysis of U.S. industrial competitiveness, which included a survey of 200 manufacturing executives and experts.

The conclusion of the study is that U.S. manufacturing is at a critical crossroads and could either succeed or fail, depending on actions and choices taken by business leaders, educators, and policymakers in the immediate future. In other words, whether the optimists or pessimists are proven right hangs in the balance...

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