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Manufacturing Renaissance?…….But, Change is Bad…..Right?

Humanity walks a pathway between the past and the future. When a society does not understand the mistakes and innovations of the past, it will experience them once more in the future. This sounds like a comparison to warring civilizations; however, this concept remains applicable to the manufacturing industry of modernity.

Over the past 200 years, the US has grown from a small cluster of theologically-driven townships into the greatest manufacturing entity in the world. Yet, many politicians, economic analysts, and skilled workers continue a call to arms to save the stereotypes of an archaic manufacturing industry. During the industrial revolution, manufacturing became the go-to career for the majority of Americans. This trend continued as advancements in manufacturing grew into the mid-19th century. Then, it all appeared to slowly die out over the course of the next 50 years. Today, everyone talks about how the “good, old days” saw plenty of jobs, plenty of products, and plenty of money.

Unfortunately, this concept is highly faulted and an illusion to cover up the true impact of modern manufacturing. Where hundreds of workers once stood, now stand vast, towering machines capable of producing hundreds, if not thousands, of more products than their nostalgic, human counterparts of the past. However, humanity has yet to give birth to a completely self-sustaining and controlling artificial intelligence, and it is this fact that is driving what some term, “The Manufacturing Renaissance.”

What Is a Manufacturing Renaissance?

The Renaissance refers to a medieval period in which art, technology—like the telescope—music, design, and culture changed drastically from tradition. Most of what our modern world considers the greatest achievements in history come from this medieval time period. This change is exactly what baby boomers are feeling about today’s manufacturing industry. It’s radically different from what they know, and change is shocking. However, change is a necessary of advancement, and society will benefit from the manufacturing industries world-wide change.

Where Are the Workers?

manufacturing Renaissance grandpappyThe manufacturing industry still relies on the skills of manufacturing workers, but these skill sets have changed to meet demands of the new era. The skills have changed so much that many companies no longer consider these workers to be part of the manufacturing industry. Consider our example from this blog post.  Designers working within Apple are integral parts of the manufacturing industry. The engineers working on the machines that make products are digitized copies of manufacturing workers from the past. With the rise of technology and machine-incorporation, their titles, pay levels, and fundamental ideas changed to meet the demand of the manufacturing industry. However, these types of workers are not counted as a manufacturing job, because they don’t work in a factory. These “Factory-less” workers, however, contribute a great deal to the overall process of manufacturing a product, such as the iPhone. While America no longer produces many consumer-driven goods, she does produce plenty of other products used around the country. It’s just many of these products are not items you would expect to see in a typical home or use of a daily basis, unless you consider products made by companies like Apple.

What Powers the Manufacturing Renaissance?

Technology: as we stated in this series about the future of manufacturing. The answer is simple enough, but the implications extend far and wide. As businesses discover the possibilities of business process outsourcing non-core functions (more on this in a future blog post), which does not necessarily imply cutting out America jobs, business processes are becoming more efficient, and therefore, more cost effective. For better efficiency in logistics and transportation, often a large percentage of the cost of goods sold (COGS), in part due to third-party logistics providers (3PLs), who operate as an extension of the company within a specific sector of the economy by providing a service to the respective business. Consider the shipping industry. A business must purchase the supplies for shipping, track the package, and deal with consumer complaints about shipping processes or problems. However, outsourcing this service to a 3PL who is focused on transportation management, allows the business to intensify its focus on production.

Playing the Devil’s Advocate For Offshoring

Over the past few decades, many companies have sent manufacturing jobs overseas through the application of Trickle-Down Economics. The promise of cheaper labor, cheaper products, and more for all Americans sounded great, but it drove a wedge between politicians and the people of America. Additionally, Americans are outraged over the secrecy behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asia as discussed by Jeff Spross and Chris Matthews.  The details of this trade negotiation have been kept from the public due to security reasons, but democrats claim these so-called “security reasons” could easily point to a continuation of detrimental offshoring practices. However, more American companies are actively bringing manufacturing jobs back to US soil from overseas, describes ReshoreNow. In fact, experts predict 20% of companies are currently working on reshoring manufacturing jobs this year. Part of this trend is due in part to the massive increases in US energy production at the hands of fracking, deep-water drilling, and advancements in fossil fuel location technologies by oil and gas companies.

Millennials Marry Manufacturing With Modernity.

Millennials represent the next generation to enter the workforce and continue to the Manufacturing Renaissance. This occurs as part of something every parent has experienced. The child has grown up with a digital device implanted in his or her hand. If you want to know how to fix a computer, go to a kid. As a result, Millennials want jobs where technology is abound, and the machine-controlled manufacturing industry is like an adult playground, ready for new engineers wanting to improve the state of the nation and world. Additionally, millennials have a penchant for innovation in difficult situations, which is a huge opportunity for the manufacturing industry. Cerasis published an infographic to help manufacturers attract more millennials due to this very-specific reason. Understanding the digital world is like learning a new language, and the nostalgia of the days of past manufacturing are a language that is quickly going out of style. By appealing to the millennial perspective of technology incorporation and independence, manufacturers will be able to quickly grow their workforce as reshoring efforts increase.

Into the Future…

50-years from now, the manufacturing industry will have a radically different appearance than what we know today. We could easily be in the position where workers sit at home and rake in the profits from the efforts of total-robotic manufacturing. However, we do not live in the future; we live in the present. We must address the problems we face by fostering a new era of manufacturing today. The stories of your Grandpappy working on the assembly-line will fade, just as our own stories of today’s manufacturing will fade with time and become something never seen before. The only real obstacle is our own nostalgia, which we cannot allow to dictate our plans and actions for the future.