Thursday, March 1, 2012

Manufacturing Is Open for Business

by Gary Weldon (Staub Manufacturing Solutions)

It is, but nobody seems to know it.

I have a kind neighbor that often asks me how work is going? I tell him that it’s going great! He just looks at me with surprise. You see, he gets his information from the TV or local paper and as far as he can tell, the sky is still falling.

Our industry is suffering from a real image problem. The public perception of American manufacturing is wrong. You’ve heard it: “We don’t make anything here.”, “We can’t compete with China.”, “Those jobs are lost forever.”... waah, waah, waah!

But it’s not true! We are capable and we are ready! More than that, we are actually doing it! The numbers are telling the real story but few know the numbers. Consider this: while it’s true that the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. has been declining for the last 40 years, manufacturing output has increased steadily during that same time frame. It is actually up 70% since 1977!

The reason for this is the U.S. manufacturing businesses have learned to do more with less. Productivity is at an all-time peak. Did you know that 184 workers can do today what it took 1,000 workers to do in 1960? That means that our small fabrication company would have to have been 100 workers strong to turn out the same amount of work that we do today. Wow!

For sure, global competition is tough. But the U.S. manufactured more goods in 2009 than the Japanese, Germans, British and Italians combined. We have the world’s mightiest manufacturing economy producing 21% of all global goods.

There is a new word that I have come to love. That word is “reshoring” - bringing manufacturing and good paying jobs back to the U.S. from overseas. The rising cost of oil, increasing Asian labor costs and other factors are making America a pretty attractive place to do business and companies are making the decision to build plants here at home, investing billions and employing thousands.

I encourage you to read the full report, “Made In America - A Case for U.S. Manufacturing”. You’ll discover even more reasons to change your perspective on the state of domestic manufacturing.

We still have a problem, though. 

How do we change the perception of the many to the reality of today’s manufacturing industry? How do we convince the next generation of workers that modern manufacturing is not just hard labor in in a dirty, dark, smoke-filled factory but, instead, a highly skilled, highly technical, in-demand career that can provide a comfortable living and a profitable future? 

How do we let them know that there are 2,000 jobs available in the Dayton area that we can’t get skilled workers for? How do we tell those who could bring work to our region that we are here and ready?

We must tell them!

Just like every product needs good marketing, so does our industry. If we don’t own this message, then someone else will. What will it take? Billboards, TV ads, a “Got Manufacturing” campaign?

What if you simply share this information with just five of your friends and ask them to do the same? What if you speak up when you hear someone talk about manufacturing as dead and gone? What if we banded together to spread the word using the power of modern media?

What if everyone knew that U.S. and Dayton-region manufacturing was really open for business?


  1. I am not so sure about this reports accuracy

    1. Ford is moving truck manufacturing jobs from the Navistar plant in Escobedo, Mexico back to Cleveland, Ohio. This is a direct result of a new agreement with the UAW. From someone that frequently visits Mexico for business, "It's no joy going down there".

  2. Comment posted via LinkedIn:

    Manufacturing has not done a very good job promoting the upside. Beyond the "stats" mentioned, we employ 14 million people...and we're looking for another half million today. Having said that, the skills required today are considerably different than those needed a generation ago. That's true for a number of vocations: medical, agriculture, auto repair and even Wall Street. On going education and training is a given. Fortunately, there are numerous opportunities to learn the required skills.

    To your point, too many people do not know the opportunities and where they can lead. Most company owners in the tooling and machining industry spent time on the manufacturing floor. Education was supplemented through OJT, 2 and 4 year degrees and yes, in many cases, graduate degrees.

    Manufacturing encompasses many skill sets beyond the factory floor. There are opportunites in engineering, design, processing, purchasing, logistics, marketing, IT, finance, human resources, sales and all the other disciplines necessary to operate a business.

    We in manufacturing have a big job ahead of us...spread the word; manufacturing is alive and well and yes, "we too are looking for a few good men!... and women too.

  3. Posted via LinkedIn:

    We need to create a far reaching and vigorous PR campaign. Years of misguidance to young adults from many with good meaning hearts has partly led us to this point. While we're not going to solve the immediate issue, we need to rethink what we consider to be "good work".

  4. Some of the issue is perception, some is making lemonade and just about all of it is the need to make a plan to tell the story, long term, and then execute.

    The days of 'if we build it, they will come,' are far behind us. With new communication tools, new communication consumption and the speed of change, what you built last year has already been overlooked by what was built and broadcast last week.

    You can build it but you MUST tell about it with a plan.

    1. Neil, I agree that the industry must be forward looking to survive and thrive. At a DRMA Workforce Development round-table last week the consensus was that we are dealing mostly with a perception problem. I think that we are mostly in agreement on that point. With that understanding, what do we do now? And who should do it?

  5. Kathy BornheimerMarch 7, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Comment posted via LinkedIn:

    It's the small manufactures who are making the come backs. Unfortunately the media doesn't think it's important, so doesn't cover it.
    I agree, the days of the massive plants are over and it takes fewer people "on the floor" to produce the goods.
    We now have two generations of workers who have not been encouraged, nor prepared to go into the new jobs of manufacturing.

    Encouraging girls and young women to go this route is even more nonexistant.

    Again, here in WI we have the leverage (workforce, training and small companies resurging), but still are taking full advantage of it.

    A community must take the initiative to get it started and implement the process to success. We need to demand more from our institutions (educational and political) to follow through with resources that work in a timely matter.

  6. Access to capital remains the largest challenge to our manufacturing businesses. When cash is tight, it discourages expansion and acquisition of new machinery. To keep our line of credit open, I had to secure it with assets valued at twice what I was borrowing. Banks are claiming they are pro business, but their actions do not support this claim. I agree that American workers know how to be innovative and work hard. Fix the banking system and we can compete with anyone.

  7. One business is trying to change the perception

  8. Gary is absolutely right about this issue. In my opinion, much of the misinformation comes from the popular media, business press and, unfortunately, the economics profession. I recently discussed two articles, written by Canadian economists, which present a distorted view of manufacturing in North America. One of them, written by Jack Mintz (one of Canada's most well known economists), used graphs of (% manufacturing employment/total) vs. year in Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and the USA to bolster his claim that "manufacturing has been in decline .... for most of the last 35 years." I debunked this claim on my ValueAddedHere blog: by showing a graph of manufacturing value-added in the USA over the time period used by Mintz. The graph for Canada looks similar. I sent a letter on the topic to the National Post, where Mintz's article appeared, but it hasn't been published. In fact, there have been no contrary letters published.

    1. Correction: The Post published my letter, which can be found at:

      SME Ontario Chapter has a promising initiative to change the public image of manufacturing,among business people, government, and the general public. It's called Take Back Manufacturing. Information on it can be found at:

  9. There seems to be a boom in hardware start-ups on the West coast and in New York. The folks in San Francisco recently put together a map to organize information about local suppliers and fabricators to help new start-ups. Does something similar exist for the Dayton region?

    There is already a similar map for Dayton that focuses more on arts organizations / locations. It would be neat to have one that was aimed at manufacturing like the SanFran example.

    1. Thanks for the good suggestion. We'll be looking into that!

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