Thursday, April 10, 2014

What is manufacturing, anyway?

Most people I talk to agree that manufacturing is important. Important for those who make a living from it and important for those cities and communities that benefit from the economic growth it provides. 

But, for some, there appears to be different classifications of manufacturing. I hear them talk about regular Manufacturing and Advanced Manufacturing. Then, in what seems to be a completely separate category, Aerospace, UAS(V), 3D printing and Composites.

Typically, on this blog, I'm sharing my opinions or industry insights. Today, I have only questions. Three specific questions that I'm hoping you can help me with. Here goes:

1. What is Manufacturing?

This is what Wikipedia has to say:

Manufacturing is the production of merchandise for use or sale using labor and machines, tools, chemical and biological processing, or formulation. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale. Such finished goods may be used for manufacturing other, more complex products, such as aircraft, household appliances or automobiles, or sold to wholesalers, who in turn sell them to retailers, who then sell them to end users – the "consumers".

Regionally, Honda makes cars and Crown Equipment makes fork trucks. In Dayton, Mikesell's makes potato chips. Mar-Chele makes pretzels in Brookville and in Arcanum, Ohio the All American Clothing Company makes blue jeans, shirts and more. Are these all manufacturers? Do those in food and clothing manufacturing have the same issues, like a lack of workforce, that those of us in the metals side of manufacturing have?

2. What is Advanced Manufacturing?

Is it different that just plain old manufacturing? Is there really a difference or is it just marketing? Is a heat treating company as "advanced" as a laser cutting or 3D printing company? Is the whole industry advanced or does it differ by company and process?

3. Are Aerospace, UAS(V) and Composite Materials operations part of the Manufacturing industry?

If so, why are they often listed separately? Don’t companies working in this space still qualify as manufacturing companies?

Anyway, these are some things that I have been wondering about lately. Hopefully you can help me out with them! I'm looking forward to your responses.


Steve Staub is a Dayton, Ohio native and a supporter of all types of manufacturing. He is the President of Staub Manufacturing Solutions, the co-founder of and serves on the board of Ohio Robotics, a non-profit student workforce development organization.

1 comment:

  1. Definitions are tough in today's frequently shifting markets and industries. It would seem to me it's usually whoever "grabs the bull by the horns" with the most creativity, credibility, clout, cash, and customers - that's who gets to define their segment the most.
    In the past decade there have been huge strides in incorporating the "white collar" element in traditionally "blue collar" manufacturing. This has taken shape as more previously-only-theory research becomes practical application, as the skills required to produce X have become more demanding, and as the threat of losing our jobs has forced us to do more with less.
    Sadly, I think it makes some "white collar" types uncomfortable to think they may have to rely upon the muscle, spirit, and ingenuity of the men and women making it happen to actually produce a real product - one that can be sold and justify everyone in the supply chain's existence. On the flip side, the “blue collar” workers find themselves increasingly needing and yet resistant to rise to the challenge of the new skill sets needed.
    American educational marketing at large has done a great job of downplaying the value of the truly skilled “blue collar” types, and instead promoting so many college degree’s that leave the graduate jobless and deep in debt. American welfare and corporate greed have also taught too many that it’s too much effort for too little reward to train for the new skills.
    It is the job of marketing to distinguish a segment or product for better recognition. This is a good thing when it's done for legitimate reasons (e.g. this technology is more advanced than that, here is something new and valuable, etc.). This is a bad thing when unworthy segments and products are pressured upon the unknowing and unwise, sometimes causing much damage.
    Let’s hope the right manufacturing segments are defined and promoted for the right reasons so that American shirt collars can work together to their mutual benefit.