A Year of Manufacturing in 40 Links or Less (Part II)

A Year of Manufacturing in 40 Links or Less (Part II)

Just before the holiday break I posted the first part in this round up highlighting 2011 in Manufacturing.

As we continue into July and through the rest of the year, remember that more important than the links themselves are the underlying trends that are the currents holding this sea of industry news together.

Trends Continue Into July

3D Printing, or, "The Future is Now"

21 & 22.  We got a little louder about the real implications the skills gap has for the future of manufacturing.  And while it might not fix the problem now, new ideas like awesome manufacturing summer camps hope to close the gap in the coming generations.

23. Also this month, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers also reminded us of the industry’s global importance when it released a survey profiling Canadian manufacturer’s readiness to invest and grow bigger than they did the year before.

24. We also spent a good deal of time marveling over to rise of 3-D printing and how a myriad developments in  design software will shape manufacturing in the future.

August Showed Up Hot & Hopeful

3 long-time GE employees offer their insights on the evolution of manufacturing.

25. We continued to saturate the airwaves with all things reasonable and positive about reshoring and the (inevitable) return of manufacturing. Reshoring/onshoring has been in focus year, especially as the demand for American-made products and more producer-friendly domestic manufacturing policy remain on the agendas of the American people.

26. Bringing jobs back to the US remains a major concern, and the good news is this month we found out manufacturing added 136,000 new jobs last year, which shows we’re moving in the right direction more than some may want you to think.

27.  We also got some great American-made insight into the changes in manufacturing as well as the decline of skilled workers and the importance of regular job training. All this from 3 GE employees with over 100 years of manufacturing experience between them.

But Then September Got “Weird”…

September's industry outlook was a little shaky, for some.

28. …and some people started getting antsy because manufacturing slowed down a little. Of course, no bad news is good, but that doesn’t mean one down month is going to equal the end as we know it!

29.  And anyway, Americans as a whole have a deep-rooted habit of working hard to get what they want, and when we’re all crying out for the return of US manufacturing, it becomes less a matter of “if” and more a matter of “how” and “when”

30. Speaking of the “how and when,” September also reminded us to keep our kids as hyped about manufacturing as we are.  After all, they are our future, and if we can’t get over the “dirty factory uneducated uninteresting anyman’s job” stigma … well … let’s just stay focused getting our kids involved with awesome-interesting-grown-up-jealousy-inducing activities like this manufacturing camp, ok?

31. Closing out the month, Industry Today muses how manufacturing may be the “savior of a declining empire.” Which is sort of everything we’ve been saying all along, summed up into one concise article.

The Skills Gap Got Scary in October

Manufacturing's future lies in making it where you use it.

32.  When the news came about Seimens Corp having some 3,000 jobs available and apparently no one to fill them, and it seemed, if only for a brief moment, that the world was suddenly (and finally) cognizant of the pesky skills gap issue.

33. And if that wasn’t bad enough, our jaws really hit the floor when we learn an estimated 600,000 jobs are available in manufacturing alone – but those seeking work simply didn’t have the skills to fit the needs.

34. Meanwhile, started digging into the notion of how the future of manufacturing is “Manufacturing in Markets of Consumption.” National pride and support for your own country’s ability to produce is one piece of the puzzle, but at the end of the day its about what makes the most sense given the context of your business.  The point is to make it where we use it – not unlike how foreign automakers such as Honda or Kia produce domestic market cars in, you guessed it, the domestic US market.

35. In the end, we continued to stay positive about the future of American manufacturing.

November Was Nice Enough

36. Indeed, we started the month off with good news that October had actually been a decent month.  Goes to show you a little bit of shaky news isn’t worth crying over (I’m looking at you, September!).

37. We also took some time to recognize that US solar manufacturing – that is, the manufacturing of the components needed for solar power generation – may yet be able to compete with China’s solar manufacturing force.

38. And, speaking of green, Ikea introduced some interesting new paper pallets that threatened to “compete with wood’s 50-year dominance” in the shipping realm. Because, of course, paper isn’t made from wood.

And, December Proved We Were Right All Along

Manufacturing isn't dead, it's changing.

39 & 40. …Right about our predictions, anyway. Between Ford returning production to the US and an overall positive feeling about our industrial future, 2011 proved be a year of making strides in many of the right directions.

Looking back at the year in manufacturing, I realize our ideas of the how & what of where we’d end up this year weren’t far off from the truth at all. We’re constantly reworking old processes and rethinking how we can leave a smaller footprint in all we do. We’re certainly interested in returning to US-based manufacturing everywhere we can. And we’re shamelessly hard at work promoting policy reform as well as reteaching perceptions that is so important to ensuring our long-term success.

So what’s up for Manufacturing in 2012?

To be honest, I think we will continue to see more action from the same trends we talked about last year, although this year it may be more about “how to get it done” vs the “what needs to get done” we talked about so much in 2011. There will still be struggles and casualties, but in the end I believe we’ll come out ahead – not unlike what we saw transpire in 2011.

I would also anticipate the skills gap to become a more pressing issue we may work even harder to start solving. Encouraging future generations to love industry as we dispell the old rumors about it will continue to remain high on our list of priorities.

Of course, the “Made in America” movement is only getting stronger, and I’d expect that to continue well into 2012 and beyond.

Whatever happens, it’s important to remember that, indeed, manufacturing is not dead, it’s just changing.

What do you think will be our biggest challenge in 2012?