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

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

Earlier this week I looked back at a post from January to see how well my predictions for manufacturing in 2011 lined up with what really happened. In case you weren’t here for it, our “5 Rs of Manufacturing Trends” included REVAMPing old process, RETHINKing sustainability, RETURNing production to America, REFORMing policy, and RETEACHing the public’s perceptions of our industry.

After reviewing some 400+ bookmarked links I’d collected over the past 12 months, I was intrigued at how closely aligned our predictions were with what has actually happened.

From that rather large collection of links, I chose a few that I thought could sum up our year in pretty good review.

So, in 40 links (or less!), here’s a timeline recapping what went on in American manufacturing in 2011. The first half of it, anyway:

The Year in Manufacturing Part I : Jan – June, 2011

In January, we got off to a great start…

P&G practices what they preach when it comes to sustainable manufacturing.

1. The push for domestic manufacturing strategy is one we see from January onward. The goal? To create a climate that welcomes and encourages domestic manufacturing, not chases it away.2. Looking to make the most of the resources we have, waste reduction throughout the production process continues to be a pressing issue among manufacturers of all sizes.

3. And, as we all work toward a greener future, manufacturing giants like Proctor & Gamble lead the way in reworking their plants & processes to be more sustainable.

Then February came, and…

This “solar skin” could have a myriad uses in human AND robot applications.

4. We learned that in 2010 the manufacturing sector rebounded nationally in 35 markets.5. Then we really started hearing about that problem we have… You know, the one where there are plenty of jobs available and plenty of people not working, but the people with no jobs don’t have the training to fill the open positions? You know, the skills gap!

6. And if the skills gap wasn’t worry enough, an article espousing one man’s hope for the future of manufacturing starts out well enough but all ends in confusion as he admits to calling factory work “mentally numbing and filthy.” This misperception will turn out to be the one we find ourselves fighting against the most in the months to come. It’s also a key factor in why #5 is getting bigger by the minute.

7. Meanwhile back on the green front, do you remember the amazing solar skin invention? This could be as useful for giving robots a sense of touch as it could be for developing solar clothing.  Or both!

March Left Us A Little Unsure

The Japan Earthquake in March was destructive both physically and economically.

8. March offers a mixed bag of manufacturing news as the Fed reports some manufacturers are (finally) putting capacity to better use. Manufacturing capacity utilization moves up to 74.3% – it’s nearly 10% higher than when the recession hit, but its still a few points shy of our average utilization in the decade before.

9 & 10. Any other news March is overshadowed by the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.  What would come to be be called the Great East Japan Earthquake caused over 25,000 casualties and some $34 billion in financial losses. It also lead to a number of supply chain disruptions and increasing worry about the future of the global economy.

But, then April finally came, and nothing happened.

(just kidding!)

11 & 12. Seriously, in April, the world took notice as manufacturing was credited as the leading contributor to the US economic upturn, and the discussion of a national manufacturing policy returns to the forefront of our minds.

13. Speaking of April Fool’s, remember when everyone thought the last typewriter maker had closed, but then we realized it was just a really bad case of not verifying your sources?

May showed up to remind us about…

Is solar manufacturing still viable in the US?

14. …the importance of manufacturing startups. It’s not just about preserving what he have, but it’s also about welcoming new faces and ideas to the table, too.

15. And, then we kept on talking about how manufacturing can be competitive in the US. Of course, we are the preacher and the proverbial choir in this one. What offline discussion remains is how we can continue to spread that notion of how well we’re actually doing and how much better we could be to the rest of the world.

16. On the good-for-green front, we also started building more solar as CA-based Amonix welcomed 300 new jobs into the Las Vegas area with the construction of its new solar array plant. Small victories like this would ultimately lead to more hopeful predictions for the future of manufacturing – specifically solar manufacturing – in the US.


June was one of those months…

17 & 18. where manufacturing seemed to be the only thing right with the economy. MAPI reported manufacturing as a whole grew another 7% this quarter vs. the first quarter of 2010. Although June is a sluggish month for the economy overall, at least one economist urges us not to panic, reassuring that the current slowdown is only temporary.

19. In the green tech world, analysts predict the market for thin film battery manufacturing will grow to $900M by 2016.

20. At the same time, we keep talking about how “going green” can help us “make more green” in the long run.


That’s it, for now. Stay tuned for the July – Dec portion of our timeline!

Part II has been posted. Check it out here!

For manufacturing news from all corners of the world, why not follow York Saw on StumbleUpon; it’s how we keep track of all the interesting news we see every day.