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10 November 2013

American Manufacturing Companies are Expanding

According to a survey of 1,209 engineers, purchasing agents, business owners, sales and marketing executives of manufacturers, distributors, and service companies, over half of US manufacturers expanded in 2012 and nearly two-thirds expect to grow in 2013.  42% of manufacturers are increasing the size of their workforce.  Nearly 70% are introducing new products.

Prospects of future growth look good, but for one important problem.  More than 75% of manufacturing employees are 45 years old or older.  75% of the companies surveyed said only 25% or fewer of their employees were under 32 years old.  Almost half of the companies do not expect this percentage to increase over the next two years.

Those under 32 are members of Generation Y.  Most lack the skills that manufacturers need in the high technology world of modern manufacturing.  Automated production and the rapid design of new or improved products are not skills that the young possess.  What is more, the Generation Y has a bad image of manufacturing.  They have many misconceptions about it as dirty and unable to provide satisfying and well-paying careers.

Yes, some dirty manufacturing jobs still exist, but more and more, dirty is known for causing problems with the product and the high-tech equipment that makes the product.  More and more American manufacturing companies see advantages in a clean and safe workplace which enable them to compete worldwide with many companies that take the low cost and dirty route of poor-quality commodity products.  Many consumers do not want those low quality products.

Periodically, Americans see a wave of low-cost products come in from some sector of the world which is rapidly modernizing, but still far behind American companies.  For a few years they buy those products until they get tired of them failing and falling apart.  Their interest in higher quality American goods then increases, at least until the lesson has to be learned again.  In fairness, US manufacturers also periodically have to learn the lesson that they must distinguish themselves by making their product much better than that of the developing countries.

We seem to be in a time when both US companies and US consumers may be ready to contribute to a renewed resurgence of US manufacturing.  Perhaps some of Generation Y will even figure out that they should climb aboard that train.

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