The world we live in today was built on manufacturing. It is the engine of the U.S. economy and a key driver in advancing technologies that impact multiple industries. Manufacturing is also the path to prosperity and a better quality of life for many Americans. It is critical to the U.S. economy and to U.S. citizens. By some counts, approximately 90% of what we use in our daily lives is attributable to manufacturing. It creates jobs. It adds value to the economy by being a greenhouse for innovation. Manufacturing industries support other companies. It promotes trade. The majority of service industries rely on manufactured products. And manufacturing contributes to tax revenue which flows back into the economy to support infrastructure, healthcare, education, roads and social programs. Manufacturing matters.
Here’s a quick look at some numbers related to manufacturing from the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM):
In a 2021 report on U.S. manufacturing from McKinsey Global Institute, it was cited that manufacturing accounts for 8% of the workforce, 11% of GDP, 20% of capital stock, 35% of productivity growth, 55% of patents, 60% of exports and 70% of R&D investment.
It’s hard to imagine the U.S. remaining a global leader without a strong manufacturing foundation. According to NAM, manufacturing in the U.S. would be the eighth largest economy in the world. With various industry reports identifying a significant shift in global trade—an estimated $4.6 trillion over the next five years--building a vibrant, resilient and self-sufficient U.S. manufacturing ecosystem is critical. We’re already seeing an increase in onshoring operations. Now is the time for the U.S. to invest in our manufacturing industry to improve our competitiveness and increase our scale. We’ve seen states and the federal government respond recently with programs and funds to support much needed projects that create opportunities for manufacturing companies which, in turn, create opportunities for workers.
No doubt, manufacturing is facing challenges. Whether related to supply chains, access to capital, the growing digital transformation or access to skilled workers, manufacturing has some considerable multitasking to do. Perhaps the most critical challenge is related to workforce development. But even here, we have seen the creativity and ingenuity of manufacturers on display. They have increased their focus on workforce development by providing training opportunities for new associates, incorporating further development opportunities for existing workers, and fostering partnerships with high schools and community colleges to create attractive career paths for younger workers. Just one example is the Okuma Machine Tool Academy from Okuma America Corporation. Developed with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, located just outside Charlotte, NC, students learn electrical and mechanical maintenance, and programming and operations skills. Okuma also developed a similar apprenticeship program with the college to prepare students to transition from the classroom to the shop floor. It is becoming increasingly evident that a traditional 4-year college degree, along with the associated tuition price tag, is not the only path to a fulfilling career, and a fulfilling life.
In a recent study titled “2022 State of Hiring and the (Future) State of Manufacturing and Distribution” from Conexiom, a leading provider of trade document automation solutions, they placed particular focus on Generation Z’s opinions about opportunities in the manufacturing space. For Gen Z and the demographic groups coming behind them, manufacturing will have to continue evolving to attract and retain this vital next generation of workers. This means an increased emphasis on technology and digital transformation. In fact, in Conexiom’s report, when asked whether the type of technology used in an industry influences Gen Z’s desire to pursue a career in it, 70% of those surveyed said it had a strong influence, and 25% said it had a moderate influence. Reaching out to the younger generation and presenting diverse opportunities in manufacturing is not limited to companies. Organizations like the American Precision Museum (APM) have a vibrant outreach program to promote the spirit of innovation, problem-solving and design found in the U.S. manufacturing industry.
While most Americans believe factory work is primarily mechanical and highly labor-intensive with no critical thinking required, this belief could not be further from the truth. Manufacturing work is knowledge work. And becoming more so every day. Imagine the complexity involved in making a semiconductor, parts for an iPhone or producing and manufacturing pharmaceuticals. Consider the skill and intellectual capital required to make precision machinery, an electric vehicle or HVAC system. Working in each of these industries are curious, inventive, industrious people who are finding better ways to make things and, in the process, make our lives better.
Manufacturing has always been strong in the Southeast, supported mainly by the textile industry until much of that sector moved overseas. But over time, the manufacturing roots in the Southeast have grown significantly and become quite diversified with an increase in the automotive and aerospace sectors, as well as with specialty chemicals, appliances, precision machinery, telecommunications and much more. Crafted’s home state of North Carolina consistently ranks as one of the top ten manufacturing states in the country, with more than 9,000 companies creating almost 580,000 jobs. In fact, in the Site Selection Group’s latest ranking of the best states for manufacturing, North Carolina was second only to South Carolina and ahead of Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia. The Tarheel State exported nearly $27 billion in manufactured goods in 2020.
Looking specifically at our own backyard in the Charlotte region, the numbers are equally impressive. While most people think of Charlotte as a financial center, there is a substantial manufacturing base in the vicinity. Here are just a few impressive facts:
At Crafted, we have built our business around supporting manufacturing companies. We’re proud of the work they do, and of the work we do to shine a light on their innovations and contributions to our nation’s economy, our citizens and the workforce of the future. Manufacturing provides an extremely viable path for a younger generation with 4-year and advanced degrees, as well as those who may not want to pursue a 4-year technical degree but still want to learn valuable, marketable skills. The diversity in manufacturing provides everyone an opportunity to engage their curiosity while providing an interesting, challenging and rewarding career helping build things that make our future better. So, as we celebrate Manufacturing Day, let’s remember that we are celebrating all the individuals who have chosen a career that drives our country forward and creates opportunities for all Americans. Manufacturing matters.
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