Mark Twain is rumored to have said: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”1 We believe the same holds for the U.S. manufacturing sector. Pundits would have us believe that manufacturing is dead in America, but we beg to differ.
Working in a former “Rust Belt” city like Pittsburgh gives us a unique perspective on this. Clichés aside, manufacturing in Pittsburgh (and indeed in the rest of the country) took a big hit in the 1980’s and struggled for a while. But, we are all tired of hearing that American manufacturing is dead. It would seem that manufacturing has found a way to adapt and overcome.
Quality at Scale
Ford Motor Company, arguably one of the America’s largest manufacturers, realized that the old way of painting cars (by hand) was not working at scale. Rather than limit production in order to preserve the old way of doing things, they created robots to paint the cars, with human overseers ensuring that quality standards were preserved.2
The 20th century saw small numbers of very large manufacturers; this model no longer holds. Today, there are many, smaller manufacturers, the majority of which employ fewer than 20 employees.3
According to Deloitte, the United States will be the most competitive manufacturing economy in the world by 2020. It would seem that cheap labor is not the key ingredient to success. More important are intellectual property protections, availability of quality materials, and advanced technology — all abundant in the U.S.4
All Ashore Who’s Going Ashore
MarketWatch reports that manufacturers are “reshoring” their manufacturing operations in order to make their supply chains more responsive to trends. By locating operations closer to to consumers, they can be more nimble and ship product faster.5
You Say You Want a Revolution
The United States is uniquely situated at the nexus of applied information technology, venture capital, analytics, energy, and robotics.6 Here in Pittsburgh, we’ve got clients who not only manufacture advanced technology products and processes, but also provide the same to other manufacturers, elevating their abilities.
As the lyric goes, the future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.