U.S. Must Regain Status as Innovators in Manufacturing

A society without a strong manufacturing base will not have the financial means to sustain communities and the livelihood of its members without a significant contribution from government, which is what we are clearly seeing today.

I was reading your [April 2011 First Up] article, and I couldn't help but think to myself how right-on you are with your assessment of the state of manufacturing in our country. I was raised as a "factory" kid. My father, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends all worked for a major automotive manufacturer in the area. We built our lives based on the premise that "the Plant" would always be there. There was no question in some people's minds that they would someday work at the place their grandfather and father worked. That dream was shattered when the plant closed, leaving thousands out of jobs and thousands more without a future. This tragedy could have been avoided, had our society been more focused on the value that manufacturing brings to our lives vs. the ideology that "my children will never work in a factory." The bottom line is just as you state -- there can only be so many executives and service employees. A society without a strong manufacturing base will not have the financial means to sustain communities and the livelihood of its members without a significant contribution from government, which is what we are clearly seeing today.

As jobs moved overseas during the last two decades and the American public enjoyed lower prices and seemingly better quality, our status as a world "manufacturing super power" slowly faded away. Displaced workers chose professions in the service industry to the extent that waiting periods for health care-related education reached four years in some programs. Government programs for extended unemployment have since run out, and we can no longer turn to Uncle Sam for a bailout.

It's time for our country to once again regain its status as the innovators of the manufacturing world. For too many years we have sat back on our tail-ends, playing catch-up, while our foreign counterparts produced more with less and continued to drive waste and cost out of their processes. It's time for a new Industrial Revolution in America. One that brings pride and honor back to manufacturing. One that lets people know that it's okay to work in a factory -- factories that produce superior products at a lower cost with shorter lead times. One that puts revenues back into our economy and employs people at a good wage. Somehow we need to bring this back to our culture.

I enjoy the insightfulness and reason that your publication puts on manufacturing. Together we can change this perception in our great nation.

Doug Lawrence
Plant Manager
Package Burner Systems
CleaverBrooks

We enjoyed reading this article and remain optimistic about continuing opportunities within the United States. A particular comment is that our legal systems in place have allowed for the development and establishment of the most extensive system of franchised businesses in the world, and these various complete business models often provide the most effective means for rapid and successful implementation of new products, services, and technologies -- as well as being a complete package to establish a business. In fact, there are well over 100 industries that benefit from franchising.

Frankly, it is our legal system and the protection of intellectual property that it affords us that allows franchisors to expand domestically. In many cases, similar laws abroad have made it possible to "export" these products and services -- at times with adaptations needed to meet local requirements -- with the benefits of franchise fees, royalties and potential product sales revenues returning to the United States. In many respects, our intellectual property, in the form of franchising, is one of the few areas in which the "balance of trade" is decidedly in our favor.

Mark Siebert
CEO
The iFranchise Group, Inc.
Homewood, Ill.

John Fischer
Consultant
Palatine, Ill.

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your piece, "Purpose-Driven Capitalism." Great article and insights here about building an innovative and competitive manufacturing economy and what it will take to get there. Couldn't agree more with Dr. Sebastian's comment that manufacturing is a vital element of a prosperous American future.

Always enjoy IndustryWeek -- outstanding content and writers.

Linda Abbott
Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership

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