Among the industry experts weighing in on the state of U.S. manufacturing, most are aligned on what needs to be fixed in order to make the industry stronger. The common thread between us is a call for action to alleviate the U.S. tax and regulatory burden, increase the pace of innovation and address the skilled labor shortage.

But while we can agree on these broad end results, we don't always agree on the road map to get us there – or even where manufacturing currently stands relative to our economic recovery and competitiveness.

Here at AMT, we go the "glass half-full" route. Does that make us blind optimists? Quite the contrary.

I see, every day, the great strides our members are making in growing and building their businesses. They are taking their operations global and expanding into new markets. They are coming up with innovative, groundbreaking technologies that are expanding possibilities beyond what was even imagined just a few short years ago.

Others, though, don't see the picture quite as positive. They insist that manufacturing is stuck in the doldrums. Some point to limited output in certain industry sectors as an indicator that manufacturing isn't at a strong point. Others say that manufacturing is only partially recovered from the recession or that its comeback is "muted."

These opinions come from respected and highly knowledgeable voices within the industry, and I certainly don't disrespect their viewpoints or expertise. But it seems many of them are overlooking some of what's really happening in manufacturing.

They point to low output in certain industry sectors, or tie manufacturing's "success" as an economic driver (or lack of it) directly to employment numbers. While it's true some sectors have not bounced back as quickly as others and that manufacturing jobs have been lost, it's also true that American manufacturing has led our recovery and holds the keys to  strong, sustainable economic growth and national security.

From our viewpoint, this is what is important to know: Profitability in manufacturing is the highest it's been since the 1960s.

Take a look at what's happening in the auto industry. The motor vehicle industry, which had been posting losses since 2006, lost just shy of $65 billion dollars in the last quarter before the Great Recession.

Just two years later, it began turning a profit.

Fourth quarter 2012 was the sixth consecutive quarter that the industry was profitable, matching the previous streak from 2004.

Although some auto industry segments have not surpassed pre-recession levels, consistent profitability suggests this key manufacturing industry is far better off than it was at any point in the last 10 years. A recent article in the Detroit Free Press said that auto suppliers are "scrambling" to keep up with demand, and pointed to a survey by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association which found that 25% of suppliers are running at 100% capacity.