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What Is Manufacturing?

There's no definitive definition.

The spirited debate about manufacturing in the U.S. and elsewhere includes some side differences over what manufacturing actually is. For many economic traditionalists, manufacturing is simply production, the making of things from materials. For example, Ken Taormina, senior vice president at McLean, Va.-based BearingPoint Inc. doesn't include software in the definition of manufacturing. Neither does "traditonalist" Yorgos Papatheodorou, an economist at Lockwood Greene, a Spartanburg, S.C.-based engineering and construction company. However, the emerging field of biotechnology is part of manufacturing, he allows. But others, including some CEOs, are not nearly as narrow. "Manufacturing's definition will evolve with global product innovation," contends Edward P. Campbell, president and CEO of Nordson Corp., a Westlake, Ohio-based maker of precision dispensing equipment. Manufacturing "can no longer be thought of as simply fashioning products using industrial machines," he says. "It is more accurately a process of defining products, integrating operations, implementing strategies and having proprietary rights."

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