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The Manufacturer's Agenda: A New Age of Manufacturing?

Sept. 6, 2013
Why IndustryWeek celebrates the manufacturing milestones that are not so obvious to those whose attention waxes and wanes with U.S. manufacturing's economic fortunes.

While the general media, pundits, economists and other interested parties debate whether the U.S. is experiencing a renaissance, resurgence or a return to "normal" (en route to inevitable irrelevance), I'm answering, "yes," we're entering a new age of manufacturing -- but that's nothing new.

Manufacturers continually adapt to new technologies, demographic realities, economic situations or new ideas and strategies about how to run their businesses. Then, in turn, manufacturers serve as catalysts for further change throughout the economy. Since IW tracks this activity through good times and bad -- reporting what's new, what's next, and what works for manufacturing businesses -- we celebrate and report these changes every step of the way. 

Significantly, we celebrate the manufacturing milestones that are not so obvious to those whose attention waxes and wanes with U.S. manufacturing's economic fortunes. Take, for example, two articles in this issue, "Safe, Safer, Safest," and "The Golden Age of Internal Combustion." These articles aren't about your father's safety programs or engine technologies. The former shows how far safety strategies have come, detailing the shift of attention from lagging to leading indicators, among other best practices. The latter celebrates a new age of what many outside of manufacturing would consider an old technology. Such coverage must be downright perplexing to the uninformed -- including those who still ask the stupefying question, "But, really, does the U.S. still make anything?"

(Do YOU still get that inane question? Please share your anecdote in the comment section below this column, so we can all share a hearty, if pained, chuckle.)

I guess we could debate which changes count as "new ages," but as Stephen Gold points out in "Headwinds and Tailwinds for U.S. Manufacturing": "No sector has experienced more external change over the past 15 years, and no sector has done more to survive and even thrive in the face of it." He easily could have extended that time frame to the 40+ years that IW has published. A flip through the archives documents the continual, relentless, increasingly fast pace of change -- along with several "new ages."

It's this dynamism, the repeated reinvention, adaptation and renewal, that makes manufacturing such a critical business sector of the nation's -- any nation's -- economy. Though the service sector growth has outpaced the manufacturing sector's, manufacturing leads the economy in important economic metrics, including private sector R&D investment, U.S. exports and productivity growth. Thankfully, many public policy leaders are rediscovering that these facts remain true no matter which emerging economy enters the global manufacturing marketplace to challenge U.S. manufacturers. 

Find the data that demonstrates manufacturing's importance to the U.S. economy at

This won't be the last time the popular-opinion or economic pendulum swings, but IndustryWeek will remain steadfast to its longstanding tradition of focusing on what's new, what's next, and what works for manufacturing businesses. 

We trust you will too. 

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