Manufacturing — and I include process industries like chemical, refining, and some distribution — is the backbone of this country. If I’m exaggerating with that statement, it’s only by a small margin.
We can see clearly how Manufacturing really does matter – it’s a real source of strategic advantage for the United States.
In my mind, there are three reasons for this:
1. We build it here. I hate to sound trite, but it does matter when things are “made in the U.S.A.” Now, let’s not get carried away – that can’t be the foundation of manufacturing value in the U.S. (“buy American” is a crock statement, in my opinion; trite and defensive, it’s designed to shame rather than promote), but it certainly does have an impact, particularly today.
2. We do it better. Deming may have exported cutting-edge thinking, but U.S. manufacturers embraced those theories and brought them home to those products far more difficult than autos and technology. We have the engineering talent for manufacturing, and most significant manufacturers view knowledge management as a key differentiator.
3. Totality of impact. Manufacturing is a backbone industry, and I don’t mean just because it represents “American workers.” It literally serves as a backbone to significant economies in transportation, warehousing, and industrial services industries. Really, if AIG is “too big to fail,” then manufacturing is sacrosanct. Not just local economies… entire INDUSTRIES rely on our manufacturing prowess and success. Strategic then, not just for an industry, but for a country.
To be certain, we’ve had to get much, much better at it in recent years.
Unlike some who cry “the sky is falling,” I view the productivity advances occurring as a result of off-shore competition to be a good thing; in this global economy, a Kansas manufacturer must know they aren’t simply competing against other Kansas-based manufacturers. Those in Honduras and China matter as well…
But that’s just me…