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The Top Five Manufacturing Trends of 2012

Written by: 
Roger Klimer, MEP Director

American manufacturing has been in the spotlight this year. From the members of the media and political pundits to our business partners and even our neighbors, everybody is talking about U.S. manufacturing again. This renewed interest in our country’s manufacturing sector is because our industry is leading the way for our economic recovery. According to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 12 million jobs in manufacturing. Furthermore, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that U.S. manufacturing supports 12 percent of our GDP, producing more than $1.7 trillion of value each year. This is the highest level for manufacturing since 2007.

As 2012 comes to an end, let’s take a look at some of the most notable manufacturing themes of the year:

  1. Exporting – Manufacturers are always looking for ways to identify new customers and become more competitive. Exporting allows companies to tap into new markets and increase sales. A recent survey conducted by McGladrey Manufacturing and Distribution Monitor found that 60 percent of companies that reported increased export activity stated that their company was “thriving and growing”.
  2. Re-shoring – Instead of sending business operations overseas to foreign competitors, companies are bringing some or all of their business back to America. This trend of “re-shoring” is helping American manufacturers. According to a 2012 survey published in Forbes, “40% of companies indicated that they have won new manufacturing business this year that had been previously offshored.” People are realizing the many benefits of working with American companies and are bringing business back home.
  3. Made in America – The “Made in America” brand is growing stronger by the second. Individuals prefer purchasing products made in our country because of the quality servicesAmerican manufacturers provide. In fact, a recent study published in Industry Week found that 80 percent of Americans are even willing to pay more for a product if they know it’s made in our country. This is very important to our economic growth. If Americans just purchased their holiday gifts exclusively from U.S. manufacturers, it would create an estimated 4.6 million jobs for our economy according to the National Retail Federation.
  4. Innovation – Simply put, innovation is finding a creative solution to a problem. American manufacturers may not always be able to beat foreign competitors on price. However, U.S. businesses are differentiating themselves by providing quality products and services to their customers. This quality occurs because manufacturers are becoming innovative in different ways such as technology, workforce practices and business operations.
  5. Additive Manufacturing – This year, a $30 million grant was established to create the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio. Additive manufacturing, sometimes referred to as 3D printing, is the process of making three dimensional, solid objects from a digital model. This process will help America serve as a high-tech manufacturing hub of the world for years to come. Keep your eyes open for developments in this field.

Manufacturing played a pivotal role in our economy recovery in 2012. We anticipate that 2013 will be an even better year for U.S. manufacturers!

Source: Manufacturing Innovation Blog, National Institute of Standards and Technology's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership