Time to recognize, celebrate the manufacturing comeback

by Dane Cowling ([email protected]) 489 views 

National Manufacturing Day, celebrated annually on the first Friday of October, began in 2012. The mission of MFG DAY is to positively change the public perception of modern manufacturing.

Manufacturing is coming back to the United States. We have seen this trend pick up pace in the last few years and the trend will continue to grow. A major driver in reshoring is the cost to ship goods, especially frequent shipments in large quantities. The Amazon Effect has an impact on manufacturers, not just brick and mortar retailers. Today’s American consumer wants to shop online and we expect that product to land on our doorstep within a few days and, in some cases, a few hours. That means large quantities of inventory need to be stored in the U.S. for quick shipping and delivery.

Manufacturers have experienced other challenges like increases in production and shipping costs overseas. Poor infrastructure systems in offshore manufacturing hot spots may often drive up the cost of production and shipping. We also see unstable economies and variance of training in local workforces as potential impacting factors when manufacturing overseas.

The evolution of robotics in U.S. manufacturing is part of the driving force of the reshoring movement. Robotics have played a role in North American manufacturing for many years. We rely on robots and automation to do some jobs that humans simply cannot do as quickly, as efficiently or as accurately.

However, robots are useful in other applications that we often do not consider. Take jobs with high injury potential, for instance. The ability of a manufacturer to introduce robotics or automation into a high-risk environment means a safer workplace in a country where safety is a priority.

Robotics and automation are not the end of the American worker. This new look of manufacturing is a revolution with a new role and evolved skillsets for humans in a manufacturing setting. This is a major reason that you’re hearing more about the importance of workforce training and a skilled labor force. The fact is, the more products we manufacture in America, the more jobs we stand to create.

Manufacturers are running smart facilities, which means monitoring production closer than ever. The Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t new to manufacturing, it is standard operating procedure. These connected machines, conveyors and systems give manufacturers access to big data. That data drives production efficiencies that support artificial intelligence, robotics and automated systems.

The result is efficiency in the process, which makes manufacturing in the U.S. an attractive option again. That reshoring stands to benefit the more than 2,000 manufacturing firms that employ more than 150,000 Arkansans. This all supports our state’s recruitment efforts for manufacturing facilities looking to open or expand American manufacturing facilities.

Arkansas has a strong history of manufacturing, one that continues to grow.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing contributes more than $18 billion to the state’s economy annually, which is about 15% of our state’s total gross state product.

Most folks don’t know it, but Arkansas manufacturers export more than $5 billion worth of products every year to countries like Canada, Mexico, Japan, France and China. Manufacturing is an industry that every Arkansan should be proud of when talking about our state and our economy.

On Friday, proudly celebrate National Manufacturing Day. Some Arkansas manufacturers and education institutions are hosting events to share their manufacturing story, so find one near you and join in.

Editor’s note: Dane Cowling is the Industrial B2B Group Leader at The Communications Group, a Little Rock-based firm. The opinions expressed are those of the author.