NGM Report: Sustainablity: A smart strategy

Sustainable engineering is moving to the forefront as U.S. manufacturers look to become more and more viable in a growing global industry, particularly as the U.S. moves out of a recession.


The Next Generation Manufacturing Study tours its biannual report as “a path for U.S, manufacturers to achieve success.” One way for that success to be sustainable in the long term, study authors found this time, will be sustainability.

“Sustainability is becoming a smart to-do thing rather than nice to do thing,” said John R. Brandt, CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, which along with the American Small Manufacturers Coalition, produced the 2011 report. The study focuses on six key strategies for success in American manufacturing. The issue isn’t understanding those issues; it’s acting on them to achieve change.

“Similar to 2009, manufacturers know the six strategies, but we see a huge gap in terms whether they can take action on them,” said Brandt. “They don’t have talent or leadership or programs to develop them. There are a number of manufacturers that have no strategy at all. Almost one-third don’t have strategy for being global, and one-fourth of them do not have a strategy for sustainability.”

Even with that gap, manufacturers are learning there is help available. “Manufacturers are looking for help from other people,” said Brandt. “They’re looking for help with regulatory issues, economic development. Everyone understands it’s a team game.” Local universities and community colleges and locally-based Manufacturing Extension Partnerships around the country are becoming popular resources for manufacturers to turn to for guidance.

Brandt said his study shows that training is the best place to start to improve a manufacturing operation. “What we see in study after study is that first and foremost, people need to train their employees more,” he said. “It is the strongest correlation we see. Once the training is done, you need to get out of the way. When you create measured levels of empowerment and self-directed work teams, performance goes up. I don’t see a business model that works that isn’t decentralized.”

The six strategies to drive manufacturing growth and profitability cited in the 2011 Next Generation Manufacturing Study are:

  • Customer-focused innovation
  • Engaged people, from recruitment through training and development
  • A focus on process improvement
  • Supply chain management and collaboration
  • Sustainability
  • Global engagement.

Read the full 2011 report here.

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