Outside Detroit, U.S. manufacturing shows its muscle
International challenges forced manufacturers to get smarter, faster, Leaner
An article on the Reuters news service notes that the struggles of General Motors and Chrysler and the fallout into related auto businesses are not indicative of improvements in the overall manufacturing landscape in the U.S.
Analysts quoted by Reuters said while manufacturing as a percentage of GDP is down, as is overall employment in the sector, the efficiencies of U.S. manufacturing are still formidable.
"That contraction is progress," said James Schrager, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "We have a larger output of goods and services than ever and we have a smaller number of workers doing it."
"The U.S. still manufacturers more than any other country in the world," said Tom Murphy of RSM McGladrey. "We're just making different things than we made in the past and we're making them differently. That's not going away just because of what's happened in the automotive industry."
Experts quoted in the Reuters story noted that there is a way out for automakers, but it requires fundamental change. "There's no reason on earth why GM and Ford and Chrysler can't be as efficient and cost-competitive as Toyota," said Alex Blanton, an analyst at Ingalls & Snyder. "All they have to do is run their plants the way Toyota does. But you can't do that if you have these union work rules and costs -- like pension and healthcare costs -- that are not in line with the competition."
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Annual Salary Survey
Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey