Tell the world about your world-class products

How can we define manufacturing in the U.S. and globally in the world we live in today?


Is Ford an American car company? Of course. Henry Ford virtually invented the assembly line and turned automobiles from luxury items to commodities for the U.S. and the world. Except that Ford has just announced its fourth plant in China and the Fiesta is completely built in Mexico.

Is Toyota an American car company? Of course not. All the profits go back to Japan. Except that the Camry is still built in Georgetown, Ky., which creates U.S. jobs.  And 70% of its parts are U.S.-sourced, which creates more U.S. jobs.

The hardest part of the manufacturing debate to wrap our arms around is just how to define U.S. manufacturing. It’s not a simple equation with simple answers. You have to understand John Deere’s decision to build huge earthmovers in China in the context of building that same earthmover in the U.S. and shipping it across the country, across the ocean, and across China to where the earth finally will be moved.

It’s the same equation that has brought so many jobs back from Asia, where wages are rising in the so-called low-cost countries while fuel and other transportation costs are rising and quality and safety issues are getting more attention. Reshoring, which was once a patriotic discussion, is now a sound business decision.

A few American manufacturers are now beginning to see the world not as a competitor, but as a marketplace for their own products. There are not nearly enough manufacturers that have explored this opportunity, but those who have are finding a way to grow their business without jeopardizing their existing base.

The challenges of manufacturing and distributing outside of the U.S. are daunting, but they also open up enormous growth opportunities for a manufacturer. And so the choice: stay or grow?

That needs to be an informed decision, and the only place to get that information is by getting up and getting out and exploring the possibilities. There is assistance available at the state and federal level to help manufacturers get their feet on the global stage, but the first step is still up to manufacturers.

Plant Engineering is closely aligned with two major events in 2012 that will highlight how and why to take that first step. This month, we are in Hannover, Germany, at Hannover Messe, the world’s leading industrial trade fair, for a firsthand look at what the rest of the world is talking about. The U.S. Dept. of Commerce will lead a large delegation of manufacturers and manufacturing regions anxious to work with European and Asian suppliers on distribution deals and manufacturing opportunities.

When I first started going to Hannover Messe six years ago, only a couple of states were represented. In 2011, more than 30 states had delegations on-site, and their efforts were supported by U.S. trade officials and by Hannover Messe. We’ll be reporting on those efforts daily, and a full report will be in our May issue.

Also this month, we begin reporting on the 2012 International Manufacturing Technology Show on Sept. 10-15 in Chicago. I see IMTS as North America’s manufacturing event, a can’t-miss congress of the world’s manufacturers. Not everyone can get to Germany in April; everyone can get to Chicago in September.

It will be the place to celebrate manufacturing, and to learn how to help its continued growth. The world is coming to Chicago in September, and you need to reserve your seat at the table.

Part of Plant Engineering’s presence at the 2012 IMTS is our partnership with Hannover Messe on the Industrial Automation North America pavilion. The world’s leading automation companies will be presenting the latest tools to improve productivity, and the world’s top experts will discuss the trends and future of automation both in the U.S. and around the world. The two-day Industrial Automation Summit on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 will be a learning experience for all attendees.

The most important reason to attend these events is to reinforce what you already know in your own plants. U.S. manufacturers produce world-class products. Isn’t it time you told the world?

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