Think Again: Encourage smarter manufacturing policies

Manufacturing is the innovative lifeblood of U.S. economic prosperity. Tell policymakers that. Send them this link today.


Robert D. Atkinson, founder and president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a think tank, spoke at Manufacturing Perspectives, a Rockwell Automation event, Nov. 15, in Chicago. CFE Media photo by Mark T. HoskeElected officials in Washington, D.C., and other policymakers need to make smarter decisions to help manufacturing. Manufacturing innovation and leadership are key to U.S. economic prosperity, and anyone who says differently may be taking advice from a confused economist, suggested Robert D. Atkinson, founder and president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a think tank, at Automation Fair 2011. Atkinson affirmed manufacturing as the key driver of U.S. prosperity, at the Rockwell Automation Manufacturing Perspectives conference on Nov. 15, among precursor events to the company’s 20th annual Automation Fair.

Control Engineering machine control - robotic icon“If manufacturing had grown as much as rest of the U.S. economy, we would have had 8 million more jobs right now,” Atkinson explained. Additionally, he cautioned, the U.S. Commerce Department has been over-counting manufacturing growth, measuring a two-fold increase in computing speed as selling twice as many computers.

Even so, Moore’s Law hasn’t slowed, and IT advances continue to fuel manufacturing innovation, Atkinson continued. In 1960, 5 GB memory cost $1.5 billion, in 1995, $5,500, and now, just a few dollars. In addition, productivity increases continue to drive manufacturing job growth. Most measures of IT performance are doubling in less than 2 years. For example, in 1988, it would have taken 82 years to solve a complex linear programming model, he said. In 2003, it took about a minute. While processing speed accounted for about a thousand times of the increase, the rest of the 43 million percent gain resulted from improved algorithms: smarter software.

Controls and IT Integration, Control EngineeringManufacturing, as of 2009, was low among ranked industries for the ratio of IT spending to value added, showing large room for additional gains. Where? Manufacturing IT powers smart sensing and smart instruments, faster networks, micro controllers, design and visualization software, high-performance modeling and simulation, and machine vision.

Cloud-based efficiencies (see December cover stories) are growing with 44% of manufacturing implementing or evaluating cloud-based deployments and 22% having already implemented, according to Atkinson-cited IDC data. Also, IPv6 will bring Internet advantages to a near infinite number of smart components, devices, and systems.

Control Engineering - discrete sensor iconAtkinson said policymakers need to do a better job at developing policies encouraging industrial growth, advanced innovation and R&D, and competitive strategies. These include advancing high-technology industries; lowering taxes; increasing fair trade; and promoting high-tech talent with more science, technology, engineering, and math—and apprentice programs (to help fill 600,000 manufacturing-related jobs available and unfilled due to lack of training, as noted later in the day by William A. Strauss, senior economist and economic advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago).

Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE MediaI also believe balanced budgets and a meaningful debt reduction plan would decrease risk and uncertainty and bolster confidence for manufacturing and other businesses.

Here’s your call to action. To help policymakers support U.S. manufacturing:

1) Find your elected officials: and 2) e-mail them the link to this advice, explaining that manufacturing cannot just fend for itself; it needs their help for even larger economic payoffs.

Control Engineering - machine and motion control - motor-drive iconMark T. Hoske, Content Manager, Control Engineering,

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