Manufacturing’s perception runs up against real issues

Leading2Lean study results belie actual manufacturing statistics, which are much better than what the public believes about the industry.

By Bob Vavra January 31, 2019

A study released by Lean manufacturing industry expert Leading2Lean found that the majority of respondents believe the American manufacturing sector is in decline. That prompted the company president to question the perceptions that led to that conclusion.

The Leading2Lean Manufacturing Index survey found 70% of respondents believe the manufacturing is losing ground and 58% of respondents believe there are fewer U.S. manufacturing jobs. But every industry statistic indicates there are nearly 3.5 million unfilled American manufacturing jobs.

“This survey has brought to light the general public’s misconceptions about the current state of the manufacturing industry,” Keith Barr, CEO and president of Leading2Lean said. “It seems that the majority of Americans hold outdated assumptions about the industry, when the present-day truth is American manufacturing is thriving.”

While Barr said issues such as political unrest and the reports of large layoffs in traditional manufacturing have led to the perception of decline, he believes the industry itself is partly to blame. “We haven’t done a good enough job explaining to our potential workforce that manufacturing has evolved,” Barr said. “Today’s manufacturing jobs are dynamic, require the ability to work with technology, and the ability to problem solve complex issues. Systems have even started making use of gamification concepts which are increasing motivation and engendering positive behaviors, in particular for Millennials and Generation Z workers. And most importantly, these are high wage jobs.

“We hear of high school graduates regularly pursuing popular and well-paying careers in graphic design or medical technology, while similarly high-paying and fulfilling careers in manufacturing get left unfilled because of negative assumptions about the industry,” Barr added.

Leading2Lean reported data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the average annual salary for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls is $44,595.20 ($21.44 per hour) as of July 2018. This is nearly three times the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).

“Our goal is to educate the public about what’s really happening on the floors of American manufacturing plants,” said Barr. “We believe that as people better understand the opportunities and growth in manufacturing, more will pursue careers in this industry.”

This first Leading2Lean Manufacturing Index was conducted by ENGINE and sponsored by Leading2Lean. It surveyed 1,000 people online nationally with a 95% confidence level.


Author Bio: Bob is the Content Manager for Plant Engineering.