Manufacturing in America – Framing the Discussion

11/10/2011

This discussion took place over many beers, chicken wings and freshly brewed cups and cups of coffee. A series of heated discussions with some of my closest friends and colleagues. They suggested, rather insisted, that I put my thoughts on a proverbial paper. I think I just wore them down and this was their way to end the discussion.

You may be wondering what the debate was all about? It’s about Manufacturing in America. Just for this topic when I refer to America I mean USA. There is no grand theory behind choice of these words other than that I find it easier to write this way.

What is the issue at hand? Plain and simple. We are loosing manufacturing in America. It’s not a new thing. It has been happening for a while now irrespective of how you look at it. Indicators like share of GDP, number of jobs or just the anecdotal evidence of talking to your neighbors or driving across small mid-western towns.

The loss of manufacturing has been slow and steady over last few decades. First the low cost labor intensive industries such as the shirts and shoes to now even high value items like smart phones and the computers like the one I am typing this post on. In case you are wondering it’s an iMac and if I am not mistaken it flew in from Taiwan after I placed the order.

What happened? We use to be the envy of the whole world for making some of the most innovative products. Export and manufacturing was one of the corner stone of our economy. Are we no longer competitive? The sound bites from various mainstream media sources would make us believe so. I disagree. The issue is not that simple that it can be framed into sound bites and a simple to-do or wish list.

We don’t need to dwell on good-old-days-thoughts. It has such a tone of finality. Let’s focus the discussion on what can be done. How can the manufacturing be revived to make it the corner stone of our economy. Once again!

I believe to understand this manufacturing debate we should start at the source – the CEO of a company that is heavily involved in producing a physical good like cars, shirts, chair or a 2×4 that goes into your house. Basically, a company with manufacturing as its core process.

Finally, you will see many of the points I made here and in following posts do not follow the rigor of an academic essay. It is by design. There is way too much already floating around the web. I would like to have, this discussion, with everyday people and not the gurus, not the academics and definitely not the politicians. So share your thoughts and ask questions. I Promise to share what I know to it’s fullest.

Now this introduction is over, starting next post I promise to take you to a decision making journey that a manufacturing company CEO goes through when deciding where to locate a manufacturing operation. A plant. My hope is that this discussion will help us develop a better understanding of manufacturing in America which, fingers crossed, leads to better policies that bring back the manufacturing here.

There are 5 comments in this article:

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