The Changing Landscape For US Manufacturing

If you are one of those people who wish the US could return to the days when we had a strong manufacturing sector with millions of blue collar jobs then you are going to be disappointed.

As I’ve written about before, these manufacturing jobs are gone and will not be coming back in any appreciable amount. The days of making products that require an army of manual laborers is long gone and it’s not just the story in the US, all industrialized countries see a drop off of manufacturing labor as their economies become advance.

From my earlier post:

“The McKinsey Global Institute has released a study about the future of manufacturing and it is required reading for anyone in that industry as well as policy makers in developed countries.”


And this is to be expected for those of us who subscribe to the notion that the Free Market is the best method for providing the highest quality, lowest cost products that can be delivered in the quickest time.

You can’t say you are a Conservative who believes in the Free Market and then be upset when companies choose to manufacture low tech products in foreign countries that provide cheap labor.   This is the natural progression and a wise country will see this and shift their education to equip its citizens with skills to fill the next niche in the labor market.

From the McKinsey Global Institute study:

“Two key priorities for both governments and businesses are education and the development of skills. Companies have to build their R&D capabilities, as well as expertise in data analytics and product design. They will need qualified, computer-savvy factory workers and agile managers for complex global supply chains. In addition to supporting ongoing efforts to improve public education—particularly the teaching of math and analytical skills—policy makers must work with industry and educational institutions to ensure that skills learned in school fit the needs of employers.”

Unfortunately for us, we have been slow to understand this concept and we are now left with a labor force that is poorly educated and ill equipped to meet the needs of modern manufacturing in the US.

As I’ve written about before, highly technical, automated manufacturing is the future for the US and now NPR has a story that basically says the same thing.

The NPR story tells about how an old Kodak manufacturing plant has been retooled to use automated equipment and a highly skilled workforce to provide valuable products to the market.

Money quotes are here:

“That said, this picture is far from perfect. You look at this factory: making incredible things with machines both old and new, but there’s almost no one here. The factory has more than 16,000 square feet, but only 80 people work here.”

“You look at the folks that are on this floor right now working, they’re highly skilled, and what we want to do is make the work more of a science versus an art.”

“Now, it’s less art, more science. And this is exactly the challenge today. Even when a place like Rochester seems to be figuring it out, this deeper problem remains. There are very few jobs for the blue-collar worker.

“It’s a conundrum Nabil Nasr thinks about every day. He’s the associate provost and director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology.”

“Manufacturing today is not what it used to be. In the past, for example, Kodak used to make very sophisticated, high-precision lenses in a very primitive process that was very time-consuming,” Nasr says. “Today, we’re making very sophisticated computerized equipment that can make some of these lenses in a fraction of the time they used to spend in making those lenses before.”

“Where is the blue-collar worker today? What options are there for them?”

“This is a serious issue, and I think there are a lot of people left out of the manufacturing sector, and there are a lot of barriers,” Nasr says.

“There are high-paying openings, he says, but not everyone is qualified for them because they require expertise and education. “They really want to get these jobs but they aren’t able to because it would take them a long time to get there, and they’re not able or willing to actually spend that time to get there,” Nasr says.”

The Free Market is a harsh mistress for those countries and companies that fail to stay on top of the changing trends.

It is sad to see hard working people out of work because the Leftists in our government, who are beholden to the Labor Unions, have held on to the past and refused to recognize the brutal facts that have been hiding in plain sight for decades.

The low skilled labor of the 1960’s and 1970’s has been replaced with the high skilled manufacturing of the 21st century and if we had been able to recognize this 20 years ago we would have a skilled labor force ready to fill the needs of our current manufacturing practices.

Our lack of vision will be our undoing.

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1 Response to The Changing Landscape For US Manufacturing

  1. Debbie says:

    Hi! Love your cartoon regarding the trade school graduate vs. college graduate. We are a very small automotive training school in west chester pa and we are doing some “college fairs” in the upcoming months and I would love to post this on our display board. would that be possible.
    check us out on our website:

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