In a global economy and coming out of a severe recession, the misperception has arisen that the U.S. manufacturing sector is past its prime. Thoughts of old rust belt factories continue to enter the mind when talk turns to manufacturing. Media coverage hasn’t helped to dispel these images.
The reality paints a far different picture. Like every other business sector, globalization and technology have driven significant change in manufacturing. We all know that change is difficult and it takes time for companies to evolve their mindsets and practices. But manufacturers are making changes that bode well for the future.
We are confident in this statement because we are in a unique position to see the expansion firsthand. Our executive recruiting franchise network focuses on manufacturing. In addition, recruiting is a leading indicator of the economy and many of our offices experienced record placements in 2012.
While the first quarter of 2013 was a bit below our expectations as adjustments in a slowly recovering economy occurred, things rebounded significantly in the second quarter. Overall, we expect another terrific year placing key executives in manufacturing companies.
Today, when we think manufacturing, we should think advanced technologies, robotics, 3D printing, computerization and productivity. Our FPC offices recruit for the 20+ major manufacturing industries from Automotive to Life Sciences to Wood Products – and the whole alphabet in between. As these industries modernize to compete around the world, attracting top executive talent is a critical business objective for every company. This is true even if they temporarily shed line jobs.
Following are some recent developments that support our observations.
- Manufacturing.net reported that manufacturing output showed significant increases in both May and June, and slower March/April output was adjusted upwards. Daniel Meckworth, Chief Economist for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, stated that manufacturing production growth significantly outpaced overall economic growth early this year and should grow faster than GDP again in 2013.
- A Huffington Post article -- “Made in the U.S.: Is America Making a Manufacturing Comeback?” – sites a national Consumer Reports study revealing that Americans would rather buy American-made products if given a choice. This trend is spurring re-shoring – bringing off-shore manufacturing back to the U.S. The article also quotes a Boston Consulting Group report that 48 percent of the top manufacturers with revenues over $10 billion are re-shoring.
- An article in Industry Week – “A Manufacturing Comeback? It Never Left.” – states, “A strong manufacturing sector has long been pivotal to our economic prosperity and national security, consistently delivering return on investment, revenue, exports, output and more. Today is no different.” The author, Douglas Woods, president of the Association for Manufacturing Technology, points out a combination of reasons that we’re ripe for a manufacturing growth spurt: “An abundance of natural gas is providing cheap energy. We also have the best science and engineering schools in the world and a genuinely American entrepreneurial spirit. This has helped attract a groundswell in foreign direct investment in manufacturing – currently at $838 million.”
- A closing wage gap between the U.S., China and other countries, plus a big increase in U.S. worker productivity has contributed to an emerging trend in manufacturing startups, in addition to re-shoring. New disruptive business models will help these smaller manufacturers. For example, a company called onemorepallet.com has borrowed from the hospitality industry to create name-your-pricing shipping, a concept that instantly matches smaller shippers to reputable haulers who have excess capacity to fill – saving time and money.
There are many more indicators that American products – and many foreign ones -- will continue to be made here. We are encouraged about the future of our recruiting franchise network by predictions that the resurgence of manufacturing will continue and accelerate over at least the next 10 years.
If you’re in manufacturing and want to see how you can build a second career there – or if you’d like to explore getting into the manufacturing sector with us, get a peek at what it would be like. Download our free eBook, “A Day in the Life of an FPC Owner.”