America needs to hear about resurgence of manufacturing industry

  • Steve Rauschenberger

    Steve Rauschenberger

By Steve Rauschenberger
Guest columnist
Posted10/6/2017 1:00 AM

Today is National Manufacturing Day, and I wish to dispel misperceptions of American manufacturing. Overseeing an association with nearly 800 manufacturers and over 30,000 manufacturing employees gives me a unique perspective on today's' manufacturing industry. The folks who are involved daily in the industry know that there are three big manufacturing myths -- that the U.S. manufacturing industry is in decline; that it is backbreaking work in a dark, dirty building; and that there is little future in a career in manufacturing.

Manufacturing in Illinois is strong and growing stronger


Manufacturing here has experienced a resurgence. As manufacturers have become leaner and more competitive globally, they have experienced tremendous growth.

Productivity (measured as "output per hour") in the manufacturing sector has increased by more than 2.5 times since 1987. Amazingly, U.S. manufactured goods exports have quadrupled over the past 25 years. Manufacturing in the U.S. has changed, becoming more precise and higher value thanks to improved technology and cloud-based manufacturing. Production is coming back to the U.S. Outsourcing has peaked, as companies realize the full cost of outsourcing including transportation, quality, reliability, duty, and delivery times.

Production worldwide is moving to the most productive location, and as that happens the highest-value, precision manufacturing is "reshoring" and coming back home. Last year, for the first time in decades, more manufacturing jobs came back to the U.S. than left.

Today's factories are cleaner than your kitchen

Factories are no longer dirty and dark, nor do they require backbreaking labor. While lower-precision, less-skilled manufacturing has moved to places like Mexico and China, the United States has become the destination for precision manufacturing. We are leading the way with performance and technological advances.

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A day's work in factories could consist of instructing a machine to cut a precise edge or inputting an exact angle into a computer. Factories are extremely clean to meet strict standards for their clients in the pharmaceutical, defense and aerospace industries.

Manufacturing is a rewarding and stable career

The resurgence of manufacturing has left many of our members with new challenges. The most difficult challenge is finding qualified employees. As precision machining continues on the upswing, manufacturers are scrambling for skilled employees. Some companies have been forced to refuse new orders and delay expansion plans as a result. It is estimated that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed over the next decade, with 2 million of those jobs going unfilled due to the skills gap. Eighty percent of U.S. manufacturers recently reported a shortage of qualified applicants for highly paid, skilled production positions.

Pursuing a career in manufacturing can be rewarding and does not require a traditional four-year college degree. A science, technology, engineering, and math background combined with employer-sponsored training can lead to a great career. Jobs in manufacturing can pay over $100,000 a year. Today's manufacturing workers are making over 27 percent more than the average worker.

U.S. manufacturing today is growing and will continue to innovate and adapt. We are winning the international competition, jobs are coming home, and our communities are benefiting. But to secure the benefits of manufacturing for our region and country, we need to share the good news about the opportunities in manufacturing jobs.

Steve Rauschenberger is president of the Technology & Manufacturing Association, a Schaumburg-based agency that acts as a comprehensive resource for Midwest manufacturers.

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