Daily Archives: January 26, 2012

Could the U.S. Be A Next Generation Manufacturing Economy?

It’s an interesting question, especially when the U.S. doesn’t have the capacity to support global operations like Apple with their manufacturing needs. There’s only 83 U.S. cities with enough population to support a Foxconn-size manufacturing plant, and for the vast majority of these, only if a significant amount of the population could staff the factory. Even in New York, some estimates state that 7% of the working population would have to work in the same factory to support iPhone production. That’s seven percent! Chances are that not even 0.7% of the population would be qualified without extensive training.

Based on this, despite what some articles might suggest, current generation manufacturing can not return to the US. However, that doesn’t mean that next generation manufacturing, focused primarily on producing specialized high-end technology products for the medical and engineering professions, couldn’t be the backbone of the US economy in the decade ahead.

Consider this recent item in Industry Week on Arrrow Gear — A Case Study in How to Improve the U.S. Economy. According to the article, Arrow Gear increased its workforce by 35% in the face of the worst recession since the Great Depression by creating products used in high-end, high-priced systems that were being exported. A manufacturer of high precision gears for a wide range of commercial and aerospace applications, it accomplished this feat by investing millions of dollars into its state-of-the-art facility.

This would suggest that a focus on specialty products for the aerospace, health, and (green) energy sectors, in particular, could allow manufacturing to return, in at least a limited extent, to the U.
S. But only if the U.S. takes a lead before another country steps up to the challenge.

Any differing thoughts?