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A Retrospective on U.S. Manufacturing in 2014

Get the champagne ready – 2015 is right around the corner! We’re all one year older and one year smarter…well, hopefully. Before we sing Auld Lang Syne and make ambitious New Year’s Resolutions that we’ll renegotiate in February, let’s take one final look at the key trends that kept U.S. manufacturing in the news in 2014:

Technology

Technological advancements improved manufacturing in many ways in 2014. Additive manufacturing (otherwise known as 3D printing) and robotics particularly dominated the news. While both have been around for a while, breakthroughs are allowing these technologies to become more affordable and accessible for small- and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers. These advancements will help companies innovate, reduce production costs, and deliver more customization, quality, and total value in the marketplace.

Further reading:

Industry Growth

2014 was a critical year for American manufacturers. We experienced a lot of industry growth, and we are becoming increasingly optimistic. Month after month, indicators were pointing to manufacturing’s comeback and the momentum has clearly shifted in our favor. Consider the following data from the latest Federal Reserve report:

  • U.S. manufacturing output rose 1.1 percent in November
  • This was the biggest increase in nine months
  • Utilities production, which addresses the demand for heat, water, etc. increased 5.1 percent
  • Factory output has now exceeded pre-recession levels (2007)

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report for November also stated that manufacturing employment rose by over 28,000 jobs, which was the largest increase in a year! Further reading:

National Manufacturing Day 2014

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 marked the 3rd Annual National Manufacturing Day. The celebration was designed to expand the knowledge about and improve the general public’s perception of manufacturing careers and the industry’s value to the U.S. economy. This year was the most successful celebration yet! Manufacturers from around the country opened their doors to show the media, legislators, educators, parents and students and the public the important contributions manufacturing is making in our communities. Approximately 1,650 events across the nation attracted an estimated 50,000 attendees who were able to experience modern manufacturing!

Further reading:

Exporting

Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside the U.S., and manufacturers were catching on to this crucial opportunity in 2014. Exporting allows manufacturers to increase sales, introduce new product lines, diversify customer portfolios, test innovative approaches, and grow their customer base. Companies were realizing the benefits and were prioritizing exporting initiatives in 2014. U.S. International Trade Data reported that October exports of capital goods were the highest on record at $47.7 billion.

Further reading:

Employee Training & Retention

Improving worker skills and creating more diverse workplaces are ongoing challenges reflecting changing demands in the manufacturing workplace. In 2014, we attracted more attention on these important issues to address requirements from enhanced technology and new processes. While more work remains to be done, we are spreading the message about the importance of employee engagement initiatives to secure top talent and introducing new programs to enlist the next generation of workers to U.S. manufacturing. We are combatting outdated myths about our industry and are showing the public that a career in manufacturing is exciting and financially promising.

Further reading:

2014 was an exciting year for U.S. manufacturing, but we anticipate an even better 2015. On behalf of MEP, have a Happy New Year!

About the author

Phillip Singerman

Dr. Singerman serves as the Acting Director for the Program. In addition, he serves as the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology...

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