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Three Key Manufacturing Trends in a Pivotal Year

The champagne’s been corked.  The ball dropped and 2013 is behind us.  As we move into a new year, it’s a good time to take stock of last year and look on the horizon for what’s ahead.  I want to focus on what’s really important: U.S. manufacturing.

It’s shaping up to be an exciting year for American manufacturers so far. We hit some great momentum in 2013 and we anticipate an even better year in 2014. So much goes under the “umbrella of manufacturing” that it’s impossible to capture everything that’s going on at once. However, there are three dominant themes that comprise what’s trending with U.S. manufacturing:

1. Industry Growth

Economic indicators show that manufacturing is a consistent bright spot for the economy. For example, the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) is widely regarded as a broad gauge of manufacturing performance. 2013’s last reading was a remarkable 57%. Readings above 50% indicate growth. More important, this was the seventh consecutive month of growth. While the most recent reports shows a drop in the index to 51.3% the industry is still in a growth trend.

Furthermore, the latest employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that manufacturing added more than 9,000 new jobs. And, job growth was concentrated in  primary metals and petroleum and coal products.

Manufacturing production is also specifically projected to increase this year. Production is forecast to improve 3.1% in 2014 and will rise to 4.1% in 2015 according to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation.

While we may hit some small bumps in the road, this data is pointing to a dynamic 2014.

2. Increased Focus on Business Growth

As the economy expands, manufacturers will grow with it. U.S. manufacturers are looking to implement new initiatives to target new customers and increase sales. From more structured marketing plans to the development of new products, organizations are realizing the benefits of innovation.

Manufacturers are particularly looking into exporting. Since 95% of the world’s customers live outside the U.S., exporting is becoming an incredible resource for business growth. Beyond increasing sales, there are many additional benefits of exporting. For example, manufacturers are using foreign markets to test out new product ideas, new processes, and technology enhancements.

Manufacturers large and small are reinventing themselves to grow. Just take a look at the featured manufacturers in the Make it in America campaign or read MEP client success stories to see the innovative ways companies are improving.

3. Shifting Public Perception in our Favor

The public is finally starting to get that U.S. manufacturing matters. With a renewed spotlight on our industry, people are realizing the value of U.S. products. While there is still more work to be done in this area, increased news coverage and “word of mouth” discussions are helping our cause.

National Manufacturing Day is the perfect example. Manufacturing Day was created two years ago to highlight the importance of U.S. manufacturing, address common misconceptions in our industry and attract a new generation of manufacturing workers. The 2nd annual Manufacturing Day was held last October and the public noticed. More than 830 organizations across 48 states and Puerto Rico hosted open houses and events drawing 35,000 attendees. Thousands of media outlets also covered the day’s festivities. We have a feeling that Manufacturing Day 2014 will be even greater (mark your calendars for 10/3/14).

2014 will prove to be a pivotal year for U.S. manufacturing. As the manufacturing industry grows and companies embrace new innovations, manufacturing will continue to lead the drive for economic prosperity. Cheers to an exciting year for U.S. manufacturing!

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Attracting a new generation of skilled workers is critical. I strongly urge more SME to get involved, truly involved, in Manufacturing Day and other supporting activities with secondary education institutions within your local community. Attracting interest is not "someone else's" responsibility. Get involved now. It's important, it's rewarding and it's fun.
Supporting local education institutions is great, but more importantly increase your employee training budgets. Especially for technical departments like maintenance and engineering who have to keep up with an ever growing technology industry.
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