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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Challenges Facing the Manufacturing Industry

The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), has an initiative called the“Revitalization of Manufacturing”. As part of this initiative, they are writing a whitepaper addressing three aspects of the industry: challenges facing manufacturing and North America; examples of what organizations are currently doing to ensure a better future; and how we can all prepare for and execute a sustainable industry.

In an effort to keep this initiative at the forefront and build awareness, they have created a series of whitepapers from the three sections listed above, and they will distribute one part each month (in March, April and May). The first part, Challenges Facing the Manufacturing Industry, is available.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing supports approximately 18.6 million jobs in the United States—about one in six private-sector jobs—and nearly 12 million Americans are hold manufacturing jobs. As a key driver of economic prosperity, it is essential that manufacturing jobs make their way back to North America. America faces four major challenges - globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits and its pattern of energy consumption.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturing Institute 2011 Skills Gap study states that 82 percent of manufacturers have a moderate or serious shortage of skilled production workers. Having a steady supply of highly skilled workers, scientists, researchers and engineers is seen as the top driver of the manufacturing competitiveness of nations and the standard of living of their people. 

The study states the hardest jobs to fill are those that have the biggest impact on performance. One of the reasons is the changing nature of manufacturing work is making it harder for talent to keep up. This illustrates the importance of utilizing Lean manufacturing to make our jobs easier.

Last month I wrote about the need for STEM careers in business. STEM represents the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education encourages a curriculum that is driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and student-centered development of ideas and solutions.

The manufacturing industry does face many challenges and our economic prosperity as a nation depends on us solving these challenges.  How are you addressing these challenges in your organization?  Share your thoughts on what we can do better.

Disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for the Northeastern Region of AME.

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