Manufacturing's comeback

Mike Bacidore says, technology aside, industry can lean on strategic thinking.

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

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Real gross domestic product (GDP), which is the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States, increased at an annual rate of 1.3% in the second quarter of 2012, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (www.bea.gov). This is the 12th quarterly increase in a row for real GDP and comes on the heels of a first-quarter increase of 2.0%.

On the international trade front, real exports of goods and services increased 5.3% in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 4.4% in the first. And real imports of goods and services increased 2.8%, compared with an increase of 3.1%. The goods-and-services deficit decreased $3.6 billion from July 2011 to July 2012. Exports were up $4.9 billion (2.8%), and imports were up $1.4 billion (0.6%).

This is good news for U.S. manufacturers, right?

They seem to think so. The International Manufacturing Technology Show, held this past September in Chicago, welcomed more than 100,000 registered attendees with four full halls of advice and tools. It was indeed a week of optimism, new technology and well-worn shoes. U.S. industry appears to be revving up the engine.

And why not? While emerging economies continue to inch up the manufacturing food chain, some of them still learning the benefits of lean principles, continuous improvement, and other techniques that have been pillars of established industrial countries for decades, the art of production in world-class enterprises is now painted with strategic brush strokes that are more deliberate and calculated than ever.

And, based on the numbers, the economic picture is starting to look brighter.

Mike Bacidore has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or mbacidore@putman.net or check out his .

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That’s why I was so excited when I was invited to chair the 3rd Annual American Manufacturing Strategies Summit (www.manufacturing-summit.com) in Chicago this month.

Presentations, case studies, interactive discussion groups, and workshops with some of the brightest minds in manufacturing from companies such as Caterpillar, Sunny Delight Beverages, Raytheon, Bison Gear, Lockheed Martin, Coca Cola, Dell, Gartner, Eaton, Ford, ABInBev, Kaiser Aluminum, National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, SAP, Harvard Business School, University of Wisconsin, and MillerCoors, will fill the week, but the networking opportunities are the meat and potatoes of this strategic buffet.

The implementation of new technologies has given manufacturing a boost — call it a jump start, or call it a kick in the pants, but you can’t dispute the numbers. The U.S. manufacturing technology orders (USMTO) report shows a 5.4% increase over the previous year, according to AMT — The Association for Manufacturing Technology (www.amtonline.org).

But the technology isn’t enough. What manufacturing needs is for someone to have its back, to be the steak behind the sizzle and ensure that the flickers of growth don’t die out. Strategic manufacturing is what will fan the flames.

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