Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 6.32.15 PM

Nobody asked me, but . . .

Please answer True or False to the following statements about manufacturing:

  1. During the past 20 years, significant productivity improvements have been made in manufacturing. For example, for “big tech” like car assembly you could assemble a car in China at zero labor cost and the transportation cost to ship the car to America would be greater than the labor savings.
  2. The economic multiplier for a job in the auto industry with an original equipment manufacturer such as Ford or Toyota is 10. This means for every auto job, 9 other jobs are created. For suppliers such as Bosch or Magna the multiplier is 6-7. For service industries such as Wall Street or health insurance, the multiplier is only 1-2.
  3. Highly educated workers are the key to our manufacturing future. Today America doesn’t have the skilled work force necessary to go into today’s highly sophisticated manufacturing jobs because leaders at every level of education and politics treat manufacturing as old school.
  4. Suppliers are a driving force in the auto industry, transforming mobility through innovation and technology while leading greater environmental improvements through sustainability, focused on vehicle safety and a strong contributor to the global economy.
  5. Today, more than 50% of the R & D activity is in suppliers. About 40 years ago it was less than 10%.
  6. The auto industry is a high-tech, safety-focused industry building the future of mobility and representing the largest sector of manufacturing jobs.
  7. Suppliers provide over two-thirds of the value of a new vehicle.
  8. More than 871,000 jobs are directly supported by the motor vehicle supply industry.
  9. Manufacturing has literally reshaped the geopolitical landscape and provided new opportunities for millions of people in every corner of the globe.
  10. Manufacturing invented the “middle class.”
  11. the average American takes manufactured products for granted.
  12. Today manufacturing is facing a crisis that has deep ramifications for America’s future economic stability and national security. As we have grown more and more sophisticated in our manufacturing techniques, all too often our educational system and public perceptions have failed to progress at the same rate.
  13. Manufacturing development has far outpaced the development of a skilled workforce able to adapt to the new technological realities of modern manufacturing endeavors.
  14. There are between 60,000 and 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States that remain unfilled because the skilled workers to do those jobs cannot be found. These jobs are either being shipped overseas, or they constitute missed opportunities amongst American corporations.
  15. That number is projected to grow to more than 2 hundred thousand in the next several years.
  16. Cultural biases against skilled trades and misconceptions about the true nature of modern manufacturing has discouraged next generation workers from pursuing manufacturing careers.
  17. Manufacturing industries are ‘old economy’ and that it is a reflection of failure, not success, if a country has a manufacturing sector that is either stable or growing.
  18. The clean, streamlined, IT-driven manufacturing facilities operating in the United States today use advanced technologies and employ moderate and high skilled workers to turn out advanced products, from jet aircraft, computers, advanced instruments and vehicles to sophisticated chemical and biological compounds.

If you answered False to every question, you are among the majority of Americans who have totally outdated views on manufacturing.

Reality? The answer to every question except 14 and 15 is True. The numbers shown in 14 and 15 are 10% of actual.

  1. There are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States that remain unfilled because the skilled workers to do those jobs cannot be found. These jobs are either being shipped overseas, or they constitute missed opportunities amongst American corporations.
  2. That number is projected to grow to more than 2 million in the next several years.

America is at a crossroads . . . a manufacturing crossroads.

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 6.34.20 PM

Up until the 1970s America was the world’s manufacturing leader. But in the following decades, developing nations such as Russia, China, Korea, Brazil, Taiwan, and Viet Nam became attractive low-cost alternatives and much of American manufacturing moved overseas, and we became an importer of manufactured goods instead of a producer.

But the loss of our core manufacturing capabilities has resulted in significant economic harm to the American economy, particularly among middle-class workers.

The Future

However, during the past decade, manufacturing has dramatically evolved because of key American strengths: technical ingenuity and innovation, particularly in the areas of additive, 3D printing, which is transforming manufacturing and product development cycles.

Manufacturing is no longer the blacksmith industries that are usually depicted in videos. Today, most manufacturing takes place under clean room conditions using sophisticated technologies and processes that the average worker and most politicians have never heard of or seen. This disconnect between reality and the imagined is why manufacturing is considered a dirty word. Ask today’s typical college student if he would work in manufacturing, and he’d probably respond, “My dad spent his life working in a dark, dirty factory doing boring, repetitive work so that I could get a college education and get a better, high-paying job.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 6.33.34 PM

Building America’s Tomorrow

 Dr. David E. Cole is a well-known and respected authority on automotive industry trends. Chairman Emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), formerly the founder and head of The Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation (OSAT) at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Dr. Cole has also successfully collaborated in the start-up of five Ann Arbor-based companies. His technical and policy consulting experience includes diverse assignments for industry, labor, national and international government.

Dave also shares responsibility and blame for aiming me on a career path of a life-long infatuation with the auto industry: He was my two-semester instructor in IC engines when I was an undergrad mechanical engineering student at the University of Michigan. More than anything, he is a friend and mentor. And we share a couple of other passions outside the auto biz: UM sports and fishing. He also appreciates my puns, which proves that nobody is perfect . . .

Dr. Cole is also a founder and serves as Chairman of the Board for AutoHarvest Foundation, a 501(C)3 nonprofit, that operates a unique web-based innovation ecosystem led by highly respected figures in the automotive and manufacturing industries. In 2012, was launched as the world’s only truly neutral and global on-line meeting place for innovators of all types with an interest in advanced manufacturing intellectual property. This meeting place allows users of all types to showcase capabilities, technologies and needs system-wide and then privately connect with fellow inventors and commercializers to explore technology and business development opportunities of mutual interest. Autoharvest’s meeting place enables interactions between decision-making innovators of all types, from major corporations to grass roots inventors.

The AutoHarvest interest group consists of over 250 prominent R&D and manufacturing organizations from industry, government and academia. Its Innovation Advisory Council is represented by R&D leaders from industry, academia and government representing the manufacturing innovation chain. AutoHarvest has announced partnering agreements with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense. Supported by corporate members, the C.S. Mott Foundation and most recently awarded a multi-year grant by the New Economy Initiative Foundation of Southeast Michigan, AutoHarvest is part of the Detroit Regional Innovation Network. AutoHarvest has a presence within the innovation hubs of the region including Wayne State University’s Research and Development Park, TechTown, and the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex.

Dave also serves as Chairman of the Board of Building America’s Tomorrow an organization designed to help rekindle America’s manufacturing work force in the 21st Century. I believe you’ll find the following video both informative and educational.

Where do we go from here?

I’m very interested in your thoughts on the future of American manufacturing. I believe a strong, revitalized manufacturing sector is the rebirth of America’s middle class. It will drive the American economy to new levels of innovation and productivity.

It should be a critical concern for every educator and every politician at every level of government in this country. Help us reach them today. Tomorrow will be too late.



Comments are closed.