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Special Report: Advanced Technologies Driving U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance



Published March 11, 2014
The U.S. manufacturing sector is in the midst of a technology renaissance that has the potential to bring manufacturing work back to North America for years, according to Manufacturing Engineering’s annual trends report released with its March magazine issue. The boom can be sustained if the nation continues to invest in developing advanced manufacturing technologies and a highly skilled workforce.

Manufacturing Engineering is a leading source for news and in-depth technical information about advanced manufacturing in North America, serving an audience of more than 100,000 manufacturing professionals who subscribe to its monthly magazine, iTunes App, e-newsletters and other publications.

In “2014: Manufacturing’s New Momentum,” available at sme.org/2014mfgtrends, Manufacturing Engineering writes about four key trends that are driving a fundamental change in the U.S. manufacturing landscape:

Innovation in advanced manufacturing technology: An array of new, software-enabled manufacturing machines and tools are improving productivity and leveling the playing field when it comes to competing for work globally.
A revolution in energy production: The growth of unconventional extraction of oil and natural gas has led to a boom in demand for manufacturing parts to extract, store and transport energy. It has also lowered industrial energy costs ¾ a fundamental operating cost for manufacturers.
Growth in post-recession demand: Organic growth in post-recession demand for key durable goods ¾ such as light vehicles and commercial airplanes, many of which are being redesigned for improved fuel economy and are made domestically ¾ is driving retooling of machine shops nationwide for new materials, processes and other new technologies.
Investments in clean energy technology: The nation’s investments in wind and solar technologies, as well as regulations for more fuel-efficient vehicles, are spurring manufacturing growth and investments in new ways of making things.
“The business case for manufacturing goods overseas has been turned on its head in recent years,” said Sarah A. Webster, editor in chief of Manufacturing Engineering. “Thanks primarily to lower energy costs and innovative new manufacturing technologies, the U.S. manufacturing sector should grow for the foreseeable future, provided the United States can meet the challenge of developing the skilled workforce needed to manage the advanced manufacturing factories of the future.”

According to the latest job figures, the U.S. economy has added 622,000 manufacturing jobs since early 2010, including more than 80,000 over the past four months. There has been some debate about the scope of the skilled workforce shortage, with some estimates that as much as 5 percent of the nation’s 12 million manufacturing jobs remain unfilled. Manufacturing Engineering finds that manufacturers continue to report widespread difficulty in finding qualified workers, a problem that is amplified as manufacturing equipment and tools continue to grow in complexity.


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