Five steps to bring back American manufacturing jobs

Many proclaim that American manufacturing is gone, never to return. The numbers certainly are frightening. In just the last 10 years, America has lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs. The unemployment rate in manufacturing continues at double digits today.

Yet other signs point to a possible resurgence. Manufacturing jobs are now trickling back to the United States and reports daily tout these smallest improvements. Politicians on both sides of the aisle want that trend to accelerate. Manufacturing is becoming central to the presidential election debate.

Manufacturing executive Carol Ptak argues that significant numbers of good manufacturing jobs can and will return if America takes the following five steps.

1. Define American manufacturing’s 'FUBO'

Aaron Josefczyk/REUTERS
Astro Manufacturing & Design employee Chris Few works on a wiring harness in Eastlake, Ohio, Feb 15. US factories are hiring again, and President Obama and some of his Republican rivals are pitching tax breaks to fuel a rebound in American manufacturing and help rebuild a battered middle class. Op-ed contributor Carol Ptak argues manufacturing jobs can return to the US if the industry follows five key steps.

The world has changed. America’s manufacturing base must make serious, fundamental changes to survive. To continue to polish the same old rules, policies, and methods will get American manufacturing nowhere.

China’s success in manufacturing is not just about low wages but rather its sheer size. Apple sourced its latest production to China not just because of labor rates but also the number of engineers that could be hired in less than a week. The same kind of ramp-up would have taken a year in the US – if it could have happened at all.

The key question American manufacturers must ask is this: What is First, Unique, Best, or Only (FUBO) about American manufacturing? What can it offer that China or other places can’t?

Trends show that high-skill, high-tech production could regain a foothold here in the US. Growing demand for alternative energy and alternative vehicles promises other opportunities for American manufacturers.

American companies have the advantage of being closest to the world’s largest consuming nation – the US. As transportation costs continue to rise, the ability to sense and adapt to that market’s demands becomes increasingly important for competitiveness.

1 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.