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.

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