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A Closer Look at Breakthrough Factories

Industry resources, upcoming events, and more data.
September 16, 2014

Suzanne Berger, written testimony for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy, December 2013
In her testimony for a Senate subcommittee on economic policy, MIT political science professor Suzanne Berger explains how findings from the Institute’s sweeping study “Production in the Innovation Economy” show that manufacturing is the key to commercializing innovations in the United States. Berger highlights key survey results, including the finding that some of the most innovative firms in the U.S. are having trouble securing domestic funding to produce their products at scale, requiring them to seek financing abroad. More information related to the study appears in two books, Making in America, by Berger, and Production in the Innovation Economy, a compilation of related academic research.

Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, and Michael Spence, “New World Order,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2014
This trio of academics argues that “advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital” and that the distinguishing characteristic of the most successful firms and national economies is rapidly becoming innovation. While the U.S. is recognized as an incubator of new ideas and entrepreneurs, they argue, that situation is not guaranteed to continue.

Scott Andes and Mark Muro, “China: A Manufactured Chimera? Part Two,” Brookings Institution, May 2014
Breaking down earlier research on the component costs of an iPhone, the authors argue that it’s not China that’s cashing in on the manufacture of this American innovation but, rather, certain other developed nations, including Japan, South Korea, and Germany, which have become “masters of advanced manufacturing” and are making the phone components with the highest price tags.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, “3D Printing and the New Shape of Industrial Manufacturing,” June 2014
Although there is substantial buzz around 3-D printing and what it can do, this survey of more than 100 manufacturers makes it clear that while many companies use the technology in some way, the majority are still figuring out what to do with it. Some 33 percent of the firms say they think it is “very unlikely” that 3-D printing will be used for high-­volume production in the next three to five years. Even so, the authors predict that the market for 3-D printers will reach $6 billion by 2017, and they highlight some promising innovations in machines and materials that will open up more options for deploying the technology.

Accenture, 2014 Manufacturing Skills and Training Study, May 2014
Shortages of skilled labor cost manufacturers up to 11 percent of their earnings each year, according to consulting firm Accenture’s report on the manufacturing workforce. In addition to statistics on labor shortages, this study, which was based in part on a survey of more than 300 executives at U.S. manufacturing firms, highlights things firms can do to improve their staffing, such as taking advantage of apprenticeships and rethinking the skills they require of candidates. The shortage could become more acute soon. Some 82 percent of the U.S. manufacturers surveyed reported that they plan to increase production in the coming years.

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Report to the President on Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing, July 2012
This report offers insight into President Obama’s push for a national network of manufacturing hubs that focus on advanced technologies like lightweight materials and additive manufacturing. The advisory committee, cochaired by former MIT president Susan Hockfield and Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, recommends that the United States take several actions in order to be more competitive, including forming these hubs so that large and small manufacturing companies, community colleges, and universities can work together to foster innovation.

Fernando D. Sedano, “Latin American Manufacturing Outlook: Mexican Factories to Lead Growth While Brazil’s Manufacturers Falter,” July 2014
This latest edition of a biannual report published by the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation forecasts that the fastest-growing industries in Latin America will make motor vehicles, electronics, metals, and transport equipment. The project predicts better days for the Mexican manufacturing sector but suggests that Brazil may have a more difficult time expanding manufacturing, owing to problems with infrastructure.

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Made in America, Again,” January 2013
In an interview with Harry Moser, head of the Chicago-based Reshoring Initiative, Antonio Regalado explores whether it makes sense for manufacturers that have shipped jobs to China to bring work back to the U.S. The interview is part of “The Next Wave of Manufacturing,” a business report on advanced manufacturing that looked at the important role technology would play in a manufacturing environment of rising wages in China and cheap domestic energy in the U.S.

The Difference Between Makers and Manufacturers,” January 2013
In his review of Chris Anderson’s book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution and of Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance, by Harvard professors Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih, David Rotman finds some clever ideas about how to produce things coming from the “maker” movement 3-D printing has inspired but little evidence that the movement is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry.

Why Google’s Modular Smartphone Might Actually Succeed,” April 2014
In this feature, David Talbot takes a look inside Google’s Project Ara, which aims to have customized 3-D-printed parts in the hands of consumers by 2015. Noting that modular hardware has been tried unsuccessfully in the past, he asks whether the smaller and cheaper hardware of today could be enough to make Project Ara ­succeed.

Increasingly, Robots of All Sizes Are Human Workmates,” April 2014
Manufacturers are planning for a new type of employee on the factory floor: robots. Is the idea of humans and machines working harmoniously together just science fiction? Will Knight examines some of the new additions to the manufacturing workforce and talks to the companies at the forefront of the movement toward human-robot coöperation.

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U.S. Census Bureau: Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories & Orders
This survey logs the monthly shipments and new orders of select U.S. manufacturers, providing unadjusted figures as well as figures adjusted for seasonal factors. New orders increased to $558.3 billion in July.

Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation: Manufacturing Charts
This U.S. trade organization’s data allows users to find economic information tailored to a specific industry or part of the world.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Industries at a Glance, Manufacturing
The BLS offers tables on job openings, earnings by occupation and more. Information on various subcategories of manufacturing is also provided. The tables, which are updated every month, include some preliminary data.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: All Employees: Manufacturing
An interactive graph contains employment data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 1939 to today. Users can manipulate the graph to spot employment trends across the manufacturing industry and adjust the starting and ending years.

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September 16–18, 2014
3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing Summit, Pittsburgh

September 21–24, 2014
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Global, San Antonio, TX

September 22–24, 2014
12th Global Conference on Sustainable Manufacturing, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

September 23–24, 2014
Advanced Manufacturing Expo, Mississauga, Ontario

October 24–26, 2014
International Conference on Material Science and Engineering Technology, Beijing

November 11–13, 2014
Fabtech, Atlanta

November 14–20, 2014
ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Expo, Montreal

December 8–10, 2014
American Supply Chain and Logistics Summit, Dallas

February 3–5, 2015
Expo Manufactura Mexico 2015, Monterrey

February 10–12, 2015
Pacific Design & Manufacturing, Anaheim, CA

March 23–26, 2015
Promat, Chicago

April 14–17, 2015
MTA Singapore, Singapore

April 19–23, 2015
Additive Manufacturing Users Group, Jacksonville, FL

April 20–23, 2015
AeroDef Manufacturing, Dallas

April 21–23, 2015
SAE 2015 World Congress & Exhibition, Detroit

June 8–12, 2015
International Manufacturing Research Conference, Charlotte, NC

June 24–27, 2015
Thailand’s Manufacturing Expo 2015, Bangkok

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