Manufacturing is enjoying a resurgence in the U.S. of sorts as companies from around the world invest in U.S. manufacturing. It appears, however, that shift may be due to technological innovations, rather than policies or an availability of labor. Nonetheless, speakers at a recent conference believe the U.S. is well-positioned to be a leader in advanced manufacturing for years to come.
“The reason, candidly, is less about manufacturing people and more about the technology,” Mike Marusic, COO of Sharp Electronics, said at an event hosted by Bloomberg, a U.S. News & World Report article reports. Marusic explained that Sharp is one of several companies which have chosen to increase investment in the U.S. in recent years, rather than seeking out “traditional manufacturing places” like China and Thailand.
Other companies include medical device manufacturer Insulet, which broke ground last month on a new central Massachusetts facility. That facility is expected to create hundreds of local jobs, and will provide additional manufacturing capabilities closer to Insulet’s large and growing U.S. customer base. The new U.S. manufacturing operation is also expected to drive operating efficiencies and increase productivity, according to the company.
Then there’s Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn. Despite its proximity to what have historically been considered countries with cheap labor, the company has plans to build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin and develop a base of operations in the U.S. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel now reports major issues between Foxconn and the state of Wisconsin have already been settled.
At the heart of this manufacturing resurgence, Marusic said, is the wave of technological advancements and the rise of the Internet of Things within the U.S., driving development of products including household items such as coffeemakers or refrigerators carrying Internet connectivity and data-tracking capabilities. Furthermore, as 5G mobile and wireless networks become the norm domestically and local researchers make more progress toward developing artificial intelligence capabilities which could revolutionize both industrial processes and consumer interactions, America’s “vibrant tech and startup scene puts it in a great position to attract manufacturing companies of the future,” Marsuic said.
“That will change, kind of, how information is moved around,” Marsuic said at the conference, the U.S. News & World Report article reports. “We’re seeing it more come this way into the U.S. than to traditional manufacturing places.”
The flip side of the coin is that manufacturing reshoring, and even international companies expanding operations into the U.S., hasn’t necessarily equated to the return of manufacturing jobs—and it isn’t expected to create nearly the same number of jobs that would have been created in the past. That’s because newer “smarter” factories and more advanced industrial processes require fewer workers than would have been needed in the past, which has the potential to reshape entire industries along with the expected capabilities of manufacturing operations.
“I think that will certainly be a trend that opens up a new series of questions which companies must deal with,” Shelly Swanback, group operating officer at Accenture Digital, said at the conference, U.S. News & World Report notes. “It totally changes the game in terms of where you want to [manufacture] and the workforce you need to have.”
What are your thoughts on reshoring and near-shoring? Secondly, do you too see a declining number of jobs due to increased automation and advanced manufacturing?