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To Bring Back U.S. Manufacturing, We Need To Invest In Advanced Technologies

To Bring Back U.S. Manufacturing, We Need To Invest In Advanced Technologies

To Bring Back U.S. Manufacturing, We Need To Invest In Advanced Technologies

Founder and CEO of Velo3D , a manufacturing technology company with an end-to-end solution for 3-D printing mission-critical metal parts. getty Reshoring U.S. manufacturing has been a prime directive of every president since manufacturing capacity began to slip in the late 1960s. As a society, having a thriving manufacturing sector means a host of collateral downstream benefits. Even if manufacturing as it exists in 2023 doesn’t equate to thousands of factory floor jobs as it did in the 1950s, the tangential jobs that come from manufacturing can revitalize local economies in truly profound ways. As we look at the current state of global manufacturing, however, it becomes readily apparent that reshoring U.S. manufacturing capacity is immensely challenging. How can we help explain this? Part of it has to do with a misalignment of expectations of what manufacturing means. Another part is dealing with a national and international economic system that’s disincentivized manufacturing in the U.S. It’s still important to recognize that reshoring U.S. manufacturing needs to be a north star for our economy. By investing in and incentivizing innovative forms of advanced manufacturing—particularly in high-value arenas like semiconductor fabs—the U.S. can begin building back its capacity in ways that can transform the country and better position the economy for growth. What Kind Of Manufacturing Are We Talking About? The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the unique fallibility of modern manufacturing. With a large number of industries taking a just-in-time (paywall) approach to manufacturing whereby component parts are delivered to manufacturers as needed—a process that allows manufacturers to cut costs and better control inventory—it quickly became clear that much of global manufacturing relies on an extremely fragile supply chain. As supply chain disruptions prevented those components from arriving on time, production capacity was unable to keep pace. The Inside Story Of Papa John’s Toxic Culture Twitter Owes Amazon At Least $70 Million – Amazon Delays HQ2 Second Phase Construction Building A Statewide Charging Network: Q&A With Officials From The Volunteer State (Part 1) In the U.S., the pandemic was a wake-up call. Why weren’t we able to produce N95 masks, ventilators or pain medication? The truth is that just-in-time production relies on specialization in manufacturing . This specialization means that it’s more cost-effective for manufacturers to rely on individual component suppliers who can build parts at scale rather than fabricating every component in-house. For example, if you’re making beer, it’s unlikely that you’re also making glass bottles or metal bottle caps at your brewery—you outsource that fabrication to specialists. Now, extrapolate that process over the thousands of parts that go into a computer or a car. Because this process of specialization has been in the works for decades, countries like China and South Korea already have a leg up on many of these component manufacturing processes. It’s difficult to imagine a future in which molded plastic iPhone cases are manufactured in the U.S. The infrastructure already exists overseas, with production capacity already scaled so that margins are razor-thin. The capital investment needed to compete on those lines is insurmountable in the U.S. As we look to the future, investing in advanced manufacturing with a focus on innovative and globally competitive products like semiconductors can help build back some of the critical capacity we’ve lost. How Advanced Manufacturing Can Drive U.S. Production Into The Future The traditional modes of production that we think about when we consider the manufacturing capacity lost in the U.S. may never return. The specialization and strides made abroad in those sectors have rendered the investment in them domestically superfluous and fiscally unviable. Also, many of these production activities involve a low rate of innovation in a mature industry operating on slim margins, such that it makes it unattractive to a wealthy economy like the U.S. to try to win its way back into them. Still, there’s a tremendous amount of innovation in manufacturing. In the U.S., we can own the future by investing in the next generation of production technologies that can enable us to produce more advanced, higher-value assets down the road. “Scientists and engineers are now telling us that there may be breakthroughs—new paradigms—available in a series of fields that could significantly change the way we produce complex, high-value technologies and goods, enabling dramatic production efficiencies,” writes William B. Bonvillian , lecturer at MIT and advisor to MIT’s Industrial Performance Center. “Advanced materials, digital production, photonics, lightweight composites, 3-D printing, assistive robotics, revolutionary fibers, nano and biofabrication all offer breakthrough production paradigms.” Investing in these advanced […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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