A sobering view of the future of manufacturing in America

It isn’t often that Thomas “the mustache of understanding” Friedman contributes much to increase my understanding of globalization or manufacturing in this country, but last week was an exception.  Mind you, it wasn’t anything he wrote, rather it as an article he provided a link to it in his latest drivel that appeared in the New York Times.  The article was in the Atlantic and was titled “Making it in America.”  The article examined one firm, Standard Motor Parts, that makes after market parts for cars.  I won’t run through the article in detail, but I would really encourage you to take the time to read it because it very clearly discusses some of the challenges we face in increasing manufacturing employment in this country.  The two big challenges are the continuing trend of machinery and computers to replace workers in the manufacturing process and the decline in employment opportunities for people who lack specific skills and training.

The manufacturing sector in this country still employs 11 million people.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing sector “comprises establishments engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials, substances, or components into new products.”  Manufactured goods are classified using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).  Manufactured goods can be in one of 21 NAICS subsectors.  In my blog I have been focussing on non-food consumer goods, primarily apparel (NAICS 315), cars (NAICS 336), computer and electronics (NAICS 334), appliances (NAICS 335), and furniture (NAICS 337).  It is unclear to me whether the admonitions contained in the Atlantic article would apply across the board to all these manufacturing enterprises, but I will be looking into it and will be getting back to you on that question.

Friedman’s latest piece, Average is over, is more of the same from the world’s leading cheer leader for the joys of globalization.  Rather than have a go myself, I would direct you to a post by Jason Linkens of the Huffington post on Friedman’s latest effort.  It is very funny.

About Simply American LLC

I live in Seattle and love telling stories about Americans, the places where they work and the things that they make. I have just published a book, Simply American, encouraging Americans to purchase American made products; the book can be ordered at www.simply-american.com.
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3 Responses to A sobering view of the future of manufacturing in America

  1. Thomas Freidman is somewhat a pessimist when it comes to US manufacturing (as in his book “That Used to Be US – How America Fell behind in the World it invented and How we Can Come Back). I agree that automation has decreased the amount of American jobs. Of the jobs lost since 1980, probably 1/3 is due to automation. There is automation in manufacturing but there is loss of jobs due to automation in service as well which we have helped to fuel – we now pump our own gas, we withdraw our own cash, we check out our own purchases at places like Home Depot, and all the chain stores are all linked by computer, piling up statistics in order to pare down the number of salespeople without making the shoppers feel like there is inadequate help. Yes, automation has caused part of it. But the main problem is outsourcing and letting countries like China engage in unfair trade practices. There needs to be a ground swell movement against buying items from slave shops from across the sea and to stand up against unfair trade practices. It starts with one individual at a time to make the politicians do what is right for the country. -Jack A.

  2. Joel Salano says:

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your site and in depth details you offer. It is good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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