“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.”
The U.S. manufacturing sector has grown increasingly competitive since the late 1970’s. Productivity, output and investment in equipment have soared since that time and correspondingly global competition and automation have reduced full-time jobs in this critical sector. For all these reasons, today we stand at another crossroads in U.S. manufacturing.
We have tweaked out our supply chains and our plant floors so much that it is hard to gain additional gains by traditional means. Manufacturers are on the front lines of the country’s changing demographics, workforce and education shortfalls. The quantity of prepared workers has dwindled as more and more people have gravitated towards the service economy and educational degrees oriented towards those skills. While the trend may remain, there is an increasing convergence of skills that may benefit our manufacturing community in the years to come.
Kai Fu Lee, author of AI SuperPowers, wrote in this Time magazine article recently that there will be four types of jobs that will be more protected than others:
1. Creative jobs in science and art;
2. Complex leaderships positions;
3. Empathetic jobs in healthcare and education; and
4. The jobs that will be created by the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
It is this last category that I believe will be driven by science, mathematics and engineering and enabled by deep analytics that will help the U.S. manufacturing sector compete against China and other growing economies. This Boston Consulting Group paper on Advancing Robotics to Boost US Manufacturing Competitiveness takes the concept further as does their corresponding article on an adaptive workforce. Both are great reads for confronting these challenges in economic development, policy and education.
I hope this is a short reminder of the importance of a competitive manufacturing sector, a recognition of industry leadership in the U.S. and North America that has continually met the challenges posed to it, and that there are emerging paths that will help it continue. And to continue to lead, it will require that we adapt, overcome obstacles and remain steadfast over the long-term.
Let’s have a great week.