The New “Golden Age” of American Manufacturing Careers

Assembly Magazine recently released its 2014 State of the Profession report, which examines the current trends in U.S. assembly-line manufacturing and the sentiments of industry leaders regarding future growth prospects. While news from this sector may have been a bit grim as recently as a few years ago, the report had nothing but good news for those looking to pursue a career in manufacturing.

In fact, 93% of those surveyed responded that they expected their company to invest either more or the same amount in their assembly operations, which represents a 9% increase over the previous year.

This reversal of opinions is due to a number of factors, but the report cites the fundamental cause as being the reduced cost of natural gas, which is, at the moment, distinct to the U.S., and decreases the cost of plastic and other materials for American manufacturers. This advantage is expected to last for the next five years, which is giving the U.S. a significant edge in the global marketplace as international costs rise. Beyond that, productivity has long been a hallmark of American manufacturing, and this essential facet is beginning to pay dividends as the nation competes.

Growth Across the Sector

According to the report, some of the central manufacturing industries in the country are beginning to see a resurgence of growth, slowly emerging from the cavern of forced cuts, downsizing, and closures that followed the economic recession in 2008. Transportation is seeing the most definitive growth, with vehicle sales recently reaching a nine-year high. This growth is being met with a renewed investment on the part of industry leaders, with 63 new or redesigned automotive models to be released in the coming year – a massive 60 percent increase over 2013.

Additionally, with economic conditions on the rise for many expanding or developing nations, the demand for industrial machinery in agriculture, tools, packaging, and material handling has seen notable growth. According to the report, industrial machines made by American companies are expected to produce $1.6 billion in revenue, which would create an annual growth rate of 6%.

Overall, the entire field of manufacturing is expected to grow by 3% in 2014, and 4% in 2015.

Pursuing Leadership

This invigorated re-investment in U.S. manufacturing isn’t without its challenges, however. Companies throughout the industry are having difficulty finding and retaining skilled workers, leaving a massive gap that needs to be filled in order for the field to keep growing. The report states that filling a skilled position takes between 1 and 3 months, which can mean a harmful loss in productivity.

Citing a recent study conducted by Accenture and The Manufacturing Institute, the report claims that American manufacturing companies may be losing up to 11% of their annual earnings addressing the problems created by a shortage of skilled workers.

Manufacturers are looking to mitigate this loss with continued employee training and strong leadership, which presents a unique opportunity for those looking to lead or oversee manufacturing projects. Assembly lines, plants, and other production facilities will be looking to expert leaders to help coordinate resources, manage necessary tasks, and help develop employee skills through hands-on training.

While the report’s projections for the field are overwhelmingly positive, without leaders in manufacturing that can apply their practical skills to build a better workforce while shaping and streamlining company processes, the growth could potentially stagnate. These leaders are expected to become an essential part of the industry’s expansion moving into the next several years.

If you’re interested in pursuing advanced careers in manufacturing, management, or engineering, learn more about Lawrence Technical University’s online engineering degree programs, including the online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering, Construction Engineering Management, Civil Engineering and the online Master of Engineering Management.