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We're Not Dead Yet: How the Manufacturing Industry is Growing in Alternative Ways

About the Author

John W. Kennedy, Ph.D.

Chief Operating Officer
New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc.

  • 30+ years of frontline engineering and manufacturing experience in the material handling and power generation industries, including with Sandvik Process Systems, Barnett Industries and Coleman Equipment Company
  • Former Corporate Senior Vice President and President, US Market, Cofely Services - GDF Suez Energy Services, a $200 million provider of high-end operation, maintenance and manufacturing equipment, and the integration of sorting and security equipment, for major airports around the globe
  • Former President/Owner, The Multitech Group, an engineering design and services firm with foci in Power Generation, Air Pollution Control, Material Handling and Facility Security

We're Not Dead Yet: How the Manufacturing Industry is Growing in Alternative Ways

by John W. Kennedy, Ph.D.
New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc.

More than 30 years ago, I started hearing a mantra that has maintained itself for decades: "Manufacturing is dead in the USA." The problem is that this statement is "just plain" wrong, yet many - including school counselors and parents - have heeded its dire message.

Luckily for all of us, the manufacturing sector didn't listen to them. Yes, the industry has changed, but for the better, including the emergence of smaller, more flexible, more responsive firms. These companies employ teams of extremely capable and adaptable people who make positive use of all assets available to them, such as higher technologies and innovational techniques that reduce the time and cost to market, thus making us more globally competitive.

Simply put, the manufacturing industry is not dead but is, rather, growing in alternative ways. There are fewer large firms, but that has not decreased our impact. The United Nations (and most other major surveys) still lists the USA among the top manufacturers in the world -- ahead of Japan, Germany, Canada, Korea and many others. This isn't to say that we don't need to expand our efforts in this area, but it certainly dispels the "death myth."

How does all of this equate to the needs of the workforce? We need more workers in manufacturing at all levels. This includes senior management, finance, sales, marketing, purchasing, shipping/transportation and engineering, as well as highly trained line workers. College, technical school and OJT programs take note: Step up - we need you!

When you compare income levels, you will find that manufacturing is a very solid and competitive performer. In New Jersey alone, the average annual compensation is around $90,000 per annum. Plus, for every manufacturing job, another "three-plus" positions are created in support of the industry. These are all positives for us.

Our manufacturers have done their job. Now it's time for change from the rest of us...

New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc.
New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc. (NJMEP) is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) MEP network. NJMEP works with New Jersey's small to mid-size manufacturers to help them become more efficient, profitable and globally competitive through cost-saving strategies and growth initiatives such as Lean Manufacturing and Business Growth Strategies based on 5S, Kanban, Kaizen and Six Sigma. Located throughout the state, NJMEP field agents partner with clients to assess needs and jointly develop and implement a course of action. For additional information, contact NJMEP President/CEO Robert Loderstedt at 973-219-3833 or bloderstedt@njmep.org

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