One important effect of the current debate has been to further build public support for manufacturing. A growing body of intellectual capital—including research conducted by organizations like the Brookings Institution, the Business Roundtable, the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, and the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as articles and books by an array of thought leaders—is helping bring about a change in the American psyche.
Nevertheless, manufacturing still has a branding problem. Lacking knowledge of what the future of advanced manufacturing looks like, too many students, parents, educators, and policymakers reflexively associate manufacturing with archaic factory settings and low pay. This suggests a need for further education about the opportunities for high-paying, high-tech jobs in the manufacturing facilities of today and tomorrow.
The coming era of advanced, virtual-to-real manufacturing will reorder the global business landscape for decades. The key success factors for companies, nations, and regions will be innovation, software, and education. Manufacturers should be examining their operations, looking for opportunities where software and advanced technology can lead to step-change improvements. Manufacturers that capitalize on these changes across their entire development and production process will set the tone that others will be forced to follow to remain competitive. The U.S., given its historical strength in innovation, its strong position as the world leader in software development, and its robust education infrastructure, is well positioned to lead in this cycle. To seize the opportunity, the business and policy communities will need to work together to build on these strengths. If they do, the conditions will be in place for a new approach to manufacturing, ensuring that the investment and expansion we have seen over the last several years can continue and grow, and eventually lead to an age of enlightenment in which advanced manufacturing becomes a central pillar in building a U.S. economy—and a stronger middle class—for the 21st century.
Reprint No. 00240
- Helmuth Ludwig is chief executive officer of Siemens Industry USA. He is also an adjunct professor at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University and a member of the board of the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation.
- Eric Spiegel is president and chief executive officer of Siemens Corporation. He was formerly a senior partner at Booz & Company, and is the coauthor (with Neil McArthur) of Energy Shift: Game-Changing Options for Fueling the Future (McGraw-Hill, 2009). He is vice chair of the Education and Workforce Committee at the Business Roundtable and a member of the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.