4 Tech Trends That Could Bring Back U.S. Manufacturing

Low-cost robotic workforces, 3D printing, and increased drilling and materials engineering will all impact manufacturing in America, finds a new study by MIT.

More than 20 years ago, MIT conducted a landmark study that revealed how the declining state of industrial productivity is the biggest challenge to building globally competitive businesses in the United States.

But we now live in an entirely different world. This month, the university is concluding a major two-year research effort that follows on the 1989 “Made In America” report, and the findings focus on a very different problem American business is facing: the “gaping holes” and “missing pieces” in the industrial ecosystem that make it difficult to bring new ideas to the marketplace.

The results of the “Production in The Innovation Economy” Commission’s work are told in a new book, Making in America.

For the study, overseen by the commission, MIT engineers, social scientists, and management experts interviewed and visited more than 250 firms in the U.S., China, and Germany in order to compare trends in leading manufacturing nations.

“What we tried to do is sort of stand back and say what’s changed,” says Elisabeth Reynolds, executive director of MIT’s Industrial Performance Center. “We know we’re strong in innovation in this country—and the question is how important is production to that strength. What we found is that it’s critical.”

That critical link is more than a bit worrisome. The interviews told the story of manufacturing operations sent abroad—both by big firms, and more importantly, by startups that are just beginning to scale up new ideas.

It’s one reason that a growing number of academics, businesses, and policymakers (including the White House) are focusing on incubating the technologies they feel will be critical to keeping manufacturing in the United States. It’s not just about pure year-to-year job mathematics, but about keeping the next generation of global businesses in the U.S.

Read the full article from Fast Company.

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