Keeping the Nation’s Competitive Edge in Manufacturing

The US manufacturing industry provides more than 12.2 million jobs ranging from welders to chemical engineers. However, the United States seems to be losing some of its competitive advantage in manufacturing advanced technologies. In recent decades, the United States has imported more high-tech products than it has exported.

Some agencies have responded to this decline, as well as the drastic change in manufacturing over the years, by helping to fund 16 advanced manufacturing institutes that are part of a network known as Manufacturing USA. And every year on the first Friday in October, Manufacturing Day showcases what modern manufacturing is all about, including technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and biopharma.

In recognition of Manufacturing Day (tomorrow), today’s WatchBlog post examines our recent work on federal efforts to promote advanced manufacturing in the United States, and how the success of the efforts is measured.

What efforts are being made to promote advanced manufacturing?

To help increase the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing, the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy provided $1.7 billion to establish Manufacturing Innovation Institutes that are now part of the Manufacturing USA Network. .

The network intends to bridge the gap between the early stages of technology research and development and the later stages of bringing technology to market. Institute members enjoy benefits such as access to shared facilities, equipment, and intellectual property that can help overcome manufacturing challenges and reduce the costs and risks associated with bringing new technologies to market. .

Members include private companies, small and medium enterprises that can benefit from collaborative partnerships, non-profit organizations, universities and local governments interested in advancing technology and workforce training in areas such as biopharmaceuticals, robotics or advanced fibers.

What courses do some institutes offer?

Manufacturing institutes in the United States have also developed courses, materials, and programs for training and recruiting the workforce. In fiscal 2020 alone, more than 70,000 workers, students and educators, ranging from high school students to veterans, participated in the institute’s training programs, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Here are some examples of these programs:

  • A California-based institute that created a program to introduce high school students to flexible hybrid electronics and advanced manufacturing through a classroom entrepreneurship project, according to the Manufacturing USA website. Students who complete all program requirements earn college credit.
  • A Pennsylvania-based institute has partnered with both a company and a university to develop an additive manufacturing boot camp for veterans. Through boot camp, veterans learn how to use design tools and metal 3D printers to enter the additive manufacturing workforce.

How does the federal government know that its efforts are paying off?

In a 2022 report, we looked at how agencies measured the impacts and progress made by the Manufacturing USA program. We found that the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy worked together to develop long-term goals and objectives for the program. However, departments had not established short-term system-wide performance goals with measurable targets and timelines that would help demonstrate program progress. Without these performance targets and measures in place, departments are missing an opportunity to better observe and report on the effectiveness of their efforts. Accordingly, we recommended that Commerce work with Defense and Energy to develop network-wide performance objectives with measurable targets and timelines, and ensure they are linked to the goals and objectives to be achieved. long term.

Learn more about our work on advanced manufacturing in our recent report.


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