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Posted by Tasha Weiss on November 26, 2013 at 5:15 PM.
Last week’s FABTECH conference and expo set records for the highest number of attendees, exhibitors and floor space in the show’s history. Show organizers reported that 40,667 people attended and 1,573 exhibitors displayed their products and technologies across 650,000 sq. ft of floor space at Chicago’s McCormick Place; all signs that U.S. manufacturing may have a bright future.
Featured panelists at the conference’s State of the Industry - Executive Outlook Roundtable session agreed that the U.S. is in a “manufacturing renaissance.”
Jeff Oravitz, president and CEO at MetoKote Corporation in Lima, Ohio, said the U.S. manufacturing sector renaissance is being driven by a surge in low-cost energy production. He explained that many American companies that survived the 2009 downturn ratcheted up productivity and made themselves more competitive, and he believes that growth is sustainable as long as the U.S. addresses the skilled labor shortage and the country’s infrastructure needs.
Bill Adler, president of Stripmatic Products in Cleveland and chairman of the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), believes there is certainly a manufacturing renaissance in many areas, thanks in part to the creation of new technologies. However, he is more cautious. Using a baseball analogy, he said that since the 2009 recession, manufacturing has “hit a single and is at first base.” But we need to be careful “not to get picked off trying to go to second.” Manufacturing must still figure out how to be globally competitive.
The session moderator, Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, commented that the manufacturing renaissance is helped by companies moving production back to the U.S., not because of patriotism but rather because costs are competitive. Oravitz agreed, saying that it bodes well for U.S. manufacturing that supply chains are getting shorter and there is a growing emphasis on quality.
The panel agreed that one factor that can slow the manufacturing renaissance is the shortage of skilled labor in the U.S., which was also the main topic of discussion at the conference’s Solutions for a Qualified Workforce Pipeline panel session. A common theme in both sessions was that the sector must do a better job promoting manufacturing as a career and work with educators and parents to expose the younger generation to today’s modern technologies, innovations and current opportunities available in the industry.
“Manufacturing is an exciting field that offers good jobs with good wages and benefits making cutting edge products using new technologies,” said Oravitz.
The economic session ended with Beaulieu asking the audience for a show of hands of those who are optimistic about the future of manufacturing; more than half raised their hands.
Next year’s FABTECH will take place November 11-13 in Atlanta as well as internationally: FABTECH Canada will take place March 18-20 at the Toronto Congress Centre. On April 10-12, the inaugural FABTECH India, co-located with the India Institute of Welding’s Weld India Exhibition, will take place in New Delhi. And FABTECH Mexico will be held on May 6-8 at the Centro Banamex in Mexico City.
For more information on FABTECH, visit www.fabtechexpo.com.