To Sustain The U.S. Manufacturing Revival, Legislators Must Focus On Tech

By Jennifer Dawson

The United States has experienced decades of manufacturing decline, but, according to analysts writing for CNN, this trend is finally reversing. According to their report, record amounts are being invested in the wider supply chain that supports high-tech manufacturing – and that the industry is enjoying a huge revival resulting from that. Despite this, the wider U.S. manufacturing outlook and industry is more shallow than surface figures indicate. To maintain the revival, and reposition U.S. manufacturing as a major player both internationally and in local markets, investment must be produced in a handful of key sectors.

Challenging the semiconductor market

One essential component of much of the high-tech manufacturing the United States engages in is the semiconductor. Manufacturing and tech industry followers will be well aware of the challenges surrounding semiconductor production; currently, according to CNBC, 60% of all chips are created in Taiwan foundries. The United States, while a key ally of Taiwan, has sought to build some independence from this system, given that it stands at the cornerstone of independent manufacturing policy.

Semiconductor manufacturing is no mean feat. It is perhaps the pinnacle of integrated modern industry, combining the use of high-tech infrastructure such as robotic lines and highly sophisticated belt conveyors with classic foundry-style production and the use of chemical engineering. The importance of producing new supplies of semiconductors has been clearly identified by Samsung’s $17 billion factory scheme in Texas, just outside of Austin, which will see huge amounts of new chips produced in-country. As The Guardian notes, having in-country development and production of semiconductors will allow for an internal just-in-time market that will kickstart manufacturing across the continuous states – if the correct supply chain management processes are in place.

Expanding supply chains

One of the big stories coming out of the pandemic were the many supply chain failures witnessed across U.S. ports. This has brought to light the need for domestic supply chain resilience, which the The Biden-⁠Harris Plan to Revitalize American Manufacturing and Secure Critical Supply Chains in 2022 has sought to develop. There are significant challenges to implementing these plans, according to the Harvard Business Review, but the technology used on the actual production lines will be influential in creating real change.

One important factor in this is stockpiling. As the Harvard Business Review outlines, resilience is an expensive matter in the world of manufacturing. It requires stockpiling of materials, and crucially, the ability of factories to have large reserves of their own in addition to federally held supplies. The only way to properly manage and deploy these reserves is through high-tech information and supply management systems, and this accounts, too, for ensuring supplies reach the right areas of the production line at the right times. To achieve this, and to meet other goals, automation is the future.

Bringing in the robots

Of course, automation is no new concept to the biggest manufacturers in the United States – and especially carmakers. Robotic engineering, inspired by Japan, has been used for decades, producing fantastic results within the factory floor. Taking this concept and running with it will help to power the next generation of manufactories.

An analysis conducted by Wharton highlights exactly where automation technology must move next in order to properly support the manufacturing industry. One key finding concerns legislators; they must be ready to aggressively develop and adopt automated technology tools, therefore ensuring businesses can land in the right regulatory framework when setting up new operations and shop floors. This can also provide the United States with a significant lead over competitors the world over; only Japan has a track record of beating the United States on automation. The vastly greater potential capacity of America means a concerted effort to bring automation will place the United States firmly at the head of modern-world manufacturing, and save the industry.

Technology defines every modern business space, and it’s no different for manufacturing. Unfortunately, in the United States, manufacturing has been allowed to rust while other countries enjoy the yields that technological progress creates. Manufacturing was the heart of the scientific and technological revolution that led to the modern day, and the sooner the current administration realizes the potential tech can have for the industry today, the better.

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