That’s the question of the year. It’s easy to blame the President, the Congress and Wall Street. In some way or another, they’re all complicit. My addition to the rogues gallery would be those big high-tech companies in the United States who are sitting on hoards of cash but neither hiring nor investing.
Meanwhile, I came across in the New York Timesan op-ed pieceby Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Her essay started eloquently:
“The United States became the world’s largest economy because we invented products and then made them with new processes. With design and fabrication side by side, insights from the factory floor flowed back to the drawing board. Today, our most important task is to restart this virtuous cycle of invention and manufacturing.”
The president of MIT is saying that “manufacturing” has powers to fuel a U.S. recovery.
On one hand, I want to believe that she is right. On the other hand, I wish things were so clear cut.
Call me jaded, but in the global electronics industry which EE Times has been covering for almost 40 years, we’ve all witnessed the mass exodus of manufacturing facilities overseas, thus attracting [and hiring] talented design engineers abroad. Operations offshore certainly haven’t stopped at mere “manufacturing.” Production offshore has also led to innovation abroad, with many companies investing in more design centers and R&D facilities outside the United States.
When a high-tech company sees more revenue from overseas markets, the company can’t help but feel justified in trimming its United States workforce. The explanation is always the same: “We need to be there [abroad] to understand the local market’s needs. We are a global company; we need to design locally and manufacture locally.”
That “global” label is your get-out-of-jail-free card. You are beholden to your customers in the “global” markets and to your shareholders in the United States; but not to workers and engineers in the United States, even though you are a U.S.-based company.
How can we break this all-too-familiar cycle of a U.S. company that invents and develops something new, but then sends manufacturing jobs overseas and eventually parts also with design/engineering and even R&D jobs?
By “manufacturing,” Hockfield means: “To make our economy grow, sell more goods to the world and replenish the work force, we need to restore manufacturing — not the assembly-line jobs of the past, but the high-tech advanced manufacturing of the future.”
She wants us to hang our hats on “advanced manufacturing that relies on the marriage of science and engineering in cutting-edge fields.”
We don’t pretend to have all the answers. Far from it. But in the search for “cutting-edge fields” that could create advanced manufacturing/engineering jobs, we may be able to help. EE Times has been assembling, since April 2004, a list of emerging startups, informally known as the Silicon 60.
The EE Times Silicon 60 includes startups involved in semiconductor technologies for analog circuits, memory, logic, power, MEMS, optoelectronics, EDA software, foundry manufacturing, semiconductor production equipment, electronic subsystems, displays, packaging and materials. This is a “highly selective” list. We chose companies based on a mix of criteria, including technology ingenuity, market focus, maturity, financial position, investment profile and executive leadership.
EE Times’ Silicon 60 list is a cross-section of excellence in the global electronics industry, where constant technology innovation – coupled with new business models – has driven growth and given birth to more new ideas, more companies, and as a consequence, more new jobs.
Our special Silicon 60 Career Issue offers a list of hot 60 companies where you might be tempted to seek employment. It illustrates available jobs and what sort of skills they require (please note that not all have openings). It includes viewpoints from venture capitalists on the current startup landscape and poses five questions anyone should ask before joining a startup.
This can’t be the whole answer to the job crisis. But it’s a list of companies who are committed enough to good old ingenuity that they — unlike, say, Congress — have put their money where their mouth is.
company i work for has been buying back stock for 3-4 years, 1 pay raise in the last 5 years, has a few billion in cash and is working us to death (maybe just our boss). could use some training / documentation on new tasks, better planning, more folks to get work done instead of burning-out a few. my management just doesn't have the balls to ask for more people. no leadership or vision or maybe they just don't care.
It is great to hear that there are companies seeking to expand their operations. Too many are just buying back their stock since they have no future vision for their company and no better idea of how that money could be utilized to grow their businesses.
1. Common sense does not say you should locate close to your demand. It says you should locate you factory so as to reduce all costs - including transport costs. It costs very little to ship finished goods (or partially finished goods) and raw materials.
Different products are of course different. Bulky low value products are clearly relatively expensive to transport. eg. shipping a can of soda halfway around the world might not make sense. Doubling or tripling the cost of shipping a phone would not change anything.
2. Pairing cost with revenue? Where's the sense in that? If I can make stuff cheaply in place A and sell it for a high profit at place B then that's what I'll do.
Sure, that means A gets an influx of money and B gets into debt, but that is not my problem as a factory.
3. Volatility of currency is a problem for global traders, but that is way less of an issue than denying yourself business flexibility.
Great example with bottle water. Where I live (Vancouver, Canada) we import most of the bottled mineral water from France and Italy although we have the largest amounts of water available worldwide! Kris
Those articles are typical hype that feeds the presses.
Too many publicized innovations focus on how to be different from what is being used today, rather than how to directly improve what is being used today.
The examples you cited are typical hype articles. Hype is good feed for the western presses. Innovations which are revolutionary, for the most part, are good for show-and-tell, not for practice. The whole point of the hyped-up articles is to distinguish from what is commonly practiced, by being different more than direct substantial improvement of what is being used today.