One of the most robust areas for manufacturing resurgence is in Silicon Valley. Who knew?
It's disturbing that we can be so gullible as a society. We also can lay a lot of blame at the feet of my mainstream media brethren.
I'll happily throw them under the bus to make a point I made often during our Drive for Innovation road trip: What you hear and read in the media is often a complete disconnect from reality. The "manufacturing-is-dead" mantra flies in the face of what's actually happening on the design and manufacturing front lines of the country.
Mike Cassidy of the San Jose Mercury News came to the same conclusion as he kicked off a series of articles on the thriving manufacturing environment in, of all places, Silicon Valley.
"I set out to write a series of columns on what I thought would be the death of Bay Area manufacturing... I went looking for lethargy and found Lazarus."
Cassidy notes that more than 162,000 people work in Silicon Valley factories, up nearly 8,000 in two years. Another 5 percent growth in those jobs is expected in the next six years.
To be sure this isn't a manufacturing renaissance that is hiring armies of workers. That's what's happening in China and, that, according to Vivek Wadhwa's piece earlier this summer in Forbes
, is China's problem.
Or more precisely, the use of sophisticated robotics and other new technologies in U.S. plants is China's problem.
"These technologies include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, and nanotechnology. These have been moving slowly so far, but are now beginning to advance exponentially just as computing does. The disruption will come from a set of technologies that are advancing at exponential rates and converging."
To me, the most promising part of this equation is 3D printers. On the road, in New Jersey, I saw a 3D printer that had churned out a fully functional monkey wrench. Amazing.
This revolution isn't about the printers per se but a new, tighter bond forged on a faster time scale between design and manufacturing. A few years ago, we clung to the hope that "at least we still do great design even our manufacturing has vanished." Manufacturing hadn't vanished; it was just retooling.
Couple great design with a new manufacturing methodologies and business models, and it's a brave new world
You're starting to see it in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida and so on and even in the most "unexpected" place of all: Silicon Valley. Related stories:
--Manufacturing by design: New skills needed to compete
--Rebuilding America: Would Kurzarbeit work here?
--Time to play hardball on tech manufacturng
--Tech manufacturing is returning