Manufacturing, says market research firm McKinsey, is essential to a nation or region and its presence or absence can have some significant impact on an economic area.
If this was a volte-face by a major consultancy as some folks have alleged, it's being skillfully done and with some strong reasoning behind it. Manufacturing, says market research firm McKinsey, is essential to a nation or region and its presence or absence can have some significant impact on an economic area. Until I read the McKinsey report, I had been wondering if I wasn't mistaken in disagreeing with the massive, decades-long transfer -- or outsourcing, if you prefer -- of Western production activities to the Far East and Easter Europe.
McKinsey gave me back my faith in the efficacy of manufacturing as a critical element of economic development, growth, and sustainability. Yet, it doesn't blindly advocate that manufacturing should be conducted by all economic regions. It, in fact, outlines the critical factors that companies and political leaders should consider before voting on whether or not to establish plants in their locality.
You may be similarly convinced if you download the 184-page document and spend as much time poring through its findings, analysis, and conclusions. I am happy, though, to share some of these with you here, peppered with my own assessment of why manufacturing matters, no matter the economic region or nation under focus.
First, some bullet points from the McKinsey report highlighting the role manufacturing plays in both developed and developing economic settings.
Wealth creator: Manufacturing continues to provide a path to middle-income and wealthy-nation status for developing economies
Driver of productivity growth and innovation: Manufacturing continues to make outsize contributions to research and development, accounting for up to 90 percent of private R&D spending in major manufacturing nations.
Job creator: Manufacturing remains a significant contributor to employment across economies. But its role varies between economies and changes over time. Even when manufacturing's relative size in the economy is diminished, it continues to make outsized contributions in exports, productivity growth, R&D, and broader innovation.
As important as manufacturing is to all economies, however, it must be emphasized that its significance varies depending on several factors, including the size of the economy, its composition, development level, and future growth strategy. It cannot and shouldn't be assumed that all nations must be involved in all manufacturing activities in order to grow. The reality, according to McKinsey, is that each manufacturing sector has its own requirements, and a nation or region may lack the essential ingredients for achieving success in making a specific set of products. In such instances, being involved in making such products would be counter-productive for the specific economy.