March 15, 2011
Two spirited keynote speeches that offered bullish perspectives on the future of U.S. manufacturing — with specific caveats — highlighted The FABRICATOR®'s Leadership Summit, 6th Annual Metal Matters and FMA's 15th Annual Toll Processing Conference, held in early March in Orlando.
Emily DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute and the new National Center for the American Workforce, and Dan DiMicco, chairman, president, and CEO of Nucor Corp., the leading U.S. steel producer and the world's largest recycler, each told the gathering of more than 200 executives at the premiere conferences for the processing and fabricating industry that the manufacturing sector can again be a global leader.
DeRocco outlined how even in today's tough economic climate, U.S. manufacturing represents the world's eighth largest economy, pays premium compensation when compared to non-manufacturing jobs, offers the strongest multiplier effect, and outpaces global rivals in research and development.However, she noted a recent survey revealed 32 percent of companies reported "moderate to serious skills shortages in the hiring pool" and that "technological advances in modern manufacturing require more advanced skill sets.
"Major deficits in our education system hamper U.S. competitiveness on the world stage," DeRocco said. "Our global competitors continue to surpass our education system in producing a high-volume, high-quality technical workforce."
DeRocco issued a call to action that stressed, "Manufacturers can't wait for the education system to reform itself." Instead, she said, the sector must take the lead and expand industry-education partnerships to infuse technology in curricula, apply manufacturing principles in educational institutions, and produce industry-based skills certifications.
DiMicco painted a bleaker picture of the sector's current status, citing the large number of manufacturing jobs lost since its high point in 1998 and reporting the current level is the lowest since 1941. "How did we get here?" he asked. "A massive failure of trade policies. And, we bought into a failed economic model that a service-based economy could replace a manufacturing-based economy."
DiMicco asserted manufacturing can lead the way to create more jobs and real wealth via several ways. One is to achieve energy independence by "developing all domestic energy resources — traditional and renewable. This will create jobs by building an energy infrastructure and driving R&D in the energy sector."
Another critical strategy, he said, is to "balance our trade deficit and restore global trade balance." A third emphasis must be upgrading a crumbling infrastructure to "lay the foundation for tomorrow's manufacturers.
"Real and lasting wealth is and always has been created by making and building things and servicing the goods producing sector, not by a predominance of servicing services," DiMicco said.
The FABRICATOR®'s Leadership Summit featured a unique format of peer- and consultant-facilitated roundtable discussions for attendees to exchange ideas and solutions that affect their business' bottom line. Topics included automation; economic and financial issues of the day; personnel optimization; managing your company's online presence; sales and marketing; and technology innovation. The theme of FMA's 2011 Toll Processing Conference was "Strategic Moves" and featured informative presentations on the global steel market.
The three-day events were produced by The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) and The Tube & Pipe Association, International (TPA).
The 2012 summit and conference will take place Feb. 29 through March 2 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. Information will be available online at www.fmanet.org/calendar, or by calling 888-394-4362.
Based in Rockford, Ill., FMA is a professional organization with more than 2,100 members working together to improve the metal processing, forming, and fabricating industry. Founded in 1970, FMA brings metal fabricators and fabricating equipment manufacturers together through technology councils, educational programs, networking events, industry trade publications including The FABRICATOR®, and the FABTECH® trade show. FMA also has a technology affiliate, the Tube & Pipe Association Intl. (TPA), which focuses on the unique needs of companies engaged in tube and pipe producing and fabricating.