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Monday
Jan072013

Offshoring manufacturing was a critical strategic blunder by the US.

When manufacturing is offshored, related technical talent, R&D spending, and innovative success tend to go with it. I've written about that unfortunate process here. Annie Lowrey reports the same story with additional examples in this NYT piece.

A growing chorus of economists, engineers and business leaders are warning that the evisceration of the manufacturing work force over the last 30 years might not have scarred just Detroit and the Rust Belt. It might have dimmed the country's capacity to innovate and stunted the prospects for long-term growth. "In sector after sector, we've lost our innovation edge because we don't produce goods here anymore," said Mitzi Montoya, dean of the college of technology and innovation at Arizona State University.

GE is trying to reverse that loss in advanced battery production.

The idea is to knit together manufacturing, design, prototyping and production, said Michael Idelchik, vice president for advanced technologies, who holds a dozen patents himself. "We believe that rather than a sequential process where you look at product design and then how to manufacture it, there is a simultaneous process," Mr. Idelchik said. "We think it is key for sustaining our long-term competitive advantage."

MIT Professor Susan Berger, a founder of the Production in Innovation Economy project was interviewed by Lowrey.

Thus far, she said, the anecdotal evidence from about 200 companies has proved striking, with company after company detailing the advantages of keeping makers and thinkers together. That does not mean every business, she stressed. Companies with products early in their life cycle seemed to benefit more than ones with products on the market for years. So did companies making especially complicated or advanced goods, from new medicines to new machines.

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