Today’s Greatness is not Enough for Tomorrow
By Joshua C Pies, C47Films.com
Happy 4th of July. A few important tips before we touch the 3rd rail of blogging and melt some faces with a reference that seems politically charged (but isn’t intended to be).
4th of July Tips:
- If fireworks are illegal where you live… Don’t use them!
- If you can use fireworks, think smart, be smart. We all know someone out there who has an uncle now affectionately known as Lefty thanks to a poorly executed celebratory moment. Don’t be that person.
- According to the FDA, deviled eggs can sit out, unrefrigerated for 2h before posing a health risk. I don’t care if Granny made them, 4 hours later it’s still gonna provide fireworks that you DO NOT WANT!
- And lastly, move your grill away from the side of the house and out of the garage. Large flames and wood structures don’t mix and the only gift in that mix becomes the visit from the guys on the calendar your wife swears was left by the last owner. (Yes, it’s time to do more situps, Joe.)
Ok, now, if you have not snickered even slightly at the above list, you’re NOT going to handle the MAGA references coming up… go spend time with your family and stop reading. But, if you can handle an American Manufacturing Company like Re:Build Optimation acknowledging that both POTUS 45 and POTUS 46 have both brought light to our industry and the idea that there’s a massive opportunity for us to improve in our industry – and some cool data to back up some of this – then keep going.
Still here? Good.
If you’re anything like us, we get a chest swell of pride when someone says ‘American manufacturing’ or ‘Made in the USA’. Unfortunately, it’s a conflicting moment now and then. Do you ask yourself the same thing we secretly do? Are you asking in your mind, “Am I a trained dog? Isn’t this a fraud to be proud of American Manufacturing?” You’ve read and discussed this problem as much as we have, we’re sure.
Here is a chart showing the percent share of the US Economy that manufacturing has held in the last 120 years. The peak decades were 1900, 1910 and 1950, in which 25-30% of our economy was manufacturing. The first thing we should notice is that it has never been ALL of our economy and of course, we’d all starve if it were. We need other sectors to be strong, too. We’re acutely aware that the weakest it has ever been is now, at 11.3% of the US Economy, which is less than ½ the peak decades but, if you notice, both peaks coincided with wars – During World War One and the End of World War Two and the Korean War. An early, and notable tough was in the 1930s which was the Great Depression, exacerbated by the famed US famine known as the Dust Bowl, which was particularly bad in 1936 but lasted for years (climates certainly do change!). We probably don’t want to go back to those years if the bad comes with the good.
During what feels like yesterday but is quickly becoming a decade old, we heard a lot about MAGA – Make America Great Again. In the world of manufacturing this mantra felt real. If we’re proud of the legacy of American manufacturing, we see it as a patriotic duty, then why not make at least that part of our American experience how it used to be? A lot has changed for the better during the perceived decline of manufacturing in the US and it would be foolhardy and unpatriotic to ignore that reality.
If we learn nothing else from the chart above, notice that things change. American Agriculture, as a percentage of the US Economy, has dipped to around 1% of the overall economy. Information Technology existed in a very analog form in 1900 – likely printing presses and ink – but now is about 7% of our GDP! An industry that did not even exist 120 years ago is thriving and growing fast. That certainly changes how we can look at GDP percentages. But even more, let’s be real about dollars, and what we mean to say is let’s look at how the Manufacturing sector stacks up in real dollars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, manufacturing has consistently been a massively important industry in the United States. In the first decade of the 20th century, manufacturing contributed an average of $24.4 billion in real terms to U.S. GDP. This grew exponentially over the next decades, with an average growth rate of 5.2% per decade. In 1960, manufacturing accounted for an average of $388.6 billion of the U.S. GDP. By 2018, the industry’s real terms contribution had grown to an average of $2.05 trillion, representing 11% of U.S. GDP. (References: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. (2020). The Contribution of Manufacturing to U.S. GDP. Retrieved From https://www.bea.gov/data/gdp/contribution-manufacturing-us-gdp)
Ahhh and that’s it. That’s part of where we derive our pride. We represent more than $2 Trillion US Dollars of GDP. That’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s also 6x what we used to represent back in 1960! So, even though our percent share of GDP has fallen, we know that GDP has risen consistently, with some recession exceptions on our shared American timeline, for 120 years! We’re consistently growing.
So why the long face?
(Says the bartender to the horse)
Comparison, Pragmatism, and Pride.
The Make America Great Again rhetoric that we all kinda aligned with in relation to manufacturing rang true on three levels. Truth be told, and this is important, these same three levels are talking points for Red and Blue, Donkey & Elephant, Biden, Trump, and every other politician because somehow, in some beautiful way, manufacturing seems to be a Red, White, and Blue issue for all of us. These three levels of truth regarding why we collectively agree that manufacturing must rise to new heights are, in our opinion, points of comparison, Pragmatism, and Pride.
Americans are competitive. We’re football on Sundays, a friendly bet on a footrace, all-nighters to ensure we get the better grade, and a few clicks and smack talk away from being the best at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on Xbox. Collectively, we see our position as a world leader in all areas as tied to our collective well being, our way of life. Yes, the US does have internal struggles and things can get better for many of us on the home front, but in comparison to many other countries even those Americans who have it the worst are better off than the best in many other countries. And, to maintain that station and continually have the luxury to work on bettering that station for all of us we compete. We’re also smart enough to know when we’re not winning the gold in the race.
We know that China, India, and all of Asia are outworking us in manufacturing. We also know that wages are low there and work conditions often stink (which is a gross understatement in the worst cases). We must find a way to continually innovate, automate, and make domestic manufacturing more attractive to businesses here – and abroad, so they’ll send their work here, too. It also is a rightly self-imposed requirement that we continue to focus on safety, honorable work conditions, and fair pay. We’re in a competition where the rules are different for each player and for us to “win” we have to be infinitely better on so many fronts. This conversation would not even happen if we didn’t believe we can do it.
Americans are pragmatists. It almost sounds unpragmatic to believe we can compete when we have self-imposed the most stringent rules possible on ourselves versus our perceived competition. It sounds like we’re blinded by hubris. We propose to you that we’re mission-driven. Americans know that the times like the COVID pandemic of 2020-2022 illuminated how dangerous it is to rely on foreign suppliers for critical healthcare goods. Imagine a future like war, famine, or pandemics. Where would be without the safety of having domestic needs cared for by domestic manufacturers? We are pragmatic enough to know for certain that we must fix this issue. We at Optimation are proud that we were part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration initiative to move a brand new vaccine from non-existence to wide use in months. We were busy solving manufacturing line design and implementation. We were prepared to answer the call of service but there’s frankly not enough of us. That’s also why Re:Build Manufacturing exists. We’re answering the call well before the emergency calls come in. Planning is pragmatism and that is at the core of our hearts and our mission.
Pride is a funny thing. The good book says, “Pride cometh before a fall”. How dare we be proud then? Thanks to the English language that word has nuanced layers. Haughty pride, that type of pride that is tied to overconfidence and an unteachable spirit is dangerous. We don’t think that is American Pride, especially not Made in the USA Pride. Instead, Pride in American Manufacturing is knowing that the work we turn out is good. Our collective work is disciplined. It’s skilled and honed to be as perfect as human work will allow. It’s open to observation and best practices to find flaws and carefully, kindly address them for the betterment of not only one product or process but learning that can be more globally applied. We are proud to have a can-do attitude that is tied to a knowing that trying is winning and failing, the way Edison did so many times before the lightbulb worked, is learning and data.
So, what do we know about this July 4th?
We know that American Manufacturing has consistently grown and is now a $2.4 Trillion Dollar Industry.
We know that we demand excellence of ourselves, even though our competitors across the globe do not share our values and self-demands.
We know that it is good and right to have manufacturing and product independence on items that are tied to self-preservation.
We also know that we can do it. We can, with perseverance and a commitment to our shared values, rise to new heights as American Manufacturers.
And now we know that MAGA, Make America Great Again, isn’t quite accurate. Better stated, “Today’s Greatness is not Enough for Tomorrow, and we’re committed to growing”. It doesn’t fit on a hat, and neither side of the aisle will be caught saying it quite this way, but dollars to mass-manufactured doughnuts, both sides and you, dear reader, agree.
IT Data: https://www.its.org/news/its-gdp
Manufacturing GDP: https://www.bea.gov/system/files/2020-04/gdpind2008r.pdf
Pharmaceutical manufacturing https://www.optimation.us/blogs/manufacturing-pharmaceuticals-in-america/