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Oak Ridge, TN
Facts About Manufacturing: Reasons To Be A Bull

By TJ McCueThursday, November 20, 2014

As we have been traveling around the USA, we get asked often about how manufacturing is doing and how it will do in the future. Will 3D printing take away jobs? That’s a valid concern and one that we share, but we see more opportunity than downside and here’s some of why:

  • In 2013, manufacturers contributed $2.08 trillion to the economy, up from $2.03 trillion in 2012. This was 12.5 percent of GDP. For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.32 is added to the economy, the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. 
  • Manufacturing supports an estimated 17.4 million jobs in the United States: About one in six private-sector jobs. More than 12 million Americans (or 9 percent of the workforce) are employed directly in manufacturing.
  • In 2013, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,506 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all industries earned $62,546. 
  • Manufacturers in the United States are the most productive in the world, far surpassing the worker productivity of any other major manufacturing economy, leading to higher wages and living standards. 
  • Manufacturers in the United States perform two-thirds of all private-sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector. 
  • Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the 8th largest economy in the world. 


According to Terry Wohlers, producer of the Wohlers Report, the annual progress report on 3D printing and additive manufacturing: 

The AM industry has grown in the double digits for 17 of its 26 years. It continues to offer tremendous untapped potential, especially in custom and short-run part production. A product development and manufacturing company may spend 5–10% on design and prototyping for a given product development program. The remaining 90–95% is spent on production—a major reason why so many companies are aggressively pursuing this market segment.”  Blog Post from Wohlers Associates

Now, to be fair and balanced, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that manufacturing is far from the leading employer in most U.S. states any longer. They have a nifty, albeit depressing animated graphic here. “In 1990, the manufacturing industry was the leading employer in most U.S. states, followed by retail trade. In 2003, retail trade was the leading employer in a majority of states. By 2013, health care and social assistance was the dominant industry in 34 states.”

So, manufacturing has suffered a decline, most people would tell you that, but that does not mean it is dead -- far from it. Those bullet-pointstats above testify to that. As we’ve experienced firsthand at a variety of manufacturing companies, there is big opportunity with 3D technologies. We are at the start of a boom, in my opinion, and many share that optimism. I’ll be posting about our day with Oak Ridge National Laboratory where serious research and development is underway to help U.S. manufacturers with 3D printing and a host of related technology.

My son reported on his blog (can you tell I’m proud?) about Oak Ridge’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF): “What is truly amazing is that because ORNL is part of the Department of Energy, it partners with U.S. companies for free or at low cost to develop new technologies and makes them available for other companies to use.

Am I too bullish on the fact that 3D tech sets us on a path of manufacturing prowess again? You bet. But I’m not changing my tune because I’ve met the people and the companies that are transforming our nation. They are changing how we think, how we design, and how we work. And those people, like the folks at Oak Ridge, are inspiring us to think in at least three dimensions.

Follow along at! #3DRV

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