Comeback for Manufacturing and Technology

For the first time in more than a decade, U.S. manufacturing has begun creating more jobs than it eliminates, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. last year grew 1.2%, or 136,000, the first increase since 1997, government data show. IHS Global Insight and Moody's Analytics say that total will grow again this year.

Those economists project a gain of about 2.5%, or 330,000 manufacturing jobs. That growth is modest because many companies are finding ways to increase production through greater efficiency and automation, the Journal adds.

Companies will be replacing aging equipment, taking advantage of government incentives and seeking energy savings. President Obama signed tax package legislation which includes a 100 percent depreciation bonus on new equipment placed into service after Sept. 8, 2010, and through the end of December 2011 for qualified projects.

On the labor front, however, while employment projections are up, an MPI Manufacturing Study ties companies’ human resources strategies to their preparedness to adequately match their labor force to a return of business.

“Without a sound HR strategy and management structure in place to meter workforce growth commensurate with demand growth, plants could end up facing lower margins due to overstaffing or late or poor-quality customer deliveries due to insufficient staffing,” the report states.

According to MPI, 28% of manufacturing executives surveyed rate HR management as “highly important” and 38% rate it as “important” (a combined 66%). But one in 10 plants (11%) rate HR management as “not important” or of “minor importance.”

“What is the likelihood that these facilities will be adequately staffed with an engaged, high-performance workforce when their markets return in force?”, the report’s authors ask.

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