Learning from the Past & Imagining the Future
Education and Careers One engineer reminisces about the history of manufacturing in America and what the future holds for this crucial industry.
When I was growing up, my family owned a small machine shop in the Chicagoland area. My grandparents all immigrated to the United States in the early 1920s with the hope of a new life. Both of my grandfathers were machinists and my father was an engineer.
The good old days and today
I have had many conversations about the “good old days” of manufacturing with my colleagues. The discussion often turns to times when the United States was a powerhouse, dominating the manufacturing world. The conversation then inevitably leads to the downturn in American manufacturing, the loss of jobs and the idling of plants. We see images of production lines and plants from years ago that now sit idle. What people don’t often think about is that by modern standards, those idled facilities were highly inefficient, polluted the world and caused many short-term and long-term health issues for the workforce. The modern production facility is a high-tech, clean and efficient operation that not only produces quality goods but is the backbone of American society and economy.
A quick tour of a modern production facility will demonstrate just what a wonderful place modern manufacturing plants are. I have seen children of all ages amazed by CNC equipment cutting high-temperature super alloys for jet engines or robots assembling cars and high-performance aircrafts. Better yet, after such eye-opening tours, I have heard those children enthusiastically profess their desire to work in such a high-tech place and go into manufacturing.
The modern production facility is a high-tech, clean and efficient operation that not only produces quality goods but is the backbone of American society and economy.
It still puts a smile on my face when I pick up the scent of coolant which reminds me of the countless early-morning hours I spent at my father’s machine shop, working on the lathes and mills. But back then, we did not have mist extractors, which make modern machine tools and facilities much healthier. What lights my fire today is that change. Where are we as a society now and where are we going.
Looking to the future
What does a future in manufacturing look like? Well, it’s all about advanced technology enabling innovation. As technical innovation in plants moves forward, the current and future workforce will need new skills to use the latest technologies available.
In the years to come, manufacturing will continue to advance, enabling innovators to make the world a better place, not only providing wonderful products for humanity but also good jobs for the American workforce. An exciting time in the industry, the opportunities in manufacturing today are greater than they ever have been.
Strong and efficient manufacturing is critical for a successful society, and to make a difference in the world. I am proud to be a part of this vital industry and look forward to the continuing advancements it brings.