Many leaders including former Intel chief Andrew Grove seem to be convinced that American manufacturing is on the decline. It certainly has changed. My two trips to the Kohler plumbing factory, 25 years apart, showed me the change first hand. In the early 1980s, there were plenty of semi-skilled workers, in a hot, nasty plant slaving 24 hours per day over an open hearth furnace to produce lavatories and toilets. Now, Kohler produces much more, with more variety, in clean, much healthier working conditions with far fewer workers. As Mark Perry in Carpe Diem puts it: “25-30 years ago, U.S. manufacturing was ‘80% brawn and 20% brains,’ and today it’s ‘10% brawn and 90% brains.’ He provides evidence in two key charts.
Perry concludes as follows:
Bottom Line: The decline, demise, and death of America’s manufacturing sector has been greatly exaggerated. America still makes a ton of stuff, and we make more of it now than ever before in history, but we’re able to do it with a fraction of the workers that would have been required in the past. We’re still the world’s leading manufacturing economy by far, thanks to the world-class productivity of American manufacturing workers, the most productive in the world. Instead of bashing China, Korea, and Mexico for competing against our manufacturing sector and exaggerating the decline of our manufacturing sector, Americans should take more pride and celebrate our status as the world’s leading manufacturer.