One of the clearest lessons learned during the pandemic was the importance of domestic manufacturing. As global supply chains snarled and essential products became hard to find, many domestic manufacturers pivoted to make up shortages. They were hailed as heroes. The importance of manufacturing has often been overlooked as the U.S. moved towards a more service-oriented economy. In 2011, the Fabricators and Manufacturers’ Association (FMA) of the United States decided a national Manufacturing Day might help turn the spotlight on manufacturing by encouraging companies to open their doors to visitors or sponsor events, exhibitions, and so forth. The first Manufacturing Day was held the following year. According the National Today staff, “It was a successful initiative and received active participation and appreciation from high school students, educators, parents, and other community members. In the subsequent years, the concept became popular, with thousands of people participating in events across the country.”
Although events are now held throughout the month of October, it was decided that the first Friday in October would be officially celebrated as Manufacturing Day. The National Today staff notes the FMA was subsequently joined by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), along with The Manufacturing Institute and various federal partners, including the U.S. Census Bureau in driving the endeavor. The NAM website notes:
“[MFG Day is] held annually on the first Friday in October with events that continue throughout the month. Manufacturing Day — organized nationally by The Manufacturing Institute, the 501(c)3 workforce development and education partner — helps show the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders. As manufacturers seek to fill 4.6 million high-skill, high-tech and high-paying jobs over the next decade, MFG Day empowers manufacturers to come together to address their collective challenges so they can help their communities and future generations thrive.”
The Importance of Manufacturing
Over a decade ago, economics experts Susan Helper, Timothy Krueger, and Howard Wial, explained, “Manufacturing matters to the United States because it provides high-wage jobs, commercial innovation (the nation’s largest source), a key to trade deficit reduction, and a disproportionately large contribution to environmental sustainability.” I think it’s fair to say that without a strong manufacturing sector no country can be considered great. Fortunately, strengthening America’s manufacturing sector has bipartisan support. However, Robert E. Scott, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute, believes both political parties’ administrations could have provided better support for domestic manufacturing. Back in 2015, he wrote, “While U.S. manufacturing has been hit hard by nearly two decades of policy failures that have damaged its international competitiveness, it remains a vital part of the U.S. economy.”
Scott added, “GDP data do not fully cover manufacturing’s impact because they don’t account for how manufactured goods generate significant demand for goods and services from other sectors of the economy, ranging from energy and natural resources to construction of new factories to services provided by accounting, engineering, software, and temporary help firms.” The staff at NRTC Automation detailed some of the reasons manufacturing is so vital to a national economy. They are:
• Strong Economic Growth. “Economic growth is dependent upon manufacturing. In the United States, manufacturing productivity increases 3 percent each year as a direct result of technical innovation. In comparison, service industries report very slow growth because innovation is limited. … We have reached a point where machines can build, engineer, and maintain other machines, automation in the manufacturing industries leads to exponential economic and technological growth.”
• National Security. “National power is also related to manufacturing productivity, which is used to generate wealth as well as military supplies and equipment. Consider that in the last 100 years, four to five of the most powerful countries have controlled three quarters of global machinery production. Some experts postulate that in the absence of manufacturing power imbalances, global power would also be balanced and result in fewer wars.”
• Global Trade. “Trade relies heavily on manufacturing since goods constitute 80 percent of interregional trade, according to the World Trade Organization. Globally, countries who aren’t able to trade with other countries create large trade deficits and a reliance on other nations. Trade deficits eventually impact the value of national currency, which has trickle down effects on the cost of imported consumer goods.”
• Domestic Services Support. “Although the service industry represents the majority of global economies, manufactured goods are required to provide services. For example, the business model for retail and warehousing industries (which constitute 11 percent of gross national product) revolves around selling manufactured goods. Airlines, utilities, and software companies rely on airplanes, telephone lines, and computer hardware.”
• Job Creation. “Manufacturing jobs create more jobs. The Economic Policy Institute in the U.S. reports that every single manufacturing job creates three other jobs because wages are spent in other parts of the economy. Moreover, manufacturing creates middle class jobs and reduces poverty. Many manufacturing jobs are unionized, giving employees collective bargaining power.”
Get Involved in Manufacturing Day
Rob Luce, Vice President at the SME Education Foundation, observes, “Manufacturing Day gives manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what manufacturing is — and what it isn’t. Inspiring young people to explore manufacturing opportunities — or STEM opportunities in general — is critical. Misperceptions surround manufacturing, among them that manufacturing is a low-tech field, and an unimportant piece of the U.S. economy. It isn’t, and it’s our job to make that clear.” If your company is in the manufacturing sector, and if it is not already taking part in Manufacturing Day, consider participating.
Manufacturing USA, in association with The Manufacturing Institute, provides resources that can help get started. Although it may be too late to plan an event this year, it’s never to early to start planning for next year. Among the resources provided by Manufacturing USA are a MFG Day Marketing Toolkit and Tips for Hosting an Event. The free Host Toolkit provides ideas and tips to help you:
• Determine your event type
• Connect with local partners
• Register your event
• Create a plan
• Invite your community
• Get the word out
As the staff at Manufacturing USA note, “Together with the National Association of Manufacturers, The Manufacturing Institute, MEP Centers, and federal agency partners, the Manufacturing USA network celebrates the manufacturers who make the products that keep us safe, enrich our lives, strengthen our economic and national security, and provide countless opportunities for our communities and workforce.” Your company can be part of that celebration.
 Staff, “Manufacturing Day – October 6, 2023,” National Today.
 Susan Helper, Timothy Krueger, and Howard Wial, “Why Does Manufacturing Matter?” Brookings, 22 February 2012.
 Robert E. Scott, “The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs,” Economic Policy Institute, 22 January 2015.
 Staff, “Why is Manufacturing Important?” NRTC Automation, 27 October 2022.
 Rob Luce, “Manufacturing Day: Why it’s important,” SME Education Foundation, 4 October 2019.
 Staff, “Manufacturing Day 2023,” Manufacturing USA.