A good old idea: “making things”
Posted by Bert Maes on April 9, 2010
Yet as the recent global recession suggests, “service” jobs cannot propel the economy. There is no substitute for making tangible, useful products and solutions. Goods-processing manufacturers are simply driving economic recovery…
“To recover from the current economic downturn, it has been estimated that we need to create on the order of 17 million to 20 million new jobs in the coming decade…And it’s very hard to imagine where those jobs are going to come from unless we seriously get busy reinventing manufacturing.” – Susan Hockfield, President, MIT
[Europe is coming with similar numbers: by 2020, 16 million new highly skilled workers are needed in the category “agriculture, craft, trade and machine operators”.]
MIT reported that a recent round-table called “The Future of Manufacturing — Advanced Technologies” came up with some answers:
- YES, we can “compete in manufacturing against low-wage countries,” Hockfield said, with “new business practices and continued strength in education.” China’s manufacturing industry is indeed becoming less competitive…
- We have to tap unprecedented new manufacturing technologies. Suzanne Berger, a professor of political science added that we have “not developed enough kinds of manufacturing that could generate both high profits and also good jobs.”
- One of the tracks to follow is high-strength, lightweight automobiles with reduced vehicle battery size (and as such more affordable for consumers) as an alternative to traditional vehicles. This is an area with hard challenges, according to the roundtable members, but an area where we can re-establish a competitive advantage in manufacturing. We hear similar suggestions and challenges in the creation of wind turbines.
- To get there, universities and their partners will need to support companies for training how to do stuff properly and for commercializing lab discoveries towards “integrating the science and the [manufacturing] process … this is not a trivial thing,” said Martin Culpepper, at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. More forms of research, with strong public technology funding, have to move from the lab to the factory.
- “Advances in academic research and high investments in product development,” Bernhardt Trout, director of the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing said, “are thus especially critical if the industry is to move forward.”
The many smart, creative, innovative kids in school will completely reinvent the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing solutions will be faster, higher quality, better priced, more flexible and individually customer-tailored. But than change has to start in education, offering reinvented courses with a focus on new technological, advanced, highly skilled, real-industry and business-related competences.
DEAR READER: How should manufacturing evolve, according to you? And how should technical education?