Content By Stacey Jarrett Wagner

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By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner

‘There is most likely some interplay between the weak capital spending numbers and the weak job market of the last few years; there is less incentive to spend money on productivity-enhancing equipment when labor is cheap.” This recent musing by Neil Irwin of The New York Times was his reflection on the current mix of low productivity, low business investment, and low wages.

It seems counterintuitive to many, but it speaks to the paradox in today’s labor market in which employers are “stuck” with an inability to find the workers they want while the job market—especially in manufacturing—is crying out for skilled workers.

Stacey Jarrett Wagner’s picture

By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner

In college I learned about chaos theory, sometimes called the butterfly effect, in which small differences in an initial condition result in divergent outcomes in dynamic systems. In layman’s terms, my fellow students and I were fond of saying that when a butterfly flutters its wings over your head, the repercussions will be felt, eventually, on the other side of the world.

The graphic of the double rod in the link below demonstrates how, by releasing the rods more than once, many iterations of the drawing will appear, resulting in a multitude of graphical outcomes with the same rods.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Double-compound-pendulum.gif

When I was a student, it was fun to think about how my actions could affect not just my peers in school, but also others many times removed from my classroom or dorm. And now, as an adult, I can see how intensely my actions affect others—especially in the workplace.

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By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner

England, during the 1760s, was the birthplace of the western world’s Industrial Revolution, initiated by a group of men who made “manufacturing” the purview of the inventive. Called The Lunar Society of Birmingham because the group met during the full moon, these inventors were amateur scientists and innovators.

Jenny Uglow writes in The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003) that they discovered oxygen, revolutionized ceramic production, built canals, named minerals, and generally combined the disciplines of art, science, and commerce to identify or create things not previously even imagined.

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By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner

In March 2013, a Manufacturing Leadership Council survey was conducted by Frost & Sullivan with 226 manufacturers. The survey’s intent was to understand manufacturers’ current workforce strategies, ask about future strategies, and observe key trends. Specifically, the authors wanted to know more about the availability of production-level employees. Well, they found out, and it doesn’t look good.

Survey respondents said they currently have trouble finding qualified workers, and they expect this unsettling trend to continue over the next five to 10 years. The skills the respondents want in production employees include engineering, technical, management, and computer science, in that order. They also want functional skills such as analytics, computer proficiency, lean, Six Sigma, advanced materials, logistics, supply chain, design, sales, industrial networking, and collaboration. Whew! That is quite a list. I’ll bet those manufacturers have done some serious planning for their operations’ workforces.

Surprise! They have not!

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By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner

Approximately half of the 704 employers participating in a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace said they have trouble finding qualified college graduates to fill their companies’ positions. Yet, 68 percent of the survey’s manufacturers said colleges are doing a good job turning out employable students. What’s going on here? What does this mean?

Stacey Jarrett Wagner’s picture

By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner


The idea of the garage as an incubator for startup businesses is as American as hot dogs, baseball, and apple pie (although I like apple cobbler better). From Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniack, Dave Hewlett, and Bill Packard to your next-door neighbor who always seems to be out there tinkering, the suburban garage has become iconic as an entrepreneurial metaphor. Give an American a garage, and he has the potential to bring new products to market and riches to him (or her) self. Just think what we could do if we had business incubators in 100,000 garages.

Well yup, you guessed it—we do have that. 100kGarages is a website that directs the inventors next door to designers and fabricators around the country that can bring their ideas to life. It’s a free resource that encourages ground-level entrepreneurs—or anyone who wishes to make something customized—to get the help they need to make their dreams a reality.

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By: Stacey Jarrett Wagner

There’s nothing I love as much as a paradox. So there’s a lot for me to get excited about with America’s current manufacturing paradox, which is whether U.S. manufacturing is the next big thing or a dying dinosaur. Should we steer our children from factory work, or should we embrace the opportunity to get out in front of something that changes every single day and has the potential to remake our society and economy?

Brad Plumer, in “Is U.S. manufacturing making a comeback—or is it just hype?” (The Washington Post, May 1, 2013), is putting his bets on the advanced manufacturing renaissance; however, Timothy Aeppel in The Myth of the Manufacturing ‘Renaissance’” (The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2013) takes his cue from Morgan Stanley’s recent “blue paper” and says there’s no evidence for excitement about U.S. manufacturing.