Survey: Do We Make Anything in America? You Might Be Surprised
When the New Year’s Eve ball drops at festivities around the United States this weekend, many Americans will be hard at work…in factories, in plants, and on loading docks, where they handle heavy equipment with the precision of a heart surgeon. Contrary to the perception in some quarters that manufacturing in the U.S. has made, and continues to make, a fast dash for the exits, manufacturing activity here continues to grow.
The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) recently conducted a brief survey of members in several of its councils (including the CFO, Financial, and Manufacturing Councils) to find examples of what is made in America. The results reported in What is Manufactured in America? provide an interesting snapshot of American manufacturing.
“We are often asked, ‘What is manufactured in the U.S. anymore?’ Or we hear that the manufacturing sector is disappearing,” said Donald A. Norman, Ph.D., MAPI Economist and survey coordinator. “Many products manufactured in the United States escape the public’s notice because they are not on the shelves of big box retailers. But products made in America are all around us and are part of our everyday life. Because most are not consumer goods, they often escape the public’s notice.
“Further,” he added, “American-made products compete with imports, something that blurs the fact that the U.S. remains a manufacturing powerhouse. Manufacturing production has expanded since the middle of 2009, and with the exception of one quarter (2Q 2011), it has outperformed the overall economy. The truth is that the manufacturing sector is helping to lead the U.S. economy back to a more normal growth rate.”
It is also true that manufacturing’s share of GDP has been on a secular decline. In 1960, manufacturing activity accounted for 25.3 percent of total GDP; by 2010, its share was down to 11.7 percent. Norman notes that this reflects increased imports of manufactured goods and the offshoring of some manufacturing activity but also, most importantly, the faster growth of the service sector. Despite the decline in manufacturing’s share of total economic activity, total manufacturing output has risen over time.
The 72 survey respondents were asked for examples of up to five of their company’s products that are “predominantly” manufactured in the United States, with this being defined as two-thirds or more of the total product accounted for by American labor, components, and raw materials.
Some examples are familiar, some are not, and some might be surprising:
Components: actuators (motors for moving or controlling a mechanism or system); aviation restraints; fire hose nozzles; friction modifiers (additives used in lubricants to reduce the surface friction of lubricated parts); industrial band saw blades; medical cabinets; surgical face mask filters; and vinyl siding.
Consumer Goods: air filters; airless paint sprayers; cutting tools; hard hats; lipstick; microwave containers; security access devices; and solar window coverings;
Machinery/Equipment: buses; compression latches; dental chairs; drilling rigs; electric motors; elevators; locomotives; pneumatic valves; and last but not least, spectrophotometers—special machines calibrated to duplicate the human eye’s response to color—used by manufacturers to ensure products (such as packaging, coatings, and textiles) are the exact color ordered.
The survey found that 74 percent of the over 300 products reported by respondents are exported, further confirming U.S. manufacturing’s global reach.
“The bottom line, and perhaps much to our own naiveté, is that much of what is manufactured in the U.S. is all around us but often goes unnoticed,” Norman lamented.