A new whitepaper prepared by the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Board discusses the state of domestic manufacturing and the characteristics of good manufacturers, and then plots a course to improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing. The MEP is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to Board Chairman Ned Hill, president for economic development at Cleveland State University, there have been several public policy reviews of U.S. manufacturing, each with a particular point of view, and nearly all advocating a narrowly defined “silver bullet” policy intervention. The new report finds that there are reasons for concern about the industry's future, but also reasons for optimism.

Resolving the competitive disadvantages that U.S. manufacturers face is similarly nuanced. Although many observers have pointed to innovation as the key characteristic of successful companies, the report finds that innovation alone is not enough. To be meaningful, innovation must result in new products, production processes, or management practices. Manufacturers must also be green, care about their workforce, develop in-house talent, and find their niche in the global marketplace.

U.S. manufacturers also are at a disadvantage because of the lack of a national manufacturing policy, according to Hill. Existing policies only deal with specific emergency situations, he says. Other reports have placed the burden of developing a national manufacturing strategy solely on the federal government. The report suggests that manufacturers, government, and academia should all be involved in developing national manufacturing policies as well as providing a supporting infrastructure for U.S. manufacturing. To download the report, visit www.nist.gov and search MEP Advisory Report.