The next generation of factories

Manufacturing jobs are beginning to move away from hands-on labor and toward advanced technologies and engineering. The average manufacturer in the U.S. has machines that do much of the work previously done by employees. Now, many of those same workers have gone back to school to learn how to operate and fix those machines.  Manufacturing has gotten leaner in the U.S., but also smarter.

The places where manufacturing might become big again are the Midwest and the South. Places like Michigan and Illinois have up and coming businesses that are heavy on growth and light on wasted labor.  Even San Francisco is seeing a certain amount of expanded manufacturing operations. 

Future technologies in development in Chicago
Chicago recently became the home of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, according to Chicago Inno. The site will be a place where research and development projects can be conducted for multiple firms at once, The goal is to ensure that companies always stay completely up to date when it comes to their capacity for staying top-of-the-line in an increasingly competitive industry.

The important thing to remember about manufacturing is that when it comes to overhead and profit margins, when costs can be reduced by even a fraction of a cent, if that item is made thousands of times in a day, then a small innovation in building has the potential for major payoffs.

"This project call presents a huge opportunity to advance digital manufacturing technologies in a way that solves real business problems," said William King, DMDII's chief technology officer. "We have worked with digital manufacturing leaders from industry, government, and academia to identify their most important problems."

The project calls are requests for specific research projects, seven of which have so far been asked for. The projects represent different parts of digital manufacturing.

Manufacturing in Michigan and Texas
Some of the best companies in the U.S. are located in the Midwest and the South. For example, Stryker, a medical device manufacturing business in Michigan, employs 21,861 people and brings in $9 billion in revenue, Fortune reported. The company has been rated as number 42 on a list of the 100 best companies to work for. The basic philosophy at Stryker is promoting from within, so that people never feel they need to leave the company to find a better job elsewhere. The company also donates a great deal of money to charity as part of its humanitarian philosophy.

Hilcorp is a Houston business that has 1,409 employees and is ranked number 15 on the 100 best companies. This business focuses more on the oil and gas exploration side of manufacturing.However, both industries have been major contributors to the U.S.'s recent industrial expansion. The cheap oil and gas that come from hydraulic fracturing have served to bolster the sector and keep it insulated from outsourcing that can happen when it becomes less expensive to open a factory elsewhere.

"Here, you have the chance to make a great amount of money if you do what you are told and if you invest in the company correctly," said one employee. "Your opinion is valued and you feel like you are part of something bigger."

Even San Francisco is creating a manufacturing industry
San Francisco isn't necessarily known for its factories. However, SF Gate reported a four-story building designed to house multiple companies to make products for sale has just been tagged for ownership by SFMade, a non-profit that wants to bring manufacturing jobs to the city. The project hasn't been voted on yet, so the deal could still fall through, but if it is passed by the planning commission, then San Francisco will become one more place where industrial operations has a foothold.