There seems to be a lot of confusion these days about manufacturing. As a guy who has worked his entire life in manufacturing, I’d like to eliminate this confusion.

The word “Manufacture” is made up from two Latin Roots “manu” and “factura.”

To make with hands.

Manu” means “by hand”

Factura” is a derivative of “facere” which meant “to perform” or “to do.” Factura means ” a working.”

Those Junior High Latin Classes sure made understanding big words pretty clear.

This was the nurtury of my English vocabulary.

While the linguistic origins of ‘manufacturing’ were “a working, by hand,”  the essence was the creation of something by work into something else. In modern terms, it is  “the conversion of raw materials into finished goods by labor.”

Today, with our abundance of machines, and non-human provided energy,  we define manufacturing as “the use of machines, tools and labor to convert raw materials into finished goods.”

In North America, (for now) Manufacturing is denoted officially by NAICS codes numbering from 31-33 according to BLS.

So what is the confusion about manufacturing?

There is a move afoot to count the foreign production of Factoryless Goods Producers (FGP’s) as ” U.S. Manufacturing.”

Federal Register see part VI

If you don’t actually make something, you aren’t really a manufacturer.

If you don’t make it here, how can you count it here?

-You may be a great designer. Great engineer. Great logistics company. Great sales company.

But if you don’t make what ever it is that you designed, engineer, or sell- it ain’t manufacturing.

So when someone tries to tell you that they are a “factoryless goods producer,” don’t flinch, don’t blink, don’t bat an eye.

And what ever you do don’t call them a liar. (It’s rude to call people liars, even when they are lying.)

Remember her?

Just tell them that they are mistaken, they are an outsourcer, not a manufacturer.

Manufacturers actually make things and often export their products.

Factoryless goods producers don’t make anything themselves.

In some cases however outsourcers EXPORT OUR JOBS.

Tomorrow: What Uncle Sam means when he says Factoryless Goods Producer.

Here are  some results of a survey of plant engineers and managers by Reed Business Information  taken last month.  Results are listed in decreasing order of frequency of response:

  1. Increased Operating Costs
  2. Keeping Qualified Employees
  3. Downsizing
  4. Environmental Concerns
  5. Finding More Qualified Employees
  6. Customer Demands
  7. Manufacturers Moving Off Shore
  8. Outsourcing
  9. Manufacturer Consolidation
  10. Supplier Competition
  11. Mergers and Acquisistions
  12. Other

Where does it say new government regulations?

What surprised me was no mention of  access to credit, hurdles to continuous improvements of process, nor mentions of  maintaining safety and morale among the remaining employees.
 The above list looks to me like respondents were very much concerned with “defense,”  not “offense.”
How about you? What are your top concerns?
  Are you puzzled that “Keeping Qualified Employees,” “Downsizing,”  and “Finding More Qualified Employees,” all made the same list?
What does that say about our industry these days?
Photo credit.