Despite slight hiccup, U.S. manufacturing weathering economic storm

July 11, 2012

The U.S. manufacturing sector has seen significant expansion over the past three years, but recent data and industry indices have indicated a slowdown in demand and production.Though this briefly worried experts, more recent news could mean a return to positive thinking for companies.

The Associated Press reported that the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in May from April, as American companies were able to sell more products in Europe and China compared to what was brought in from these countries.

According to the news outlet, the trade deficit fell 3.8 percent to $48.7 billion in May, a drop from the $50.6 billion that was reported for April. Exports rose 0.2 percent during this period, reflecting strong sales of telecommunication equipment and heavy machinery. Meanwhile, imports declined 0.7 percent, highlighting how firms in the U.S. were looking to buy domestic.

Through the first five months of 2012, U.S. exports are up 5.7 percent from the same period during 2011.

This data coincided with reports from the Commerce Department that said wholesale stockpiles rose 0.3 percent in May, following a 0.5 percent increase in April. According to a separate article from The Associated Press, greater restocking means companies ordered more goods, which in turn increases the production levels for factors in the U.S.

Wholesale stockpiles grew to $484.1 billion in May, a number that is 25.8 percent higher than the $384.9 billion that was reported during September 2009.

As companies continue to weather the storm that is the U.S. economy over the past year, a restructuring of operations and a new business strategy has given way to a potential new sector within manufacturing.

USA Today reported that the use of 3-D printers by a company in Pennsylvania has shed light on a way that U.S. manufacturing firms could outdo their foreign competition.

According to the news outlet, this minimalist approach, akin to a modified version of lean manufacturing, is allowing digital technology to become more significant in the sector. This 3-D printing allows firms to accommodate quick product launches, something that can help to accelerate a somewhat nascent "reshoring" trend.

"It becomes very cost competitive with anything you can get from China," Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told USA Today.