Manufacturing metal, the revival continues

November 27, 2012

U.S. manufacturers looking for evidence that the industry is going through a renaissance should turn their eyes towards the factories that use molten metals on a daily basis, a recent report suggests.

According to USA Today, a study conducted by CareerBuilder, an online recruiting firm found that a number of manufacturing companies were increasing metal-refining furnace operator levels and had brought in more machine tool operators to deal with demand. The report, which relied on data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that the amount of jobs done by "folks who operate or tend furnaces" had risen for the first time since 2009, with 16 percent more positions filled over the last three years.

The figures from the study, which tracked manufacturing trends from 90 national and state sources, showed that companies were pushing ahead with an aggressive business strategy at steel mills, machine shops and production facilities that dealt primarily in plastic goods. With the surge in U.S. production, the number of computer-controlled machine-tool operators is apparently at its highest level since 2007, as machine shop operators reported an 18 percent rise in the number of staff on the production line.

"The country is predominantly a service economy," commented professor Farok J. Contractor, in an article in YaleGobal Magazine. "But the nation is still the world's biggest manufacturer, unrivaled productivity in terms of manufacturing value-added per employee or per hour worked."

While there are still concerns over the potential fiscal cliff and the effect that proposed tax cuts will have on the industry, job growth has increased across a variety of manufacturing sectors. The most predominant gains have been in the oil and gas industry, which has reported a 29 percent rise in employment levels.

This has encouraged U.S. manufacturers to avail themselves of cheap energy and allow them to reduce the costs of labor or fuel transportation, all of which gives a positive glow to the bottom line. Consumers are also becoming disillusioned with the quality of products made overseas and are looking to purchase goods that have a longer shelf life than the box that it came in, another factor that can influence U.S. manufacturing strategy in 2013.

"After a depressingly negative election campaign season in which we were led to believe that the automobile industry was our last vestige of manufacturing and that the rest had been outsourced to other parts of the world, statistics suggest otherwise," said Andrea Kay, a career consultant. "In fact, they seem to indicate that we indeed are still No. 1 in the world."