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US manufacturing to change radically by the year 2000.

By the turn of the millenium, just I I years away, about 48 percent of all US manufacturing companies having over 500 employees will use expert computer systems. Our manufacturing engineers (MEs) will spend more time in R&D and systems integration than they do today. Membership in manufacturing labor unions will decline from last year's 35 percent to about 20 percent.

Further, middle managers will find themselves an endangered species as companies reduce the number of organizational layers. MEs will perform less as technical experts, more as coordinators or "operations integrators." And as technologies expand in number and complexity, manufacturing companies will outsource a higher percentage of services.

These are a few findings of a 15-month study project commissioned by the Society of Manufacturing Engincers (SME), Dearborn, MI. Called Profile 21, the project had two major parts: A Delphi forecast performed by the University of Michigan Industrial Development Div, Ann Arbor, Mi, and a survey conducted by AT Kearney Inc, management consulting company based in Chicago, IL.

SME announced findings of Profile 21 during Autofact 88, a trade show and technical conference held Oct 30 through Nov 2 in Chicago. Delphi forecasts Conducted in both the US and Japan to obtain comparisons, the U of M Delphi study involved some 44 US experts and 52 in Japan. They represented a broad range of industries and job functions. Besides findings already mentioned, the Delphi study came up with these predictions:

The US budget and trade deficits, along with Japan's trade surplus, will decrease steadily.

Percent of foreign content in US-made products will increase in all major industries. For example, foreign content in US-built autos will grow from 1987's roughly 30 percent to about 35 percent in 2000. At the same time, foreign content in Japanese products will increase in aerospace and plastic products manufacturing, but decrease in autos, electronic equipment, fabricated materials, and primary metals production.

In both countries, employment of MEs will decline percentagewise in manufacturing companies, but increase in consulting companies, non-consulting services, government agencies, and educational institutions. Total employment of MEs worldwide is forecast to rise 8 percent annually over the 11-year period.

* Percentages of highly automated, computer-integrated US facilities with over 500 employees will rise from 10 percent in 1987 to 30 percent in 2000. By contrast, the percentages in Japan will decrease from about 10 percent in 1987 to 3 percent in 2000. Percentages will follow that same pattern in small and midsize plants. Kearney's results

AT Kearney Inc did a mail survey, receiving responses from over 7500 managers and engineers in US manufacturing companies. In addition, Kearney conducted round-table discussions in the US and West Germany. These involved 38 professionals from manufacturing companies and universities.

Many findings of Kearney's research coincided with those of U of M's Delphi study. Additionally, Kearney's analysis yielded these predictions:

Products will be available in a far wider array of models and variations, requiring greater flexibility and faster response by manufacturers.

Applications will multiply rapidly over the next 11 years for automated material handling systems, intelligent sensors (e.g., machine vision), lasers (high power and low), advanced inspection technologies, computer simulation, and manufacturing in space.

Education of MEs will focus more on business, management, and oldfashioned leadership skills, less on technical subjects.

MEs will play greater roles in planning and conducting company strategy, product development, and marketing. Teamwork, not individual achievement, will be stressed.

A detailed, printed report covering AT Kearney's survey and findings includes a list of 20 recommendations to US manufacturers, educators, and government officials. For information on this and three other Profile 21 publications, write to Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Public Relations Dept, One SME Dr, PO Box 930, Dearborn, Mi 48121.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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