There has been considerable research in the last decade showing how firms and national economies can take either a low road or a high road to achieve global competitiveness. The low road is marked by low wages, lower-skilled workers, and less investment in innovation. The high road offers higher wages, higher-skilled workers, and more such investment. But while individual firms may be indifferent to which road they take—since both can produce adequate margins—society as a whole should clearly come down firmly on the side of the high road, because higher wages and more investment beget better living standards and greater industrial competitiveness.
For the United States, one important step to ensure success on the high road will be cultivating more and better clusters of small and medium-sized (SME) manufacturing firms that collaborate closely with universities and community colleges. Clusters like these spur development and adoption of new technologies. They provide an environment in which manufacturers can train workers with relevant, up-to-date skills while providing generous benefits. They provide foundations for robust forward and backward supplier relationships with strong integration across regional and sectoral supply chains. And they produce vibrant communities with strong digital, physical, and regulatory infrastructures to support SMEs. America’s chief competitors in global manufacturing, such as Italy and Germany, have made significant investments in such high-performance SME manufacturing clusters, and their experiences offer important lessons.
Such high-road partnerships will be particularly critical if the United States wishes to compete in smart manufacturing, which entails applying technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and industrial robotics. Because SMEs account for over 99 percent of U.S. manufacturers and thus constitute the backbone of American manufacturing supply chains, it’s critical they adopt these tools; yet over 75 percent of U.S. SMEs still don’t even have plans to implement IoT in the next three years.
Please join ITIF for a morning conference exploring how digital technologies are reshaping modern manufacturing, how U.S. SME manufactures can take advantage of these technologies and learn from peers, and what policymakers can do to help foster high-performance SME manufacturing clusters that will bolster American economic competitiveness in the 21st century.
IMA, located in the Emilia Romano region of Italy, is a world-leading SME manufacturer that’s pioneering the design and manufacture of automatic machines for the processing and packaging of product such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, tobacco, tea and coffee.
9:30–10:30 AM Panel 1: How Manufacturing Digitalization Transforms the Landscape of Global Manufacturing Competition
Panelists: Chandra Brown, Executive Director, Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute; Sean Manzanares, Senior Manager, Autodesk; David Vasko, Director of Advanced Technology, Rockwell Automation
Moderated by Stephen Ezell (Vice President of Global Innovation Policy, ITIF)
10:30–11:30 AM Panel 2: How Public Policy Can Support Development of High-Performance SME Manufacturing Clusters
Panelists: Thomas Duesterberg, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute; Susan Helper, Carlton Professor of Economics, Case Western Reserve University; Paul Hughes, Executive Director, Digital Policy, General Electric Company
Moderated by Robert D. Atkinson (President & Founder, ITIF)
11:30 AM Adjourn
This event will be live streamed here.