Advanced Manufacturing: What It Is and Why It’s Worth Investing In

April 5, 2022

By International Trade Specialists Diana Hajali, Office of Standards & Intellectual Property, and Jaron Bass and Amanda Lawrence, Office of Transportation and Machinery

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When you think of manufacturing, you may think of city block-sized warehouses or labor-intensive assembly lines. In reality, many of today’s factory floors in the U.S. are state of the art, high-tech spaces where workers employ all sorts of advanced technologies to build parts and products quickly and efficiently. In fact, our manufacturing industry is undergoing a digital revolution, fueled by advanced manufacturing systems.

What is Advanced Manufacturing?

Image of a worker’s hands using augmented reality on a control panel to monitor industrial robot arms welding.

Advanced manufacturing integrates machinery with digital and cloud-based technologies like artificial intelligence,  the internet of things, and augmented reality that allow workers to quickly adapt production to changing supply needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of advanced manufacturing systems became exponentially more apparent, enabling manufacturers to change their processes to make new products and fill in supply chain gaps. For example: companies that normally produced alcohol began making hand sanitizer; car manufacturers started producing medical respirators; and some non-medical manufacturers were even able to design and create 3D-printed face masks.

Advanced manufacturing systems – also referred to as “Smart Manufacturing” – are essential in keeping manufacturing on the cutting edge. They not only support supply chain transparency and resiliency, but they also allow manufacturers to create products with a greener climate footprint. For instance, sensors can now collect and analyze all sorts of data to help producers use less energy and create less waste.

Helping U.S. Manufacturers Go Global

Innovation is key to the future of U.S. manufacturing and requires investing in the workforce and creating strategies to help American producers compete at home and abroad.  The International Trade Administration (ITA) has partnered with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to do just that.

Through funding and support from ITA’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MCDP), NEMA researched four markets that that have untapped potential for U.S. exporters: Mexico, India, Turkey, and Indonesia. Together, our organizations are finding ways to connect U.S. producers of advanced manufacturing systems with vetted potential partners in these countries that will employ these newer, more efficient technologies. In February, NEMA hosted an Advanced Manufacturing Summit, where ITA experts in these four markets gave presentations to U.S. producers looking to expand to new markets or break into global operations.

The Summit also highlighted the importance of industry standards to a fair and competitive trading system. NEMA and ITA are working together to increase the use of advanced manufacturing standards to ensure that equipment and machinery work together and that data transfers safely and securely across devices, protecting both workers and machinery. To help guide this process, NEMA is developing a standards roadmap that will identify gaps in current standards and prioritize areas for standards adoption. Once finished, NEMA and ITA will promote this roadmap to trading partners and encourage them to adopt the same standards that are used in America. To learn more about how standards level the playing field for U.S. exporters, click here.

Coming This Fall: Advanced Manufacturing Trade Mission

ITA and NEMA are also organizing a multi-country business development mission to key markets in Asia, which includes Indonesia, Singapore and Japan, on October 17 – 21, 2022.  U.S. firms will be able to join U.S. government officials to meet directly with advanced manufacturing business partners in this region to explore potential opportunities for exporting products and services. Stops include cities like Jakarta, where in-person events will introduce U.S. firms to Indonesia’s advanced manufacturing initiatives, and Batam, where firms will tour the Batam Industrial Estate, an important industrial park. The next stop in Singapore will feature the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific, one of the largest manufacturing trade shows in Asia. An optional stop in Japan will include business matchmaking events—including those through ITA’s Gold Key Service, which provides highly customized meetings with prospective buyers. To learn more about the mission, including application instructions for interested companies, click here.

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