Olivier de Weck, Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at MIT, PIE Executive Director
Keynote speaker at MIT LGO conference on "The Future of Manufacturing in the U.S." (May 8, 2012)
In 2011 MIT embarked on a major new study on the current state and future of U.S. Manufacturing and its relationship to innovation. The Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) project brings together leading MIT faculty from a variety of disciplines—economics, engineering, political science, management, biology, and others—to look at U.S. industry from different perspectives: national, sectoral, and global. The study's overarching goal is to shed light on how America's great strengths in innovation can be scaled up into new productive capabilities.
Among key issues the study is examining are the U.S. innovation capacity and production capabilities, including the experience of entrepreneurial firms and how their capacities compare to those emerging in other countries, including high-wage/high-cost economies such as Germany and Japan, as well as emerging economies such as China and India. New paradigms of production that will speed up the passage from laboratory to market, including bringing low-volume but high-value products to market, integrating early stage production with R&D, and deeply integrating services and production.
This talk presents some preliminary findings from PIE and focus on examples of successful manufacturing models in the U.S. based on over 120 company interviews to date. These models include the scale-up of entrepreneurial firms, the ability of small-to-midsize firms to customize rapidly and offer unique product-service bundles, the highly efficient automated production of bulk products close to the point of consumption and the ability of U.S. states to attract new foreign-owned manufacturing.
The message is a mixed one. U.S. manufacturing is clearly in crisis, but there is hope in the form of new innovations—many emerging from research universities—and the creation of a more favorable business climate for manufacturers.