How do our roads, railways and transportation services impact manufacturing? What happens when infrastructure fails? Are there solutions in which the U.S. should be investing to preserve our manufacturing renaissance?
Lean manufacturing cuts costs by eliminating inefficiencies; but not all inefficiencies are found on the production floor. For example, one-quarter of all trains pass through Chicago. With increased traffic and congestion, it is taking longer for trains that go through this hub to complete their journeys. This hurts manufacturers, because wasted time sitting in traffic equates to wasted money. Here's another example. If increased traffic congestion holds up employees on their way to their plant, the manufacturer loses money due to lost man-hours.
At a recent National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) summit, Vice President Biden made the case for linking manufacturing and infrastructure development. Not only do factories need to be updated with the newest technology and automation, (see our previous post: Why U.S. manufacturing is an industry with tremendous potential), but the infrastructure that supports industry needs to be updated as well. The infrastructure connecting cities with the new hubs of manufacturing, the suburbs, is decaying. Without repair it will certainly limit the potential of U.S. manufacturing. Currently, America is ranked 12th in the world for infrastructure and falling, according to the World Economic Forum. If action is not taken soon, the failing infrastructure will hurt major industries that depend on physical transportation of goods.