The Changing Face of American Manufacturing

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Management innovation is just as important as new technology

Reposted from UPS® Upside blog: 

Thomas Edison once said: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” As someone with an up-close view of the evolution underway in manufacturing, I can vouch for the opportunities that await those willing to invest the work that will make them a reality.
Innovation is the American worker’s most prolific and valuable product.

Creating the concepts for new products and turning ideas into reality holds a romantic appeal for many and is highly prized among business leaders. But after outsourcing an incredible number of jobs two generations ago, our country — once a bastion for manufacturing design and production — has struggled to maintain an adequately skilled workforce that could continue to fill the innovation pipeline.

We’re now seeing that trend come full circle, especially in the areas of prototyping and rapid production.

Today’s global marketplace and the technologies used in 21st Century manufacturing have created increased demand for prototype and rapid-production manufacturing companies. Fueled by the need for high-specification products with short turnaround times and demands for extraordinary customer service, the manufacturing industry touches every sector of our economy.

Baklund R&D is one business capitalizing on this need. Nestled in the Minnesota countryside, our second-generation tool-and-die company services NASA, the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and a number of high-profile corporate clients. Our 14 employees work in a non-descript 8,000 sq. ft. metal building. Old-fashioned metalworking tools sit next to the latest CNC (computer numericalIMG_5008-436x705ly controlled) milling equipment, state-of-the-art computers, and additive manufacturing (3D printing) equipment.

In addition to word-of-mouth marketing, the online industrial manufacturing marketplace provides a steady flow of new business opportunities. has greatly expanded our customer base, including putting us in front of companies that employ 400+ engineers and have $1 million jobs. A company of that size would have been out of our reach if we didn’t decide to keep up with the way engineers are currently doing business—online.

The real challenge is assembling a skilled staff capable of meeting the market’s immediate needs and cultivating life-long business relationships. The American educational system isn’t currently training students in prototyping and rapid manufacturing. That job is left to the businesses themselves, which is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Baklund is filling the need for talented employees by hiring young professionals searching for a place to start their careers, along with seasoned tradesmen ready to reinvigorate theirs. Both types of employees are attracted by the challenges of solving their customers’ problems through innovation. They find satisfaction in creating and holding a new product in their hands before anyone else does. They take pride in being integral to the advancement of the aerospace, technology, and healthcare industries.

Even though Baklund employees start their careers with some design and manufacturing experience, none had ever done the kind of work they are doing now.

In addition to receiving extensive on-site design and manufacturing training, they’re also investing in their futures by continuing his or her career education that leads to well-rounded and entrepreneurial business people. It’s an amazing transformation. Employee job descriptions and contributions have changed as much as the tools they use in their jobs. The same people who are producing specialty parts with exacting tolerances are also their customers’ primary points of contact and representing the company on social media. Every time a package is shipped to a customer using the integrated UPS functionality within’s marketplace, the project manager emails its tracking status with information from UPS. They are becoming the face of the company throughout the project; in the process, they’re helping us win future business.

It’s a career challenge – and opportunity — that our employees embrace in the 21st Century manufacturing world. They understand that it’s no longer enough to design a product or don a pair of overalls to oversee its production. Business acumen and customer service have assumed equally important roles. The result is much more than a new generation of tool makers. It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs who are tool makers.

Please join us at to continue this dialogue.

UPS small business customer Baklund R&D is a leader in additive manufacturing (3D Printing) and precision machining with customers that include NASA and the US Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Baklund R&D’s business development initiatives include, an online manufacturing marketplace that has a strategic alliance with UPS. helps sourcing professionals and engineers locate suppliers for CNC Machining Injection Molding, Metal Stamping, Metal Fabrication and other processes.

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