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Instead Of A Manufacturing Policy, An Innovation Policy For The U.S.

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A few weeks ago, the Harvard Business Review (of all places) concluded a series of articles from academia, government and the private sector that they called an "online debate." The title of this series is "Restoring American Competitiveness," and the authors weighed in with varying perspectives on the "service vs. manufacturing economy" argument.

The US Must ManufactureSurprisingly (considering the source), there is extraordinarily lucid support in many of these articles for regaining U.S. prominence in manufacturing through sound, strategic policies.

In the article that concludes the series, "The U.S. Must Manufacture To Innovate - And Provide Jobs," Gary Pisano and Willy Shih hit on two things that will be crucial to the success of any impending U.S. policies or initiatives to revitalize manufacturing. The first ...

Manufacturing is part of the innovation process. Where product designs are complex, process innovation and manufacturing competence are as critical to innovation as R&D. The view that the U.S. can specialize in R&D and let others do the manufacturing ignores the complex nature of innovation. The U.S. is not enhancing its capability to innovate by letting manufacturing capabilities atrophy.

The benefits of discovery - the eureka moment - are often lost when issues of cost are the sole or primary motivations that drive manufacturing decisions - in a company, or a nation. And ignoring that benefit is counter to the principles of lean. And the second ...

Government (Role). We had a lot of debate on the appropriate role of government, and some very different views. As we stressed in (this debate), good innovation policy is not the same as industrial policy and picking winners. Good innovation policy creates the right conditions. The failure of the U.S. to engage in serious reform of public education is perhaps the greatest political failure of our generation. And it may well be one of the biggest drags on economic growth in the future.

The importance of a National Innovation Policy is that it takes a big-picture, holistic approach to the problems our manufacturing base faces going into 2010. By isolating Trade Policies, Immigration Policies, Regulatory Policies, Tax Policies and other islands of bureaucratic responsibility, we can only make incremental improvements to a system that needs fresh ideas - and innovation - to generate meaningful jobs and for the government to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities.

Tire tariffs and Cash for Clunkers as disparate actions amount to using a squirt gun on a forest fire.

Let's all hope our new Manufacturing Czar takes the time to consider this ...

MOJO Note: MFG.com has written and posted a petition to the President and Congress of the United States, urging the creation, presentation and adoption of a comprehensive, cohesive manufacturing policy to help revive the vitality of small- and medium-sized manufacturers. Click here to read and sign the petition - once signed, it will be delivered to the officials you select.

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