Consumers Set U.S. Manufacturing Priorities

This news article was printed in CONTROL's March 2009 edition.

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient production are the most important manufacturing issues in today’s economy according to a recent survey by Opinion Research Corp. Most Americans also believe that highly automated, modern factories are important to improve and grow the U.S. economy, and that a federal government stimulus package should support more modern, automated factories.

“Whether it’s toys, peanut butter or pet food, product quality is top of mind for Americans,” said Rockwell Automation Chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch. “Consumers recognize that government incentives to invest in more highly automated, modern factories can both stimulate U.S. economic growth and lead to safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient production at the same time.”

When considering a manufacturing company, Americans chose product and employee safety, and environmental issues as the most important attributes. Among the top answers chosen include:

  • Provide safe, quality products (86%)
  • Provide a safe workplace (84%)
  • Use natural resources efficiently (80%)
  • Produce minimal waste (71%)
  • Keep current prices or reduce prices (59%).

Despite the economic downturn, support remains strong and unchanged from a similar survey conducted last summer for government incentives to U.S. companies to invest in technology and automation to remain competitive and to keep manufacturing operations from moving overseas. More than three-quarters (79%) said the government should provide such incentives. Americans believe U.S. manufacturers need to invest in automating and modernizing their factories to improve environmental sustainability, competitive position and product quality.

U.S. Manufacturing’s Competitive Edge

Nearly half of Americans (42%) surveyed believe the U.S. has lost its competitive edge in manufacturing technology and automation, and they think the manufacturing sector in this country has gotten less competitive in the last 10 years. Only 18% believe U.S. manufacturing technology is more advanced than other countries, and only about a third (34%) believe that the U.S. has become more competitive in the past 10 years.

“While most Americans think incorrectly that the U.S. is no longer the world’s largest manufacturer, they feel there is an urgent need for government stimulus,” explained Nosbusch. “Government incentives to modernize manufacturing will help create highly skilled, higher-paying jobs upgrading and operating more automated U.S. factories for many years to come. These technologies are cost-effective and ready to be deployed today for benefits that are both immediate and sustainable.”

The findings are based on surveys conducted by The Opinion Research Corp. during Jan. 15-18, 2009, and in May 2008. The surveys, sponsored by Rockwell Automation, are designed to determine public attitudes on manufacturing technology and automation in order to understand priorities for industry and for U.S. government policy planning.

Results of each survey are based on telephone interviews conducted among representative samples of 1,001 adults, age 18 and over, living in private households, in the continental U.S. All completed interviews were weighted by four variables: age, gender, race and region to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population. The margin of error at a 95% confidence level is ±3 percentage points for the total sample. Smaller sub-groups will have larger error margins.

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