The manufacturing industry produces nearly all the products and equipment used in daily life. From commercial products such as concrete, metals, chemicals, and machinery, to personal products we use directly, like computers, clothing, toys, and even food and beverages; all are produced by manufacturers who either operate machines and robots or work manual processes.
In essence, manufacturing is the transformation of materials or parts into new products. For example, a manufacturer takes a raw material—such as wood—and processes it into a ready-to-sell product like pulp, paper, and plywood. Or they may turn raw food ingredients into products like soup, pizza, or ice cream. Manufacturing locations are generally called plants or factories.
The manufacturing workplace has undergone dramatic changes over many decades from a hands-on, worker-intensive enterprise with mostly unskilled workers—to a high-tech workplace in which automation drives many routine tasks. These changes require a skilled, trained workforce able to learn new technology on the job, and quickly adapt from one project to the next.
Quick facts to know:
- Over 12.5 million people are employed in the manufacturing industry, while millions of jobs in other industries are reliant on manufactured products.
- Manufacturers operate in every state, but are particularly important for Midwest and South regional economies, where manufacturing may account for 10% or more of all jobs.
- Job candidates with a high school diploma and short-term technical training are in great demand in manufacturing, and are likely to earn higher than average wages compared to workers in other industries with similar education levels.
- The use of artificial intelligence and automation in manufacturing continues to grow, requiring a workforce with technical skills to match.