For decades, it seemed like the only predictable changes in the landscape of modern manufacturing was that jobs were leaving the U.S. and heading overseas, or that automation seemed destined to take over for human workers all over the world. There wasn’t much good news, or so it appeared, for those looking to get into the manufacturing industry.

But there have been more positive changes over the last 10 years that seem to have revitalized this business, and they’ve given a new face to the industry. Trends come and go, but if one takes a broad look at the manufacturing business in 2017, there are many different areas where things seem to be going better than ever. Here are a few examples.

The New Los Angeles

What do you think of when you think of L.A., or even California in general. Probably the American film industry right?

But it turns out that over the last few years, Los Angeles has become the biggest industrial hub in the country, chiefly due to the large amount of available space for manufacturing facilities and the favorable weather conditions that make large-scale product testing (airplanes, for example) easier for companies to undertake.

The ports of L.A. are also an important part of the story, allowing manufacturers to easily ship products all over the world.

The High-Tech Job Sector

Even though there are less blue-collar jobs in manufacturing than before, there’s a new and growing need for more tech-savvy workers in the industry.

While there are certainly still businesses in this country that make things the old-fashioned way with more out-moded machines, the trend is towards more high-tech and advanced processes than ever before, making a worker who has knowledge of these new devices a highly-valued commodity on the job market.

The blend of technology and manufacturing demands a new kind of worker, who can be richly rewarded for his or her abilities.


It might sound like an outdated concept, but the idea of apprenticing with a manufacturing company is not as antiquated as it might sound, particularly in the automotive industry, and specifically in the American South.

Companies like the sealing manufacturers Cooper Standard are taking advantage of a program in South Carolina called Apprenticeship Carolina, which provides young people with the opportunity to serve in experience-building positions at various manufacturers around the state.

Programs like these are creating the experienced workforce of the future and bringing a new wave of youth into the industry.

Niche Manufacturing

When it comes to the fashion industry, small may be the new big. Companies like California’s Cal-Mart are becoming increasingly specialized, making items like pocket linings for jeans in an effort to focus on a specific need that other companies might not be filling.

This also puts these companies in a position to provide services to larger clothing designers and manufacturers, creating a B2B model that’s effective and profitable for both sides.

It might seem like an insignificant trend to the naked eye, but these companies are providing the small bits and pieces that our clothing needs, and thriving in the process.

The Little Guy Is Hanging In There

It might be easy to get caught up in the sweeping changes in technology in manufacturing, but across the country, there are still businesses that make their products their own way, and although they might not be growing quickly, they’re sustaining themselves just fine.

Companies like Mansfield, OH’s Carousel Works (which manufactures hand-carved carousel horses) and Newell, WV’s Fiesta company (which makes one of the most popular lines of dinnerware in the country) continue to take a personal, craftsmanlike approach, and remain successful businesses in the process.

Manufacturing is indeed an ever-changing industry. To learn more about how manufacturing developments are affecting product design, read our post “The Many Benefits of Rapid Prototyping.”