Last week, Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to attend the 2013 MIT Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) Conference held on the campus of MIT.  The purpose of this conference was to premiere the results from an MIT research study that began in 2010 on what is required to bring continued innovation in U.S. manufacturing.

We were tremendously impressed with the speakers, findings, and collection of attendees at this conference.  Andrew Liveris, Chairmen and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, author and current U.S. Presidential advisor on manufacturing competitiveness provided the opening keynote along with Patrick D. Gallagher, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department.

The findings of the new PIE research study are included in a newly published book, Making in America, From Innovation to Market, published by MIT Press. In a nutshell, a group of 20 MIT faculty conducted 264 interviews with manufacturers among five research themes related to what makes innovation and manufacturing successful. These themes included successful innovation traits of start-ups, the critical contribution of human skills, what happened to U.S. manufacturing along with the successful traits of manufacturers in China and Germany and the influence of financial markets on manufacturing. An important focus was also placed on success of U.S. mid-sized manufacturers and the need for supplier innovation clusters directed at strategic industries, which has long been a concern of this author.

Many of the speakers addressed themes that will resonate well with the manufacturing and supply chain community while others add important insights to negating some current myths. Overall, the presenters stimulated a lot of strategic thought regarding the current state of manufacturing in the United States and what is required to take advantage of the current momentum.

We are in the process of reading the detailed results of this landmark PIE study and over the coming days will be provided additional commentary and insights garnered.  Suffice to initially indicate that this research uncovered very important needs, insights and recommended direction. It invigorated our thoughts and we believe it should be mandatory reading for many of the U.S. based manufacturing and supply chain management community.

Bob Ferrari