What is Advanced Manufacturing?

What is Advanced Manufacturing?We keep reinforcing the fact that manufacturing today isn’t what it used to be, and for good reason–it really isn’t.

In that light, one term that you’ll hear thrown around a lot these days is “advanced manufacturing.” In one sense, it seems like a pretty simple term to define, but in another, it’s so all-encompassing that it’s hard to say what it is and what it isn’t.

Today, we’re going to talk about what advanced manufacturing is, and why it matters (because it matters a lot).

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (a council focused mainly on ensuring that America stays a leader in the global manufacturing market) says the following about advanced manufacturing:

[Advanced Manufacturing is] a family of activities that (a) depend on the use and coordination of information, automation, computation, software, sensing, and networking, and/or (b) make use of cutting edge materials and emerging capabilities enabled by the physical and biological sciences, for example nanotechnology, chemistry, and biology. This involves both new ways to manufacture existing products, and especially the manufacture of new products emerging from new advanced technologies.

So really, advanced manufacturing is the new manufacturing frontier–it’s the type of manufacturing that most companies are doing now. Rather than the old days of heavy lifting and hand-operated machinery, advanced manufacturing focuses on efficiency, integration, and automation.

So that sums up what advanced manufacturing–but maybe not why it’s important.

The importance lies in something we’ve talked about before–the skills gap. Because so many companies are now what we’d call “advanced manufacturers,” workers with no (or little) skills are unable to fill many of the positions out there in manufacturing today. Instead, positions now require more skills (STEM skills specifically), meaning that only those with some training can actually fill the positions left open in the industry.

The next time you hear someone say “advanced manufacturing,” then, you’ll no what it means. It’s no longer just a thing of the future or something that a few companies are doing–it’s the present, and the only way to solve the skills gap that advanced manufacturing creates is to start thinking about real training and skills as an alternative to traditional educations.

photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc