Familiarity breeds contempt. Or neglect.
We see this all the time. We grow tired of things often in our lives. In relationships. In politics. With music. With food. With jobs. It’s important that we mix things up from time-to-time. Or in many cases, to re-energize or re-commit.
Maybe – just maybe – we became so accustomed to US manufacturing ‘just being there’ that we didn’t care to protect it. To nurture it. Or even notice it anymore.
Do you ever think about the wheel? A wheel? Wheels in general?
I don’t. I mean, sitting around expending time & energy thinking about the wheel would be – I don’t know – sorta weird, don’t you think? Or at least wasteful. Or obsessive. Or maybe even somewhat dysfunctional.
But I’d like you to suspend your reluctance to do such a seemingly wasteful thing for just a moment, and consider the importance of the wheel to societies, cultures, economies, and quality of life. And I don’t just mean to picture a wheel in your head and meditate on it – I mean to look for examples around you, and consider if there’s a wheel in them. Or what role a wheel might have played in their existence.
Seriously. Try it.
You may look out the window and see cars and trucks. Those are obvious examples. But think of the engine components. The transmissions. The adjustable seats. The pumps. Now think of the machines that were used to make them – the machine tools, the material handling, the physical supply chains that move parts, assemblies, and finished products to markets. Think of the factories, and their reliance on the wheel.
You may look around your home and find many. But aside from the apparent – appliances, toys, doors, faucets – think of those things based on the wheel that aren’t so clearly recognized. Like that mouse in your hand, or that keyboard in front of you. The drawers & cabinets. Your grill (the one you cook on, not the one you’re scrunching wondering where I’m going with this).
You get the idea. If you think about it, wheels are ubiquitous. And they’re extraordinarily important to us all.
They’ve been around for 10,000 years, by some estimates. That’s a long time to get used to something.
And yet, the amount of time we spend thinking about them is directly out of proportion to their importance.
And I suspect that in many circles and segments of the US, we’ve developed the same disproportion toward manufacturing and its importance to our society, culture, economy, and quality of life.
Yes, our country and its livelihood was built on a foundation as a manufacturer – but we used to be much closer to manufacturing in our everyday lives. We fixed things. We built things. Certainly, more of us worked at companies that did those things.
Technology has created a natural disconnection from the process of manufacturing things. We’re not as directly connected to it anymore. The combination of automation, trade policies, consumerism, technology, economics, and politics, have all contributed to our distance from it. Out of sight, out of mind.
We’re seeing a lot of talk these days about the importance of manufacturing – in the press, online, from the government, from business. And that’s good. But that message is being received by fewer people with first-hand knowledge of its real value. It’s not enough to just talk about it. Until we take meaningful steps to rebuild and recommit to manufacturing, all else is window dressing.
Many of us have forgotten that aside from the miracles of creation, everything is made. Let me stress this again: look around you right now – EVERYTHING IS MANUFACTURED.
In relationships, we often realize our neglect after the fact. Sometimes, it’s too late to repair the benign but real damage that years of taking someone or something for granted can do.
But this ain’t one of them. Our relationship to – and dependence upon – manufacturing is real and salvageable and worth the re-commitment.
Maybe – just maybe – it’s simply about instilling the real importance of manufacturing into the conversation, to remind and reinvigorate and re-inspire. To point out what may or should seem obvious.
Like the wheel, many of us have taken and continue to take manufacturing’s extraordinary value to our nation, our economy, and our competitiveness for granted. We should know better by now.
We often allow the anti-manufacturing classes to dominate and distort the debate over US manufacturing’s future. They’ve been misled into underestimating the importance of something they can’t or won’t see. They need our help to understand those extraordinary values in real terms they can process.
Challenge them – every chance you get – to take some time to think about manufacturing and to envision its value.
And to consider that manufacturing is the wheel they’ve overlooked.