Technology proves central to US manufacturing

It only takes a cursory glance at the current consumer and corporate landscape to determine that technology has become integral to the way we live our lives and conduct business. Sophisticated tools such as cloud computing and big data analytics have proven their relevance even to relatively low-tech companies. Meanwhile, smartphones and tablets are now among the most popular goods in the consumer product market, and mobile technology is finding a place in workplaces, too, as companies adopt bring-your-own-device initiatives and allow employees to do their work on mobile devices.

As the manufacturing sector has returned to its former health and continued to grow over the past year, the industry has been shaped in its own right by these and other technological developments. Not only has the increased need for strategic sourcing in the consumer electronics market resulted in considerable activity for suppliers that specialize in materials for mobile devices, but advanced technology has also begun to change the methods by which manufacturers produce their goods.

National Public Radio recently spotlighted the development of high-tech manufacturing in the United States. The source spoke with Richard Mileika, founder of Machine Inc., a Stoughton, Mass.-based company that produces aerospace parts via a computer-operated milling machine that can shape a hunk of aluminum into a finished product.

"That is our weapon for being competitive - whether it's local competitors or global - being flexible and being productive," Mileika told NPR.

As consumers and governments get smarter, so must manufacturers

Mileika's comments highlight the need for U.S. companies to streamline their operations through technology in order to reduce manufacturing costs and stay afloat despite the trend toward offshore manufacturing.

However, there's also pressure from consumers and government organizations in this regard. As state and local laws enforce eco-friendliness and customers clamor for sustainability, it's become all but necessary for companies to adopt cutting-edge, green technologies.

In the food sourcing and distribution sector, for example, tolerance for low-cost packaging materials that negatively impact the environment is at an all-time low. According to Sustainable Business, New York City recently banned styrofoam and is launching a new program that will require some restaurants to compost their food waste, although others have signed up voluntarily.

At a time when the average citizen is more informed than ever about environmental issues - and likely to make purchasing decisions based on whether or not a brand's practices harmonize with their stances on these matters - technologies that support sustainable product sourcing and production are likely to become vital.

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