The Future of Manufacturing: New regulations and the organizations working to make it better

Karen Burns author photoBy Karen Burns, Audit Partner, Sensiba San Filippo

In July 2017, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released the results of a joint study on the U.S. public perception of manufacturing.  Believe it or not, the future is bright!  More than 80% of respondents believe manufacturing is important to both economic prosperity as well as our standard of living.  They believe that future manufacturing jobs are high-skilled, high-tech, cleaner, safer and more innovative.

However, manufacturing in America is not without issue, which is why both regional and national associations exist to support and advocate on behalf of the manufacturing community.  Two of the issues most common to manufacturers are workforce and regulations.  Let’s take a deeper dive and see what is being done both nationally and regionally in the San Francisco Bay Area.


The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of NAM, has conducted significant research on the skills gap that is widening due to the “silver tsunami” of retirees.  Over the next decade, 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled.  Here are some of the efforts being put forth nationally and in the San Francisco Bay Area to help fill the gap:

  1. Inspiring youth with the Dream It, Do It Ambassador program, a national network working to redefine the perception of the industry and inspire a new generation of manufacturers.
    • The San Francisco Bay Area has launched its own chapter in 2016 under the guidance of the East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (EBAMP).
    • In February 2017 the first meeting of manufacturing ambassadors was held in Oakland, Calif., with the goal of educating students on the possibility of a future career in manufacturing. Since then, 17 ambassadors from five companies have interacted with over 650 students, 3 dozen educators, and others through classroom discussions and career fairs.
  2. Engaging veterans with an employer handbook “From Military Front Lines to Manufacturing Front Lines.”
    • The Troops to Technology Workforce Development Initiative (T3WDI) recently launched in the San Francisco Bay Area. The program helps to bridge the supply of veterans with the demand for skilled workers by building off the technical training they received in the military.
    • EBAMP and other community partners have held several veteran meet-ups and career fairs, resulting in increased interest and dialogue between manufacturers and veterans in the region.
  3. Valuing women through the STEP Ahead Initiative and the creation of a toolkit for women in manufacturing to be an impactful voice to the next generation of talent.
    • On October 24, the San Francisco Bay Area will be holding its own STEP Forward networking event featuring a panel discussion telling the stories of real women who represent the changing face of manufacturing. By demonstrating the opportunities available in manufacturing, they aim to inspire the next-generation of talent to pursue careers in the industry. Interested participants can register for the event here.
  4. Community colleges are collaborating with employers to create training programs and build apprenticeships through the Bay Area Manufacturing Careers


On January 30, an executive order declared that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations must be eliminated.  Theoretically, this is a boon for manufacturers who struggle under the chokehold of too many regulations.  In fact, according to NAM, federal regulations are costing manufacturers almost $2 trillion.

Less publicized is the nuance to achieve this: any new incremental costs associated with new regulations will be offset by the elimination of existing costs associated with at least two prior regulations. The value of benefits may not be taken into consideration when determining whether costs are net zero.  The ultimate goal is to find ways to achieve regulatory protections in more effective ways – reducing burdens while maintaining essential protections.  How we regulate, not just what we regulate, will likely determine success or failure.

Ways to get involved

  • Become a member of NAM. They have strong relationships with various agency heads, so use them as a conduit to the federal administration (i.e. get a quick call back).
  • Join the Association of Manufacturers Bay Area, a regional network dedicated to supporting manufacturers through education, workforce development, advocacy, collaboration and group leverage.
  • Sign up for “Friends of Manufacturing,” a group committed to fighting for smart government policies and to giving you a voice. They will let you know when issues that are critical to your well-being are being debated in Washington and what you can do about it.
  • Register to give a tour on National Manufacturing Day in the future and help expose our next generation of leaders to the thriving world of manufacturing.

Karen Burns is an Audit Partner at Sensiba San Filippo, founder of the East Bay Manufacturing Group, and President of the Association of Manufacturers Bay Area. Karen can be reached at or at 925.271.8700.

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