The Institute for Supply Management has released the findings of its December 2016 Semiannual Economic Forecast. News for the manufacturing sector is mixed. It is difficult to project the next manufacturing renaissance, but growth is slow and steady. Revenues in 16 industries are projected to increase by 4.6 percent overall, and the employment base could see growth of around 0.6 percent.

The Manufacturing Business Survey Committee of ISM canvasses purchasing and supply executives. Their responses are used to calculate the Purchasing Managers’ Index. This figure provides a fairly reliable indicator of economic health. Although the current PMI of 50.3 percent leaves much to be desired, it didn't dip into negative territory this year, and it isn’t likely to in 2017.

The manufacturers polled by ISM are operating at almost 82 percent capacity on average. That’s a slight improvement over last April. Sixty-seven percent of respondents reported feeling optimistic about higher revenues in the coming year.

16 Industries Expected To See The Greatest Improvement Over 2017:

• Printing

• Textiles

• Fabricated metals

• Furniture

• Electrical equipment and supplies

• Appliances

• Computers and other electronics

• Transportation equipment

• Coal and petroleum

• Chemical products

• Primary metals

• Paper goods

• Food, beverage and tobacco

• Nonmetallic minerals

• Rubber and plastics

• Machinery

The statistical program of the Association for Manufacturing Technology predicts positive changes in the latter half of 2017. Wage increases, a better forecast for employment levels and increased profitability for manufacturers here at home should up the demand for domestic goods. AMT also analyzes historical trends; fortunately, we’re due for an upturn.

Some regions will see dramatic improvement as recent investments in business topped $5 billion. Sectors that have enjoyed a growth spurt of late include the automotive industry, electronics, advanced technology, steel, fabricated metals, firearms, and nuclear and renewable energy.

Tax rates, labor costs and regulations always come into play, and none of us can predict what changes, if any, Congress will implement. However, if the ISM and AMT projections are solid, then manufacturing could see a small but meaningful surge in the next year.

Keep reading to learn about some of the changes and innovations that we expect to impact manufacturing in 2017.



Manufacturing is steadily making its way back to the U.S. Along with nearshoring and launching new production here, this trend may be the biggest boon of all for industries that were flailing.

Locating production centers close to the market base allows manufacturers to turn out prototypes and small batches for testing before starting mass production. Costs are dramatically reduced. Also, overseas manufacturers are prevented from stealing good ideas and producing knockoffs of poor quality.

Green Manufacturing

Green manufacturing is not only better for the environment, but it can significantly reduce production costs. Using renewable energy sources and recyclable materials adds up to big savings. As green technologies continue to improve and become more widely available, companies will adapt for leaner manufacturing and reduced waste.

Making a favorable impression on the public is an additional benefit.

Bundling Products and Services

More and more companies are following the example of automakers. When the auto industry has everything its way, selling a single vehicle generates future revenue in routine maintenance, repair jobs and replacement parts.

Manufacturers hope to bundle services like installation, upgrades and ongoing maintenance with the products they sell. Bundling goods and services also lays the foundation for long-term relationships between businesses and their customers.

The Stuff of Science Fiction

It’s hard to keep up with the latest developments in technology from year to year, but some of the most impressive inventions don’t yet have practical uses in manufacturing plants. Hopefully, the mainstream value of technologies like robotics and additive manufacturing will become clearer in the coming months.

Watch for these innovations to become more commonplace in 2017:

3-D Printing

This technology will continue to revolutionize manufacturing and ease its way into the mainstream. Costs will go down as more practical uses are discovered.

All that consumers want to talk about is how soon they’ll be able to print their favorite snacks. Manufacturers, though, are excited about the growing number of available materials. With graphene, for example, the possibilities seem endless. It’s so strong and flexible that new uses for it could take years to discover.

Other benefits of 3-D printing include the ability to research and develop products from a single prototype.


Car manufacturers have always relied heavily on automated techniques. With the advent of vision systems and remote monitoring, robotics and other automatic methods have an even wider range of uses.

One sector that could be completely redefined by automation is banking. Up to 30 percent of jobs are expected to go to robotic bankers in the next ten years.

Big Data

Businesses that haven’t converted to big data will find it harder than ever to operate. Just about every industry will rely on algorithms. Geographic information systems will become even faster and more efficient. The need for data storage will drive research and innovation in technology.


Consumers have never been more mobile-savvy, and it appears that they intend to stay that way. They use smartphones for everything from banking and shopping to scoring Super Bowl tickets and making appointments for haircuts. The global workforce has also jumped on the mobility bandwagon and set up shop at home. Development of software, communication systems and advanced security features won’t slow down any time soon. Mobile workforce management companies are also on the rise.


Since the cost of space exploration has dropped, private companies are planning commercial missions for tapping the moon’s mineral resources.

Satellites are becoming more commonplace. High-resolution images of earth will help companies make more informed decisions about business ventures.

The Internet of Everything

As this ceases to be a concept and becomes a routine way of life, the field of intelligent systems should see exponential growth. The Home app, launched by Apple Inc. in September, makes it possible to control lights, temperature, alarms and appliances from the palm of one’s hand.

If we keep our eye on the continually evolving technologies, our future looks promising indeed.