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Can Trucking Benefit From Manufacturing Resurgence?

“Making — as opposed to just consuming — “is undergoing a tremendous surge in popularity in today’s culture,” said TMW Systems President David Wangler at the company’s Transforum conference in Orlando, Fla this week.

As reported by Fleet Owner magazine, Wangler noted that North American manufacturing – American in particular – is making a strong comeback in recent years.

He explained the resurgence might be “a backlash against mass-produced goods of poor quality” or perhaps “we’ve rediscovered our pride in the manufacturing heritage. Today’s technology, meanwhile, is creating expansive opportunities within this new maker movement, he added.

“Ideas are blossoming exponentially in new open-source online communities,” Wangler said. “Creativity and the urge to make things are finding new outlets.”

Also contributing is the rising popularity of the do-it-yourself approach in everything from home renovation to home-cooked meals. The growing maker culture requires major adjustments in a supply chain that has adapted to manufacturers using low-cost labor to produce goods at long distances.

“The rush of the past few decades to offshore manufacturing jobs is now hindering our ability to return to more of a maker economy,” Wangler noted. “As the economy has truly become globalized, we have created incredibly long and complicated supply chains.

While the transportation industry has molded itself to meet the needs of offshore production, craftsman, builder and other hands-on trade roles have long been declining, according to Wangler. “In our schools, vocational curriculums have been minimized, and discussions about technical training or even associate degrees are often met with resistance,” he told the audience. “The effects of trying to funnel every student towards a four-year college degree, regardless of aptitude or market opportunity, are starting to be seen everywhere.”

Trucking also has long felt the fallout: “The shift away from respecting work that doesn’t take place behind a desk has certainly contributed to our national shortage of truck drivers and maintenance techs,” he said.

Wangler emphasized the importance of truck drivers’ role, which he noted goes well beyond operating a commercial vehicle proficiently to things like customer satisfaction and promoting company image.

“We rely on professional drivers who can think, who maintain situational awareness in crowded traffic conditions …,” he pointed out. “This is where our industry as a whole might benefit from the maker movement, as it generates a turning point in how society values working with your hands; perhaps it shows us how work in the transportation industry in general might be changing for the better.”

For the full story from Fleet Owner, click here.

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