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Key Recommendations

Selected excerpts from the recommendations section:

Companies should start by developing a strategy. Although 90 percent of large manufacturers recognize the importance of their supply chains to business success—after all, 50-70 percent of their costs are in the supply chain—very few have a supply chain strategy.

The MEP program has become an indispensable part of the total U.S. manufacturing ecosystem, and should be funded accordingly. No private, purely profit-dependent companies could successfully fill the position held by MEP.

Small Business Administration could create a loan fund specifically targeted at smaller manufacturers to upgrade their production equipment, networks, sensors, and information systems

Manufacturing USA institutes, MEP centers, and others can help define a broad set of skills that will prepare new manufacturing workers to adapt to new technologies quickly, develop specific curricula for these skill sets, and help to disseminate these curricula to educational institutions.

An exploding variety of technical tools makes the potential for connected supply chains much greater than in the past. However, integrated changes in management and technology are needed to achieve the vision of seamlessly connected firms, equipment, and processes embodied in ideas such as Industry 4.0. Adopting these tools poses a number of challenges, about which more research is needed.


This report investigates a growing multi-sector focus on Supply Chain Optimization (SCO) — tools and techniques for integrated design, engineering and production, enhanced information sharing, and more collaborative decision-making between Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers.

Article: “How the auto industry gave rise to the ‘Tier 0.5’ supplier” by Shefali Kapadia (Supply Chain Dive, 2/20/18)


MForesight released the report in June 2017 and has engaged strategic partners, including NAM and the Senate Competitiveness Caucus, to broadly disseminate the report.

Release of Report on Ensuring American Manufacturing Leadership Through Next-Generation Supply Chains

MForesight and the House Manufacturing Caucus hosted a celebration event on July 18, 2017 in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Read about the event Download Handout 

Attendees heard from key experts on the future of manufacturing supply chains:

  • Susan Helper (Author) — Carlton Professor of Economics, Case Western Reserve University
  • Thomas Mahoney (Author) — Associate Director, MForesight
  • Bill Donohue — Director, Genedge (Virginia MEP)
  • Scott Paul — President, Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Mike Russo — Director of Government Relations, GLOBALFOUNDRIES

After the event, MForesight is further disseminating as appropriate through presentations and distribution of hard copies at various events, including the 2017 MForesight National Summit.

Robust supply chains are essential to U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. In most manufacturing sectors, suppliers add greater than 80 percent of final product value. Pervasive technology changes in areas such as information systems, sensors, intelligent controls, materials, and production processes increasingly affect business practices, skill requirements, and research needs across supply chains. Government policy and programs need to support these emerging changes for U.S. manufacturing to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the next generation supply chains.

This project is a follow-up to recommendations made in the report Democratizing Manufacturing: Bridging the Gap Between Invention and Manufacturing (p 24-25).

An in-depth, follow-on study is recommended to identify the most successful strategies for increased participation by small to mid-sized manufacturers in the supply chain. The effort will be informed on the feedback from experienced supply chain professionals, and will also build on previous supply chain examinations such as the White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative. Small manufacturing firms employ over 40% of all U.S. manufacturing workers, and evidence suggests that small suppliers in the U.S. face barriers to adopting innovative new technologies and practices. The ultimate goal of the follow-on study is to identify how small manufacturers can participate more fully in the U.S. supply chain.

The follow-on study should review:

  • Existing government and private initiatives that have sought to enhance innovation and the adoption of new technologies at small to mid-sized manufacturers.
  • Ongoing efforts to better match suppliers with customers and to improve collaboration, investment, and information flow within supply chains.

In addition, the study should document purchasing practices typically found at successful OEMs including: methods to ensure a return on investments in innovation, mechanisms for information-sharing, and suitable innovative performance metrics (not just price per unit) used in supplier selection.

Of particular interest are pilot efforts in the private-sector for creating incentives and capabilities for innovation throughout the supply chain. The report should identify and detail successful efforts to leverage existing federal technology assets (such as the MEP and Manufacturing USA institutes) to promote innovation throughout the supply chain.

MForesight is collaborating with the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) on this project, and Leadership Council members Michael Russo and Susan Helper are leading the project with MForesight Associate Director, Tom Mahoney.


MForesight would like to express our appreciation to members of the MForesight Leadership Council for their guidance and suggestions over the course of this project. We would also like to thank Tim Eubanks at BAE Systems, Mike Warfield at Volvo Trucks, Mike Russo at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and Pravin Khandare at Johnson & Johnson for their contributions and insights. Special thanks also to Katrin Gurvich at Case Western Reserve University and the staff at MForesight for their help researching and producing the final report.

About the Report Authors

Thomas C. Mahoney is Associate Director of MForesight. He was formerly CEO of Plasma Igniter, LLC, a technology startup perfecting a microwave plasma ignition and sensor system for internal combustion engines. Tom spent nearly 15 years as President of WVMEP, Inc. providing business and technical consulting services to manufacturers. He also was the Senior Economist at the New Zealand Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, where he developed a national technology commercialization strategy. Tom began his work in manufacturing and innovation at the National Academy of Sciences, where he was Executive Director of the Manufacturing Studies Board addressing multiple research and policy issues regarding U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Tom received his MA in International Economics and European Affairs at The Johns Hopkins University and his BA from Davidson College in economics.

Susan Helper is the Frank Tracy Carlton Professor of Economics at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. She was formerly Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce and a member of the White House Staff. She has served as chair of the Economics Department, and has been a visiting scholar at University of Oxford, the University of California (Berkeley), Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research focuses on the globalization of supply chains, and on how U.S. manufacturing might be revitalized. Dr. Helper received her PhD in Economics from Harvard and her BA from Oberlin College in Economics, Government and Spanish.