Manufacturing 4.0 Has Arrived

Locations that have diversified their high-tech growth sectors are well-positioned to thrive in a new age of manufacturing efficiency. The factory of the future has arrived, a.k.a. manufacturing 4.0.
Locations that have diversified their high-tech growth sectors are well-positioned to thrive in a new age of manufacturing efficiency. The factory of the future has arrived, a.k.a. manufacturing 4.0.

Manufacturing 4.0 Has Arrived

Locations that have diversified their high-tech growth sectors are well-positioned to thrive in a new age of manufacturing efficiency. The factory of the future has arrived, a.k.a. manufacturing 4.0.

Manufacturing 4.0 Has Arrived


Like the little engine that could, Mississippi continues to take steps to ensure its advanced manufacturing sector keeps growing.

Just about anything anyone in America uses has a tie to a manufacturer in Mississippi, says Jamie M. Miller, deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

The Magnolia State turns raw products into goods for America, he said, manufacturing everything from bedding to motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts, ocean-going freighters and tankers, electrical products, appliances, generators, lighting and wiring equipment and stereo systems.

“Textile mills produce cotton for the cloths we wear. Food processing plants across the state produce beverages, dairy products, grain and seasonings for the food we eat. The forestry industry mills timber into furniture we sit on. It’s all made right here in Mississippi.”

The sector continues to grow, and is a significant source of jobs and one of the largest contributors to the state’s economy, Miller added. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturers in Mississippi account for 16.18 percent of the total output in the state or $18.46 billion in 2018. In addition, there were an average of 145,000 manufacturing employees—12.5 percent of the workforce—in Mississippi in 2018, with an average annual compensation of $60,849.10 in 2017.

With nearly one-third of all jobs in the state tied to manufacturing, it’s no wonder manufacturing is essential to Mississippi’s economy, second only to agribusiness. “For every direct job in manufacturing, another two jobs are created in the economy to support that job. Manufacturing jobs pay higher wages and provide better benefits on average to employees,” Miller said.

“Mississippi has a wide variety of advanced manufacturing companies,” he noted. “Hybrid Plastics in Hattiesburg is a Top 10 nanotechnology company in the U.S. Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula is the largest supplier of U.S. Navy surface combatants and has built nearly 70 percent of the U.S. Navy fleet of warships. Howard Industries in Laurel is the largest transformer manufacturer in the U.S.”

Other major employers include Nissan North America, Airbus, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Steel Dynamics, Chevron, Yokohama, PACCAR and Toyota.

“Mississippi also is ranked 5th for its business incentive programs, 6th for the overall cost of doing business and 8th for favorable utility rates. All of these factors combine to make Mississippi attractive to advanced manufacturing companies,” Miller said.

“The manufacturing sector as a whole has experienced healthy growth, averaging about 5,000 employees over the last five years, said John McKay, President and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association. “We have gone from the low-skill, low-wage manufacturing base of 30 years ago to one that is home to some of the biggest names in aerospace, defense and shipbuilding.”

Earlier this year, aerospace and defense leader Northrop Grumman announced another expansion at its Iuka facility, investing $8.3 million and creating 40 jobs. Northrop Grumman employs more than 200 employees at the 320,000-square-foot Iuka facility, which produces large composite aerospace structures for its Antares, Pegasus and Minotaur launch vehicles and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles. Among other work, the company recently started production of composite structures for its new OmegA mid-to-large launch vehicle.

“As a worldwide leader in the aerospace and defense industries, Northrop Grumman once again places the global spotlight on Mississippi, demonstrating how our strong business environment and dedicated workforce enables companies to be successful,” Gov. Tate Reeves said when Northrop Grumman made the announcement.

The Iuka site specializes in the production of composite launch vehicle structures that measure four to five meters in diameter and range from one to 19 meters in length. ­The facility uses advanced hand layup (laying the carbon by hand—versus by machine), fiber placement, machining and inspection techniques for production. It houses one of the largest autoclaves in the world (20 feet in diameter by 83 feet in length), where the carbon fiber is heated at a high temperature to melt and bake resin in the carbon fiber, which stiffens when cooled.

“This expansion signifies the commitment Northrop Grumman has to the employees, community and state of Mississippi to continue bringing high-quality manufacturing work into the area,” said John Kain, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Structure’s director of operations in Iuka.

In addition, employees at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point manufacturing center on the Gulf Coast have manufactured rotary and fixed wing autonomous systems that support the U.S. and its global allies. Facility upgrades in the last few years have allowed for new work on manned aircraft to come to the site, diversifying the portfolio of work and bringing new jobs to the region.

These days, manufacturing means more than just an assembly line, said James Williams, Executive Director of the Manufacturer’s Association partner organization, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or MEP.

“Automated technology–motion control devices, robotics–and additive manufacturing—the use of 3D printing technologies to create highly complex design models—are opening the door to product innovation and customization,” he said.

As capital investments increasingly are being made in these advanced technologies, the MEP is partnering with several centers around the state to develop the talent pipeline to meet the demand for this next era in manufacturing. With 84 percent of the state’s manufacturing firms employing fewer than 100 workers, workforce development is a major priority for the state’s 1,800 manufacturing firms.

Three community colleges—Itawamba, Northeast Mississippi and Pearl River—partner with MEP on workforce training programs, he said. “When you look at advanced manufacturing, from floor to facility—they all have to work together. We’re providing the training, technical solutions, and support services for new, expanding and existing business and industry in Mississippi.”

For hago Automotive in northern Mississippi, partnering with the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program and Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC) to launch a youth apprenticeship program was just what the company needed to meet its demand for a highly-skilled workforce.

Students spend two days at college and three days working alongside skilled employees at hago, where they receive the support of a mentor and other department trainers. After completing the four-year apprenticeship program, students graduate with a registered apprenticeship and a minimum of an associate degree.

At the university level, the state’s four research universities—Mississippi State in Starkville, the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and the Gulf Coast, the University of Mississippi in Oxford and Jackson State University in Jackson are training the next generation in these new technologies, Williams added.

For example, Mississippi State’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) is a world-class technology development center comprised of engineering, research, development and technology transfer teams.

The University of Mississippi houses the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, which is a collaborative learning environment designed to replicate the real work world of modern manufacturing.

The University of Southern Mississippi is home to the Thames Polymer Science Research Center. Jackson State runs the Mississippi Urban Research Center and the Institute for Applied Computational Studies.

In addition to the research universities, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has the Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center in Gulfport.

The state is on top of the “Manufacturing 4.0” trend toward automation and the use of big data and artificial intelligence in manufacturing technologies and processes, Williams said.


By any measure, North Carolina stands out as the cream of the crop for cultivating a top-notch business climate, one that places a high priority on putting the “advanced” in advanced manufacturing.

The state’s economic success and growth potential, spurred on by well-diversified growth strategies and a highly educated and growing workforce, keep earning the Tar Heel state top spots in national business rankings.

“There are many reasons why North Carolina is a great state for business, but our workforce is one of the most important,” said Christopher Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. “Companies that locate here know we have both a long history and a strong labor pool in manufacturing. At more than 464,000 employees, we have the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeastern U.S.”

The state’s regulatory environment and affordability are other key factors in the state’s business success, he added. North Carolina has the fourth-lowest business costs of any state (including labor, energy and taxes) and ranks ninth for labor supply, according to Forbes. Labor costs are 8 percent below the national average.

With a population growing at twice the U.S. average, the influx is fueling the state’s workforce pipeline. Largely due to domestic in-migration, North Carolina’s population is expected to increase to 10.5 million in 2020 and surpass 11 million by 2030.

That labor pipeline has access to some of the best education and training in the country, Chung said. “Students are earning degrees at 53 colleges and universities across the state, including Tier 1 research universities Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State. Our 58-campus community college system is the nation’s third-largest and a national model for customized workforce training.”

The training extends into information technology, a key enabler for advanced manufacturing. N.C. State, for example, is home to the PowerAmerica Institute, a public-private electronics manufacturing institute dedicated to developing next-generation semiconductor chips for a wide range of industrial applications.

Aviation and aerospace, automotive and life sciences are all very strong advanced manufacturing industries in the state.

“North Carolina is among the world’s largest and most mature life sciences clusters and is highly specialized in biomanufacturing and clinical research, pharmaceuticals, research, testing and medical labs, and agricultural biosciences,” Chung said. “And we’re a national leader in information technology enterprises that underpin virtually all industries.”

Some of the biggest names in life science manufacturing operate in the state, including Pfizer, Grifols, Novozymes, Novo Nordisk, Biogen, BASF Plant Sciences and Merck, which recently launched a $650-million, 391-job expansion in the state’s globally recognized Research Triangle region. Eli Lilly just joined those ranks by announcing a $470-million, 460-job state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Durham.

Growth is occurring in a highly innovative subsector of the state’s biotech manufacturing―gene therapy and gene-editing operations.

“In 2019, French firm Cellectis, which is developing cancer treatments based on gene-edited T-cells, selected Raleigh for its first U.S. commercial manufacturing facility,” Chung said. “Illinois-based AveXis, a leading gene-therapy company developing treatments for serious neurological diseases, is doubling the headcount of its manufacturing center in Durham. Pfizer is adding a $500-million gene-therapy manufacturing plant at its Sanford facility, creating about 300 new jobs there. And Audentes Therapeutics, a genetic medicines company, recently announced a new $100-million, 209-job plant in Sanford.”

Since 2001, overall employment in North Carolina’s life science industry has increased 36 percent. Other advanced manufacturing industries are growing as well. Over the past decade, jobs in the state’s automotive sector have increased more than 30 percent. With 72 percent employment growth in the aerospace industry over the past decade, North Carolina had the sixth-fastest growing aerospace industry in the U.S.

“Advanced manufacturing is a hallmark of our aerospace sector. Consider, for example, GE Aviation’s ceramics plant in Asheville, the first in the world to mass produce lightweight ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components for next-generation commercial jet engines,” Chung said. “Or Greensboro, NC-based Honda Aircraft Company, which employs more than 1,700 in the state and makes one of the most advanced light business jets in the world. Or ATI in the Charlotte area, which refines metals including superalloys for rotating jet engine parts.”

Last year, India-based Bharat Forge chose Sanford for a $170-million, 460-job plant that will utilize Bharat’s cutting-edge aluminum light-weighting technology to make automotive components that increase fuel efficiency and extend the range of electric vehicles.

The state’s economic growth potential extends beyond its urban areas, Chung noted. While many people know North Carolina as a national leader in traditional textiles, the state also is home to the nation’s highest concentration of nonwovens manufacturers producing highly engineered fabrics. Recent recruiting efforts are placing additional emphasis on food processors and manufacturers who can utilize crops grown in North Carolina for their products.

“It’s worth noting that you’ll find advanced manufacturing in both urban and rural parts of our state. Rural counties, in fact, have landed some massive advanced manufacturing facilities in the past few years,” Chung said. As prime examples, he cited Chinese tire maker Triangle Tyre’s planned $580-million operation that is expected to create 800 new jobs in Edgecombe County and Austrian-based Egger Wood Products’ $700 million particleboard manufacturing plant that is expected to employ up to 770 workers in Davidson County.

To meet the skilled workforce needs of Triangle Tyre and other manufacturers that are already operating in the region or considering moving in, a collaboration of eight community colleges across 10 counties have come together to form the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline for Eastern North Carolina.

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