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


Once focused on textile mill and apparel jobs, South Carolina, the self-proclaimed beast of the Southeast, now boasts a diversified industry of manufacturers and is one of the world’s top producers of premium automobiles, wide-body commercial aircraft, boats, appliances and much more.

South Carolina’s manufacturing industry is growing at a record pace that shows no signs of slowing, from manufacturing headquarters to expanding advanced manufacturing operations. Over the last 10 years, the state has averaged manufacturing employment growth of more than 16 percent.

The phenomenal growth, says Alex Clark, Director of Marketing and Communications for the South Carolina Department of Commerce, stems from the state’s cooperative mindset.

“When you look at the overall picture —it’s attitude. We call it Team South Carolina, which encompasses all facets of government. From state government to regional alliances and local economic development leaders, we are all pulling in the same direction,” Clark said.

The impact of the collaborative work among Team S.C., she says, is increasing the quality of life for South Carolina’s residents by expanding opportunities.

In manufacturing alone, more than 70,000 new jobs were announced from 2011-2019. Combined with all other industries, the state’s total gross wages to goods producing jobs have increased by nearly $1 billion annually since 2013, according to Department of Commerce statistics.

The data shows that South Carolina is capable of making any product, and making it well. From its early roots in textiles, the state’s manufacturing sector has transformed into a technology intensive and innovative industry requiring a stable and qualified workforce.

More than 11 percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing, and there are nearly 100 degree, certificate and diploma programs at technical colleges devoted to developing next generation skills. “We have one of the nation’s best workforce training programs,” Clark noted. “The state’s technical college system delivers an industrious workforce that gives businesses in South Carolina a unique advantage in a highly competitive global market.”

The state’s manufacturing renaissance began more than 25 years ago when BMW Chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim announced in June 1992 the company would build its first full production factory outside of Germany in the Palmetto State. BMW cited the deepwater Port of Charleston, the state’s technical college system and strong work ethic as key factors in its decision to locate in South Carolina. Two years later, the first vehicle—a 318i—rolled off the assembly line in Spartanburg County, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the Spartanburg plant employs more than 11,000 people who build 1,500 BMWs a day, according to the German automaker. The Spartanburg facility–BMW’s largest in the world-represents an investment of $10.6 billion that includes two massive body shops, two paint shops, two assembly halls and an elaborate logistics operation. In 2019, the plant produced the largest volume of vehicles in its history, with 411,620 X models rolling off the assembly line.

The auto sector in SC now represents an economic impact of $27 billion for the state and employs more than 72,000 South Carolinians. ­Giants such as Volvo Cars, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Bridgestone, Michelin, Continental Tire and about 500 other automotive-related companies call South Carolina home. South Carolina leads the nation in the production and export of tires and completed passenger vehicles.

“Companies locate where they can be successful,” Clark said. “BMW gave South Carolina instant credibility. Then, in the years that followed, as the workforce began to produce, that credibility was solidified and a reputation developed. Our existing industries are our best sales people.”

And while the state excels at making advanced products and materials, it also excels at selling them around the world. For the 10th consecutive year, South Carolina set a record for total export sales in 2019, totaling $41.5 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The figure represents a 19.7 percent increase over the 2018 total.

The state’s manufacturing prowess is equally impressive in the aerospace industry. More than 400 aerospace-related companies and four military bases call South Carolina home, contributing more than $14.1 billion to South Carolina’s $233 billion GDP. When factoring in the aerospace industry’s direct, indirect and induced impact, the total soars to a $24.8 billion economic impact—10 percent of the state’s economy.

Since Lockheed Martin opened shop here decades ago, followed by Boeing in 2009, the state’s aerospace industry has soared. Lockheed Martin’s Greenville facility now is home to the F-16 Fighting Falcon production line. In North Charleston, Boeing opened its final assembly and delivery facility in 2009 for the 787 Dreamliner. In 2014, the north campus expanded with the opening of the Boeing Research & Technology Center, which focuses on advanced composite fuselage manufacturing.

While South Carolina excels at the auto and aerospace industries, they are by no means the only advanced manufacturing enterprises in the state. Life sciences is increasingly playing a larger role in the state, Clark said, contributing $11.4 billion annually to the economy. More than 4,900 new life sciences jobs have been announced in the last decade. Recently, Arthrex Inc., a global orthopedic medical device company headquartered in Naples, FL, invested $69 million in a new manufacturing operation in Anderson County near Greenville. The company currently is hiring and expects to create 1,000 jobs, including CNC machinists, finishing and cleaning technicians, suture assembly and packaging teams.

The state’s success in attracting new investment, promoting business expansion and creating jobs is due in part to the quality of its labor force, Clark said. Like its neighbor North Carolina, South Carolina has experienced massive net migration into the state over the past five years—resulting in the fifth highest rate in the U.S., according to Forbes.

When Volvo Cars needed help finding qualified employees in Berkley County, the state’s education and workforce development organizations and Department of Commerce found a solution. Together, they created ManuFirst SC, a training program that allows prospective employees to jumpstart manufacturing careers with a certificate in lieu of experience. Established in 2018, the 62-hour program requires 100 percent attendance and focuses on safety, how to use basic tools and equipment, quality and soft skills such as workplace communications.

More than 1,000 individuals have earned the certification and now more than 100 companies across the state are accepting the certificate in place of one year of manufacturing experience.


Pflugerville, TX has become a major hub for additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing.

Early last year, 3D manufacturing company Essentium Inc. relocated its headquarters and expanded in Pflugerville, creating at least 170 jobs with positions ranging from scientists and chemists to various engineering and specialist roles that have a minimum average annual salary of $75,000.

Essentium moved both its corporate offices and manufacturing facility from College Station, TX to Pflugerville. The additive manufacturing company makes industrial solutions for the world’s top manufacturers.

Aiming to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining, Essentium offers high-tech solutions in the additive materials and manufacturing machine platform sectors, including custom products for the growing $6.7 billion prosthetics market.

“Additive manufacturing is one of the most disruptive technologies of our age and has been noted as the fourth industrial revolution due to its impact on medical, aerospace, automotive and defense industries,” PCDC Executive Director Amy Madison said. “The industry is expected to grow to $50 billion within the U.S. by 2025. That is why it is one of our target industries and a major focus for our strategic development plan.”

Pflugerville has an exceptional concentration of 3D companies. Essentium joined a rapidly growing portfolio of advanced manufacturing companies located in the community.

“Unique amongst peers, Pflugerville strategically identified itself as a city for which additive manufacturing represents the right of industrial growth,” noted Essentium Co-founder and CEO, Blake Teipel, Ph.D.

As part of its seven-year Economic Performance Development Agreement, Essentium must invest at least $1.5 million in personal property, capital improvements and lease expenditures. Following relocation and establishment of operations in Pflugerville, the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. is providing a $100,000 grant to Essentium for relocation expenses. The company also may receive an additional grant of $2,500 per primary job for up to 170 primary jobs created in the city, not to exceed $425,000. To receive the total incentive possible, the agreement stipulates Essentium must retain the 170 jobs over a seven-year term.

Pflugerville, TX is the third fastest growing city in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released in May 2018. With a population of more than 63,000, Pflugerville is located just minutes north of downtown Austin in the desirable Central Texas region. State highways 45 and 130 and Interstate Highway 35 offer direct access to other nearby cities and a quick route to nearby airports. For more information, visit

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