Innovation is essential to manufacturing success. Keeping your products in line with and even ahead of your competitors - and more importantly, your customers’ wants and needs - is a challenge, and not one that can be ignored. Unfortunately, innovation is not something that can be taught, like mathematics or HTML coding. Instead, innovation grows from knowledge, inevitably needed yet fortuitous in form.

Innovation does not grow in a vacuum. An essential ingredient to innovation is knowledge, whether that means awareness of innovations by your suppliers or an understanding of the changing consumer market. It also requires an in-depth understanding of your manufacturing process. The process industries, like the manufacturing sector as a whole, face a graying, shrinking workforce, less workforce interest in manufacturing jobs, and workforce deficiencies in the skills needed for advanced manufacturing (applied science and math skills, for instance).

To address these deficiencies, the Manufacturing Institute, Washington, D.C., created its “Manufacturing Skills Certification System.” This program, endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturing, Washington, D.C., is a system of “stackable credentials” applicable to all sectors in the manufacturing industry. The Manufacturing Institute also has partnered with the University of Phoenix to help manufacturing workers advance in the field, including a bachelor of science in management with a concentration in manufacturing and a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in integrated supply chain and operations management. (To learn more about these programs, visit

Innovation is recognized in the “A-ha!” moments as well as with hindsight, and it is impossible to predict with certainty where it will lead us. The benefits of a more skilled workforce are easier to see.

Linda Becker
Associate Publisher and Editor