A lot of us think of manufacturing as putting tops on bottoms, assembling widgets.  We tend not to think about it as knowledge work.  While it is true that a lot of manufacturing, especially things like the sewing of garments or the assembly of electronics products is very routine and very modular, if you look at advanced manufacturing processes today, they actually require a much higher level of skill and sophistication in your workforce than I think many of us realize.  Let’s look at the manufacturer of genomics based drugs, protein based drugs. 

The scale up of making a few milligrams in the lab to producing a one year supply for the world’s population is a very difficult problem.  That requires sophistication in your workforce.  It’s the commercialization of those types of drugs, the scale up, the production.  Those require sophisticated scientific understanding. 

A lot of other types of production work require the use of advanced tools.  If you go into a factory today you’ll see workers who have to use computer skills. You’ll see people who do scientific experiments on production lines to improve the performance of their processes.  That type of work is really knowledge work.  It’s not our conventional view of what goes on inside a factory.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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