Saturday, April 9, 2016

Vaclav Smil: "Advanced Economies Must Still Make Things"

Our readers may know Mr. Smil as a big deal in the Thinking-about-Energy biz.
Here he is thinking about "stuff".
From IEEE Spectrum:

Take away manufacturing and you’re left with...selfies
Manufacturing has become both bigger and smaller. During the past 10 years the worldwide value of manufactured products has grown, in inflation-adjusted terms, by more than 60 percent, surpassing US $12 trillion in 2015.

graph of 2015 manufacturing sector contribution to GEPMeanwhile, the relative importance of manufacturing is dropping fast, retracing the earlier retreat of agriculture (now just 4 percent of the world’s economic product). Based on the United Nations’ uniform national statistics, the manufacturing sector’s contribution to global economic product declined from 25 percent in 1970 to about 15 percent by 2015.

The decline has registered in the stock market, which values many service companies above the largest manufacturing firms. At the end of 2015, Facebook, that purveyor of updated selfies, had a market capitalization of nearly $300 billion, about 50 percent more than Toyota, the world’s premier maker of passenger cars. And SAP, Europe’s largest software provider, was worth about 75 percent more than Airbus, Europe’s largest maker of jetliners.

And yet manufacturing is still important for the health of a country’s economy, because no other sector can generate nearly as many well-paying jobs. Take Facebook, which at the end of last year had 12,691 employees, versus the 344,109 that Toyota had at the end of its fiscal year, in March 2015. Making things still matters.

The top four economies remain the top four manufacturing powers, accounting for about 55 percent of the world’s manufacturing output in 2015. China is at the top of the list, followed by the United States (whose gross national product is still nominally No. 1), Japan, and Germany. But these countries differ markedly in the relative importance of manufacturing to their economies. The sector contributed about 28 percent of China’s GDP in 2014, second only to South Korea, with 30 percent. In the same year, manufacturing’s share came to about 23 percent in Germany, 19 percent in Japan, and only 12 percent in the United States total.

If you rank countries by per capita manufacturing value, then Germany, with more than $9,500 in 2014, came out on top among the big four, followed by Japan with nearly $7,000, the United States with about $6,500, and China with only $2,100. But the global leader here was Switzerland, with more than $15,000 per capita. Think about not only the sales of high-value products, such as the pharmaceuticals of Novartis and Roche and the watches of the Swatch Group (which includes Longines, Omega, Tissot, and other famous brands) but also machinery (ABB) and agrochemicals (Syngenta)....MORE
Previously on the Smil channel:

Vaclav Smil On Energy: "Revolution? More like a crawl"
"Happy Birthday to Moore’s Law" (plus party pooper Vaclav Smil)
Vaclav Smil Takes on Jeremy Grantham Over Peak Fertilizer
Bill Gates on The Most Astounding Statistic In Vaclav Smil's New Book

Bill Gates Summer Reading List (Vaclav Smil has two entries)
Energy--'Vaclav Smil is Correct: Never Forecast'
Energy: "The man who’s tutoring Bill Gates … "
Vaclav Smil: "In energy matters, what goes around, comes around—but perhaps should go away"
Vaclav Smil: "The Manufacturing of Decline"
Serious Thinking on Energy: An Interview With Dr. Vaclav Smil
A Major Piece: "Why the tech revolution isn’t a template for an energy revolution"
Bill Gates Reviews Vaclav Smil's "Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines"