2023 Manufacturing Forecast – 5 sure bets

By Bart Taylor | Dec 13, 2022

By most any measure, 2022 was a transformational year for manufacturing. Here's an early look at storylines shaping the coming year.

1. 2023 is the year of the semiconductor supply chain -- who builds a roadmap that wins?

Arizona and Texas were among big winners in the semiconductor factory sweepstakes. But manufacturing communities across the U.S. anticipate a lift from the semiconductor surge. Who best navigates the opportunity?

We know a pile of money is about to be spent through the CHIPS & Science Act -- it’s worth reviewing the scale of the plans. And we know the basics -- money for community colleges and universities to train machinists and engineers, incentives to develop expertise and support for companies operating in a new semiconductor supply chain.

But what types of companies? In what roles? And where? How will semiconductor factories transform local manufacturing ecosystems in AZ, TX, NY, and OH? How should Colorado, Utah, California, or Washington position for growth? Should new coalitions or clusters be formed to support regional prosperity? Who does that? What companies participate, and how?

We don't seem to know a lot about how semiconductor supply chains will evolve to sustain an industry of this size. 2023 will provide the roadmap.

2. More engineers will be hired in manufacturing than ever before (who’s counting?)

Manufacturing has long been seen as the "dirty end" of engineering. In 2023 that officially changes.

Tech jobs in manufacturing are about to become the big thing. Fueled by the semiconductor boom and uncertainty in the tech economy, more engineers will be hired in manufacturing than ever before.

3. 2023 will be a rough year for outdoor industry superpowers.

The retirement of VF Corp.'s CEO Steve Rendle portends a year of change in the outdoor industry.

Analysts have sloughed-off the Rendle retirement talk and have instead pointed to "worsening fundamentals" at VF as the reason for the change. In other words, the business is in trouble.

But it's arguable that the entire industry is in trouble -- and at a crossroads. The lofty ambitions and brand promises of its leading companies are running headlong into the messy realities of global operations -- like decoupling with China.

If demand continues to weaken, companies may in fact seize the moment to make fundamental changes to better align operations with the professed mission of its leaders. 2023 could be a wild ride.

4. EV infrastructure and the Great Leap forward.

As heady an opportunity the semiconductor supply chain seems to be, don't sleep on EV's value chain. The electric vehicle market is forecast to grow about 20 percent year-over-year, and by 2028 to be a half-trillion dollar global market.

The West is already home to superstar brands in vehicle, component, and EV infrastructure manufacturing, and the latter may be the top growth opportunity. California's Beam Global is only one innovator helping nervous drivers overcome "charging anxiety" as they take to the road.

Celebrate Tesla, but invest in the companies and visionaries transforming the transportation ecosystem into an EV-compatible network.

5. Musk's distractions will diminish his manufacturing influence. Sadly.

In 2016, I was driving the Musk bandwagon.

At the time, Musk was waging pitched battles against the likes of Ford, GM, and NASA to overcome decades of entrenched resistance. The outcomes were as spectacular as the fury of the early standoffs.

Musk's adversaries today are journalists and politicians. Get in line, brother.

There will be no equivalent payoff at Twitter. Taking sides in the public square poses risks for his car business, for one. More, the distraction will limit Elon Musk’s ability to lead the manufacturing revolution.


Thanks to all of you, our loyal readers, for a fantastic year. An exciting 2023 awaits us all.

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Email him at btaylor@companyweek.com.