May 16, 2020

New study examines productivity dynamics and drivers in US manufacturing

Nell Walker
3 min
New study examines productivity dynamics and drivers in US manufacturing
A new study by the MAPI Foundation analyses productivity growth in a range of manufacturing subsectors over the past 25 years, and provides compelling s...

A new study by the MAPI Foundation analyses productivity growth in a range of manufacturing subsectors over the past 25 years, and provides compelling statistical evidence on the importance that capital investment and educated labor have on productivity performance.

The research explores the drivers of productivity performance on subsectors. In particular, the study looks for ways that manufacturers who have already invested in capital equipment can increase productivity and innovation.

The report is the first in a series on productivity that the MAPI Foundation is producing this year.

Produced by Cliff Waldman, Director of Economic Studies at the MAPI Foundation, and sponsored by Rockwell Automation, a global leader in industrial automation, the study uses well-accepted theory and regression analysis of several decades’ worth of data to illuminate evidence that innovation and capital investment play a significant role in driving multifactor productivity growth (i.e., output per unit of a combined set of inputs including labor, materials, and capital) in a wide range of manufacturing subsectors. Capital investment is the mechanism by which productivity-enhancing innovation spreads through companies, supply chains, and the broad economy.

"In the manufacturing sector, strong productivity performance is needed to meet the globally driven challenges of cost pressures and competitiveness," Waldman observes. "For both manufacturing and the economy as a whole, the recent slowdown in productivity causes concern, because it contributes to both slow output and wage growth."

"Isolating the critical investments required to improve productivity performance is an important foundational element in the MAPI Foundation's first study," added Joe Kann, Vice President of Global Business Development at Rockwell Automation. "We look forward to the conclusions regarding industry-specific productivity drivers that will be identified in the remaining studies."

Waldman's research finds that another key link to productivity performance is the labor force participation rate of the population holding a B.A. degree or higher, in effect the economy's supply of educated labor.

Productivity stagnation

The manufacturing sector, a traditional driver of overall productivity, has seen its pace of productivity growth slow over the last 15 years. As Waldman notes, part of this is due to slowing productivity growth in the computer and electronic products industry, which has played an outsized role in driving manufacturing productivity growth in recent decades.

According to the study, industry subsectors that have experienced relative improvements in productivity performance since 1993 include machinery, transportation equipment, and printing. But their growth has not been enough on an absolute basis to replace the decline in computer subsector productivity. Industries with a noticeable drop since 1993 in their relative pace of productivity growth include primary metals and petroleum and coal products.

Strong subsector correlation

The paper reveals strong cross-subsector correlations for both labor productivity growth and multifactor productivity growth. The apparent interconnectedness of productivity performance across industries, says Waldman, is likely the result of supply chain linkages, innovation spillovers, cluster impacts, and trade channels. Such evidence suggests that, where investments in any one industry lead to faster productivity growth, such expenditures can have impacts that extend to other subsectors as well.

Waldman concludes that a beneficial policy response must consist of a coordinated program that stimulates manufacturing equipment investment as well as innovation investment and increases the supply of educated labor in the broad economy.

The MAPI Foundation’s next study on productivity builds on this work and will reveal the findings of a national survey on technology and automation investment that was conducted to determine the drivers and pace of change in various manufacturing industries.


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May 12, 2021

Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing

2 min
Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing


What is Ultium Cells LLC?

Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”

Who is Li-Cycle?

Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.

As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”

Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?

By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.

“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.

"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.

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