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4 Ridiculous Ways Manufacturing is Portrayed in the Media

Category: Manufacturing Technology By: Stephen LaMarca, Manufacturing Technology Analyst, AMT - The Association for Manufacturing Technology Oct 11, 2021


Nothing makes a manufacturing technology geek madder than seeing the industry portrayed as dirty, simplistic, or boring in popular media. Ok, well almost nothing. Computer crashes, last-minute Zoom calls, and getting your tie caught in oscillating equipment are also infuriating (seriously, don’t wear a tie on the shop floor, folks). But we digress.

Manufacturing is a lot of things, but few of them are shown in movies, shows, and news broadcasts. It’s long past time to set the record straight. Here’s our top pet peeves, in no particular order.

  1. Oversimplification – Nine times out of 10, if you see manufacturing in a movie, it is grossly oversimplified. We get it. There are time and money constraints, and this isn’t a training video, but come on! In popular media, robots can do everything, every time, with zero programming. Anyone who has ever even seen a robot in real life knows that is fiction.

    Check out sci-fi movies Prometheus or Passengers for some gross oversimplification of medical equipment robots. While these are extreme examples, robot capabilities are distorted throughout popular culture.

  2. Showing a tiny snippet of a huge process – In a related gripe, often hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of engineering, production, and testing are ignored in favor of the grand finale — when a fantastic machine or process is unveiled. We understand. The grand finale has to be, well, grand, but could we at least get a nod to the countless people and hours behind the scenes? Nothing in manufacturing happens overnight.

    In Rush, a biographical film about Formula One drivers, a novel magnesium exhaust is developed for one of the race cars overnight – in the 1970s. They have an idea, sparks fly, and voilà. Seriously?!

  3. Continuous manufacturing gets all the attention – Despite the incredible advances in discrete manufacturing, whenever popular media covers manufacturing, they focus on continuous manufacturing. They show assembly lines with bottles going by — or worse yet, a smokestack pumping out a black cloud. Much of modern manufacturing technology involves discrete manufacturing, which is low volume and high precision.

    Check out the episode of Road Trippin' with Steve featuring Jarvis Cutting Tools, a 119-year-old, family-owned tap maker with a fresh approach to manufacturing and marketing. There wasn’t an assembly line anywhere.

  4. Auto, Auto, Auto – Listen, we love cars and trucks and even minivans (see the sweet, sweet ride in Road Trippin’), but why does the automotive industry have to get ALL the attention when anyone mentions manufacturing? Without fail, if there is standard footage of manufacturing, it is an automotive plant buzzing with industrial robot arms. In reality, the vast majority of the manufacturing industry is made up of smaller shops that make less than $10 million a year in revenue. Often, these shops are home to a few welders, a dozen or fewer machinists, and several big machine tools. Let’s see some of that!

    Learn more about the importance of low-volume manufacturing in this Tech Peek. Visit a small shop that has big machines, big ideas, and a big impact in an episode of Manufacturing Explorers.

Learn more about our likes, loves, and loathes on our Tech Trends podcast.

About the Author

“Stephen LaMarca is AMT’s manufacturing technology analyst. He has a background in physics and a passion for all things mechanical, namely automobiles, clocks and wristwatches. He’s pretty sure he has the best job at AMT. He oversees and runs experiments on AMT’s manufacturing testbed, which includes a 5-axis horizontal CNC mill. Stephen is an enthusiastic IMTS TV and IMTS Network correspondent who injects humor into technical subjects. He also hosts the AMT Tech Trends podcast with Ben Moses, Technical Director. Stephen also tracks the research and development throughout the industry that goes into the stuff you see at IMTS!”

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