Manufacturing is the backbone of our modern world, and it plays a vital role in our everyday lives. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the technology we use, manufacturing touches nearly every aspect of our existence.
Make manufacturing the unexpected star of the Thanksgiving table, with these 37 fun and fascinating manufacturing facts. From bizarre Barbie facts to the birth of bubble wrap to the truth about Velcro, these stories are sure to amaze your guests (and might just help you avoid that awkward silence when Aunt Judy asks how you're enjoying her Jell-O salad).
1. From Dog Fur to Velcro
Velcro was inspired by the way burrs stick to dog fur. George de Mestral, the inventor, got the idea during a hunting trip with his dog.
Candy canes, a staple of the holiday season, were originally created to keep children quiet during long-winded Nativity scenes. They were straight and all white until around 1900!
3. A Colorful History
Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith, founders of Crayola, coined the term "Crayola" from "craie," the French word for chalk, and "ola," from "oleaginous," which means oily.
4. The Birth of Bubble Wrap
Bubble wrap was initially created as textured wallpaper, but its popularity soared when it was repurposed for packaging.
5. Saving Life Savers
The first use of aluminum foil in the United States was in 1913 for Life Savers candy wrappers.
6. A Slogan That Sticks
The phrase "the best thing since sliced bread" was coined in 1928, the same year pre-sliced bread was first sold by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri.
7. The Origins of Teflon
Teflon, the nonstick coating on cookware, was discovered accidentally in 1938 by a chemist trying to develop a new refrigerant.
8. Sticky Situations
The Post-It Note was invented by accident by 3M employee Spencer Silver in 1968. It was initially regarded as a failed adhesive but later became a popular product.
9. Clippy’s Ancient Cousin
The paper clip has been around since the 19th century, and the design hasn’t changed since. It took until 1899 for someone to patent it. William Middlebrook's patent is still the design used today.
10. Robotics Advancements
The first industrial robot, named Unimate, was introduced in 1961 and used for repetitive tasks in the automotive industry. The first Unimate robots sold for $35,000 ($200,000 in today’s dollars).
11. Space Blankets
Those shiny, reflective blankets used to retain body heat in emergencies were first developed by NASA for the Apollo space program.
12. The Power of the Pencil
A standard wooden pencil can write for approximately 35 miles or draw a line that is 35 miles long.
13. Bizarre Barbie Fact
If Barbie were life-sized, she would have to crawl on all fours due to her proportions.
14. Tasty Colorant
The red food dye commonly used in lipstick and candy (and Aunt Judy’s Jell-O salad) is often made from crushed insects called cochineals.
15. LEGO Precision
LEGO bricks are so precisely manufactured that 36 bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 ways.
16. Incredible Chocolate Production
It takes roughly 400 to 450 cocoa beans to produce a single pound of chocolate. Considering the vast scale of chocolate manufacturing, this adds up to a staggering number of cocoa beans.
17. Coca-Cola's Secret Recipe
The formula for Coca-Cola is one of the most closely guarded trade secrets in the world, kept in a vault at the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta.
18. Largest 3D-Printed Object
In 2019, the world's largest 3D-printed object was a boat. The University of Maine printed a 25-foot-long boat using a 3D printer.
19. 3D Printing Marvels
In the aerospace industry, GE Aviation has successfully used 3D printing to create a complex fuel nozzle. This design is not only more efficient but is also lighter than traditional counterparts.
3D printing is making waves in the healthcare sector too. Customized prosthetics and even 3D-printed organs for transplant are areas where this technology is showing immense promise.
20. Smart Factories in Action
German automaker BMW has implemented a smart factory in its production processes. Robots, IoT devices, and data analytics work in harmony to optimize production and reduce defects.
Smart factories are enabling predictive maintenance. For example, if a machine's sensors detect an anomaly, maintenance can be scheduled before a breakdown occurs.
21. Nanotechnology Wonders
Nanotechnology is enhancing material properties. Engineers are developing ultra-light but incredibly strong materials, such as graphene, which could revolutionize industries from aerospace to electronics.
22. Digital Twins Revolution
Rolls-Royce uses digital twin technology for its aircraft engines. These virtual replicas allow for real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and performance optimization, ensuring safer and more efficient flights.
23. Advanced Robotics at Work
Boston Dynamics' robot, Spot, is being utilized in warehouses for tasks like carrying heavy loads. Its agility allows it to navigate through complex environments.
Collaborative robots (cobots) are becoming commonplace on factory floors, working alongside human workers. This collaborative approach enhances efficiency and safety.
24. Blockchain in Supply Chain Transparency
Walmart has implemented blockchain technology in its food supply chain. It enables a transparent and traceable system, allowing quick identification of sources in case of contamination or recalls.
25. Biomanufacturing Breakthroughs
Modern Meadow is using biomanufacturing to produce lab-grown leather. This sustainable approach aims to reduce the environmental impact of traditional leather production.
Biofabrication is extending to the medical field, with researchers working on 3D-printing functional human organs using a patient's own cells.
26. Augmented Reality for Training
Boeing utilizes augmented reality for aircraft assembly. Technicians wear AR glasses that guide them through complex wiring processes, reducing errors and training time.
26. Predictive Maintenance Success
Predictive maintenance has been a game-changer for the railway industry. Companies like Siemens Mobility use IoT sensors to predict when train components need maintenance, preventing costly breakdowns.
27. Customization through Mass Production
Adidas has embraced customization through mass production with its "Speedfactory." These factories use advanced automation to produce customized shoes quickly and efficiently.
28. Backbone of the Economy
Manufacturing accounts for 11.6% of the U.S. GDP and 8.5% of U.S. employment in 2020, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
29. Global Manufacturing Hub
The U.S. is the second-largest manufacturer in the world, behind China, producing 16.8% of the global manufacturing output in 2019, according to the United Nations.
30. Productivity Surge
The U.S. manufacturing sector is more productive than ever, producing $2.4 trillion worth of goods in 2020, up from $1.7 trillion in 2009, according to the Federal Reserve.
31. Innovation Powerhouse
The U.S. manufacturing sector is also more innovative than ever, spending $271 billion on research and development in 2018, accounting for 69% of all business R&D in the U.S., according to the National Science Foundation.
32. Diverse and Dynamic
The U.S. manufacturing sector is diverse and dynamic, comprising more than 250,000 firms and 21 subsectors, ranging from food and beverage to aerospace and defense.
33. Tech Dominance
The largest subsector of U.S. manufacturing is computer and electronic products, which accounted for 12.7% of the total manufacturing output and employed 1 million workers in 2020, according to the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
34. Pharma Boom
The fastest-growing subsector of U.S. manufacturing is pharmaceuticals and medicines, which increased its output by 12.5% and added 17,000 jobs in 2020, according to the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
35. Export Powerhouse
The most exported subsector of U.S. manufacturing is transportation equipment, which exported $249 billion worth of goods in 2020, accounting for 22% of all U.S. manufactured exports, according to the International Trade Administration.
36. Sustainability Champion
The U.S. manufacturing sector is a leader in environmental sustainability, reducing its energy consumption by 17% and its greenhouse gas emissions by 21% from 2005 to 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
37. Social Responsibility
The U.S. manufacturing sector is also a leader in social responsibility, supporting more than 18 million jobs directly and indirectly in 2020, paying an average annual compensation of $88,000 per worker (including benefits), and providing health insurance to 92% of its workers, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
From humble beginnings to cutting-edge technologies like nanotechnology and digital twins, manufacturing has shaped the world around us and continues to innovate our future. Tap in to this powerful market with IndustrySelect, the industry's most trusted source for industrial leads. IndustrySelect gives you live access to MNI’s database of 460,000 industrial companies and one million executives, providing up to 30 data points to help you identify and pre-qualify the best leads. Set up your free demo account today, loaded with 500 real company profiles, so you can test all the features of this powerful software!