U.S. manufacturing is on a roll, for multiple reasons that when combined add up to great things if you make something in America.

It also goes without saying we could make more if we were better connected. A U.S. supplier network well aligned with OEM demand will absolutely fuel domestic production.

The good news is that everyone, it seems, wants to help connect us. A new generation of networking tools and databases is coming online to help you get connected – and prosper.

The most visible effort, with backers like NAM, the National Association of Manufacturers, and NIST’s MEP system, is the CONNEX Marketplace. It’s the data engine for NAM’s national Manufacturers Marketplace, and the company is striking new data management deals with MEP state centers. In those states, like Utah, CONNEX is angling to be the single data platform that NAM and MEP state-level affiliates use. The goal is a single, searchable national database of suppliers.

It’s a formidable data vision – hundreds of thousands of company records. And that’s a good thing as far as search goes: the more the better. Need a machined part? Search the nation.

It’s also expensive — hundreds of thousands of dollars for participating MEP centers — and the model hasn’t really worked yet, or at least not met expectations. Manufacturers need to breathe life into their data and participate in the digital marketplaces. So far, they really haven’t.

Maybe Manufacturers Marketplace data will evolve into a community that it’s not today — or other platforms will, like Sustainment, a regional networking tool percolating in Oklahoma and Texas.

Sustainment’s approach is to wrap location and connectivity tools around a smaller user base (for now) with large OEMs driving the interest and participation from suppliers. It holds promise, and the focus on “local” may be a game-changer.

SCoP is the database of CompanyWeek manufacturing features — 1,600 or so company profiles. SCoP knows a lot about fewer companies. It’s a community though, where the large data platforms aren’t. New companies are added every week, and they’re connecting with each other today.

Nothing’s doing it all. Long term, a combination of services, technology and automation, and AI, will connect the sector, but more, a community will form around it — multiple communities will form around it. It has to be food at the same time it’s aerospace, and bioscience. All manufacturing is essential or none of it is.

Poke around what’s taking shape. It’s worth a trip.

Also know you’ll be asked to “own a listing,” or “enhance a listing,” or “complete this RFP” — or in our case, send info this month to be included in our Industrial Automation content.

It’s a small price to pay to crank up the engine.

Bart Taylor is founder and publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at btaylor@companyweek.com.

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