Soligen: Fortune: 5.25.98 Heroes of U.S. Manufacturing
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May 25, 1998

U.S. Manufacturing

From hitting on a way to mold plastic composites in shapes as big as railroad cars to devising a computer program to make engineers more inventive, these five are keeping factories competitive.

Gene Bylinsky
Reporter Associate: Alicia Hills Moore

America's manufacturing sector continues to thrive, premature reports of its death notwithstanding, on the contributions of individuals like the five shown on the following pages. Because innovators keep hitting on streamlined production processes as well as new products, competition from low-wage countries hasn't dented the roughly one-fifth of GDP that America's factories have commanded since the late 1940s. U.S. factory productivity moved ahead another 4.4% last year, far ahead of the 1.7% increase in the nonfarm business sector as a whole.

Three of this year's manufacturing heroes--from France, Israel, and Belarus--are foreign born. One runs a company whose software directs machine tools and other equipment in a more comprehensive way than heretofore. Another has scored a breakthrough in producing industrial parts and molds directly from computerized designs. The American-born innovators have also made stunning advances. One has saved an industry--the molding of large structures from plastic composites--whose survival was threatened by environmental regulations. Creative destruction continually renews capitalism. Here are the faces of the creative side.

To continue: For most of his life, Israeli-born Yehoram Uziel, 48,...