World’s Top Manufacturers

Who are the world’s top manufacturers? The answer changes over time, as the animation below shows. You’ll see that Japan and Germany, the home of Indramat, actually stay pretty much in the same place. The United States, so clearly in the lead in 1990, swaps places with China in a shocking outcome as you watch.

Otherwise, the chart’s changes are pretty lively. Mexico and Brazil come and go on the list and (spoiler alert) Indonesia pops up right at the end!

Currently, nearly half the world’s total manufacturing capacity lies with just three nations: China, the United States, and Japan.

Manufacturing is 27 percent of China’s overall national output, which accounts for 20 percent of the world’s total production. For the U.S., manufacturing provides 12 percent of the national output, which translates to 18 percent of the world’s output. Japan’s manufacturing comes to 19 percent of the country’s output and 10 percent of the world’s total capacity.


Apart from Germany and the United States, the top manufacturing powerhouses are in Asia. Europe follows, with four nations from the Americans — including Mexico, Brazil, and Canada along with the U.S. — showing up in the top 20.

The Brookings Institution ranked nations according to factors that improve the environment for manufacturing. Some characteristics got consistently high rankings in all the leading nations: a business friendly environment, open trade, internet access, and a lack of corruption were always part of the equation — except in China. However, factors like spending on education, cost of electricity, income levels and healthcare access varied significantly.

The United States

The U.S. is no longer the manufacturing colossus that it used to be, but as automation and Industry 4.0 increasingly take hold, productivity and innovation continue to make the United States a desirable location for manufacturing.

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