Key drivers impacting global manufacturing competitiveness

Manufacturing related activities among global nations are rapidly evolving. The 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index (GMCI) study clearly shows the ongoing influence that manufacturing has on driving global economies. Manufacturing earnings and exports are stimulating economic prosperity causing nations to increase their focus on developing advanced manufacturing capabilities by investing in high-tech infrastructure and education, while incentivising the private sector to conduct its own research through the development of collaborative innovation ecosystems.

The 2016 GMCI is the 3rd of its kind, being built on the foundation of studies conducted in 2010 and 2013, where more than 500 global manufacturing CEOs were surveyed to determine where the top manufacturing nations of the world rank against each other.

12 drivers shaping the global manufacturing competitiveness of nations

The results of the 2016 study presents a set of 12 drivers which are shaping the global manufacturing competitiveness of nations.

The top ranked drivers of global manufacturing competitiveness, as ranked by the world’s manufacturing CEOs are:


Talent tops this list for a 3rd year in a row, followed by cost competitiveness which can be linked to the sluggish economic growth where retaining costs and increasing profits remains a focus for manufactures. These two drivers are charted by productivity, supplier networks, and legal and regulatory systems which round up the top five divers.

Global manufacturing competitiveness country rankings

In the 2016 GMCI, CEO survey respondents were also asked to rank nations in terms of current and future manufacturing competitiveness. Top performing nations have each demonstrated strengths across multiple drivers of manufacturing excellence. They also clearly illustrate the close tie that exists between manufacturing competitiveness and innovation.

Taking a closer look at the top 15 countries one will see the formation of three distinct regional clusters of manufacturing strength. In North America, the United States provides an anchor for both Canada and Mexico. This is a similar story in Europe where Germany plays the anchor role, and the Asia Pacific cluster where China, Japan, and South Korea are leading a group of emerging ASEAN nations. The formation of these clusters is setting up what could be an ongoing battle for manufacturing supremacy.

The world’s 15 most competitive manufacturing countries

  1. China
  2. United State
  3. Germany
  4. Japan
  5. South Korea
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Taiwan
  8. Mexico
  9. Canada
  10. Singapore
  11. India
  12. Switzerland
  13. Sweden
  14. Thailand
  15. Poland

Other highlights

  • China is the most competitive manufacturing nation for now, but the United States is expected to take over the number one spot by the end of the decade, contributing to its investments in the advanced technologies in recent years.
  • The “Mighty Five” (Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam) are expected to be included in the top 15 nations by 2020. Increasing labour cost in China has created an opportunity for the “Mighty Five” who represent a “New China” with low-cost labour, agile manufacturing capabilities, favourable demographic profiles, and strong growth potentials.
  • The traditional manufacturing superpowers of the 20th century (the United States, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom) continue to invest in advanced manufacturing, with the solid foundation in innovation, talent, and industrial ecosystems.

The GMCI study provides key insights on global competitiveness trends, as well as highlights the challenges faced by businesses in sustaining or improving their competitiveness. We encourage you to engage with us on these findings to discuss how we can assist your business succeed in the rapidly evolving landscape.

Download the full 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index study for more insights.

We welcome your feedback and thoughts.


Mike Vincent (mvincent@deloitte.co.za)
Africa Industrial Products & Services Sector leader
Join the conversation on Twitter: @DeloitteSA

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