I caught up today with last week's EconTalk with Adam Davidson. The topic was American manufacturing, and it was based on some reporting he did at an autoparts factory in South Carolina.
One of the main points of discussion was the skills needed by the machinists who operate multi-axis CNC machine tools, and the extreme precision with which they turn out fuel injectors.
This reminded me of something I wanted to post about years ago, but I don't think I ever got around to it. We've got good statistics for the number of people employed in manufacturing both through the years and across countries. And decent statistics of the dollar value of manufacturing outputs. But do we have good numbers for the tolerance of manufacturing processes across time or borders? Or the number of components being assembled? Ceteris paribus, I'd be impressed by more pieces being assembled at higher precisions.
Obviously computing the averages for these things if difficult, if it's not undefined entirely. But I'd like to see someone take a try at estimating them.