Industrial output usually involves the large-scale production of goods, services and raw materials. This output is accomplished through close-knit collaboration between manufacturing organisations, downstream suppliers and key clients. Industrial manufacturing activity is a principal economic measure of growth or decline of an economy. If manufacturing firms do well, GDP increases, business owner sentiment improves, and consumer confidence tends to rise.
Technology driven industries (such as automotive, aerospace and defence and electronics) have blossomed although traditional industries (such as construction, shipping and textiles) have seen stagnation or decay. Automation has displaced manual labour in those industries in which money can be saved. As industrial output in the so-called 'BRIC' countries booms, so the geographic landscape of industries has changed. Furthermore, as the balance sways from manufacturing to services in Western economies, so industrial jobs and output has weakened.
Economists like to categorise and measure different industry groups according to the type of production systems, activities and products it generates. The commonly named 'primary sectors' (such as coal mining, farming, steel, forestry and oil and gas sectors) are those industries in which raw materials are extracted en masse. These raw materials are traded and then shipped to factories to be manufactured and transformed into finished goods. These factory-based manufacturing firms are frequently categorized as 'secondary sectors'. Supporting all industries are huge numbers of service-driven companies, contributing invaluable support throughout complicated supply chains (such as the automotive and electronics sectors). These business service providers are customarily referred to as operating within 'tertiary sectors'.
Many industries are labour-intensive and are more and more utilising foreign workers to cut costs and compete with overseas adversaries. For example, within the financial services sector numerous call centre operations have moved overseas. Modern high-tech industries rely on a skilled and trained workers to help businesses innovate. Innovation helps achieve competitive advantage in an increasingly global marketplace. Consequently, many businesses offer graduates apprenticeship roles within their companies which provide 'on-the-job' training. An apprenticeship is designed to motivate workers and improve employee retention rates.
Industrial decline is highly localised (such as the closure of coal mines or major car factory). There are many Government economic policies and schemes aimed at regenerating neglected industrial areas. For example, improving transport links, or offering small firms subsidies or business grants to establish a business presence, are ways to change the land use of industrial towns in decline.
In the information age, computer-aided design and streamlined automation through computerisation is changing the nature of engineered and manufactured products. This automation has enabled the creation of just-in-time supply chains, which allow industrial organisations to meet the changing needs of customers. For example, just-in-time software helps manufacturers to improve productivity, optimise inventory stocks, adapt product designs, reduce labour costs, eliminate product wastage and budget and forecast more accurately. The use of electronic data interchange (EDI) is a key component of supplier ordering systems. This technology helps maximise the operational efficiency between a large industrial manufacturer and its many key suppliers.
Businesses across virtually all industrial sectors have to cope with many employment laws and business regulations related to environmental protection, health and safety and employee welfare. These regulations may also be influenced by trading agreements between Nations and inter-country trade agreements (such as the EU's Common Agricultural Policy). Owners of smaller businesses in the services sector also have to be mindful of rules and national laws designed to protect consumers and employees.
To compare details of suppliers working practices and accreditations, there are many trade directories and online business directories to make researching industrial companies easier. Browsing through a directory is a particularly useful as many offer ratings and reviews of industrial businesses.