Metric or Imperial System? Which To Pick For U.S. Manufacturing Plants

Metric or Imperial System? Which To Pick For U.S. Manufacturing Plants

When a manufacturing plant in the United States undergoes equipment changes or has renovations made to its facility, many decisions need to be made. One of these involves theĀ  type of measurement system that will be put in place with regards to equipment, tools, and other aspects of the company’s day-to-day operations. While in many nations around the world the metric system is used in these settings, the United States still generally relies on the Imperial system, which uses such measurements as feet, inches, and pounds. Whether your plant is undergoing significant changes or perhaps your company is building a new plant, here are some factors that may help you decide whether to use the Imperial or metric systems of measurement.

Time and Money

As with anything in the business world, the decision whether or not to change or implement something new comes down to time and money as well as other related factors. With regards to the metric or imperial system, the United States has long considered a change to the metric system to be too time-consuming and expensive. Since the Industrial Revolution, most machinery in U.S. factories has been set up based on the Imperial system. Also, workers are trained to use the imperial system, and most products made in these plants are conformed to Imperial system measurements.

Simple and Logical


While many people in the business world continue to advocate keeping the Imperial system, there are perhaps just as many who believe a transition to the metric system would prove beneficial for U.S. manufacturing plants. Considered by almost all experts to be far simpler and more logical than the imperial system, the metric system does offer its advantages. For example, since all measurements are generally based on units of 10, conversions are considered to be far easier to calculate and remember than those in the imperial system. In addition, since most companies worldwide rely on the metric system for their manufacturing operations, some experts believe that it would make far more sense for the United States to switch to this system, since that would then have the entire world on one standard system of measurement.

Changing the Entire Infrastructure

While there are many arguments for the United States to adopt the metric system in its manufacturing plants and elsewhere, some point to the fact that if this were done, the nation would have to essentially also change its entire infrastructure. For example, if all automobiles manufactured in the United States suddenly started using the metric system measurements of kilometers, this would have a ripple effect in many ways. Along with the changes needed in the manufacturing plants to convert to kilometers, this would also mean all speed limit signs across the nation would also have to be changed. Since this would result in a cost of millions if not billions of dollars, many economists fear such a change could have devastating effects on the economy. To make this type of change, experts agree it would have to be phased in over many years, which would help limit the costs.

Employee Training

As mentioned earlier, employees in the United States are trained to use the imperial system of measurement on their jobs. To convert to metric system measurements, companies would need to utilize extensive amounts of time to retrain employees in this area. While it could be done, employers realize it could also be time-consuming and also lead to a variety of mistakes made on the job, which could ultimately result in production shutdowns and other related problems.

Be a Leader, Not a Follower

Last but not least, many in the United States business community feel that by continuing to use the imperial system of measurement, the nation positions itself as a leader rather than a follower. Considered to be very unique in its use of imperial measurements, the United States often sees this as yet another way it can set itself apart from other nations around the world.

While there are pros and cons for both systems of measurement, it is highly likely that due to the costs of revamping factories and retraining employees, most U.S. manufacturing plants will continue to make good use of the imperial system.

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