Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Business Comes Home From China

Wired magazine reports...

"....19 percent of the companies that responded to an October survey by MFG.com, an online sourcing marketplace, said they had recently brought all or part of their manufacturing back to North America from overseas, up from 12 percent in the first quarter of 2010. This is one reason US factories managed to add 136,000 jobs last year—the first increase in manufacturing employment since 1997....

Manufacturing wages more than doubled in China between 2002 and 2008, and the value of the nation’s currency has risen steadily. It’s now under tremendous international pressure to let the yuan appreciate even more, and the country must cope with worrisome inflation at home (food prices rose by nearly 12 percent last year). And though Chinese workers still earn a fraction of what their American counterparts do, the rising costs of labor there are prompting companies to reevaluate their production strategies.

Once they do, these businesses often realize something profound: China isn’t the great deal they expected. A January 2010 survey by the consulting firm Grant Thornton found that 44 percent of responders felt they got no benefit from going overseas, while another 7 percent believed that offshoring had actually caused them harm."
Quality control issues and intellectual property safety are also bringing jobs back here. Distance is also an issue...
"In October 2009, NCR decided to stop manufacturing its North American-market ATMs at facilities in China and India and make them instead in Columbus, Georgia. Last October, General Electric elected to invest $432 million in four new US manufacturing facilities that will build environmentally friendly refrigerators and water heaters. These are precisely the sort of companies that stand to benefit the most by heading overseas. But they determined that the smarter long-term play was to narrow the physical distance between R&D and production."
Meanwhile, the Wall St. Journal reports today that Chinese financing is bringing motorhome manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.
"Today MVP RV Inc. is on the verge of hiring 1,200 workers and boosting production by some 30,000 motor homes to 40,000 this year. The difference is a $310 million investment from a Chinese entrepreneur who sees Asia as an untapped market for American-made RVs.
"It's almost something out of a fairy tale," Mr. Williams says."