Reshoring

I am often asked by those in the printed circuit and electronic packaging industries about reshoring. My response generally is that reshoring is a myth. It seems that whenever I try to contact someone by email I get an automated response stating, “I am currently in China and will return to my office on ….” Many of the facilities and much of the equipment that would be needed to reshore have been auctioned off or sent to the scrap heap. Those that operated them have moved on to other jobs. Some have gone to work for Chinese companies.  Further, reshoring intimates bringing back something. However, technology does not stand still. Advances in fabrication processes and equipment require major expenditures to produce today’s, and tomorrow’s products.

Major firms such as Apple have announced intentions to establish independent research facilities in China. Production often follows within the region of successful R&D.

What seems to be occurring is not reshoring but new activity to establish new companies, manufacturing operations and produce product — albeit on a very modest level. However, with a sluggish economy, high corporate taxes, and overly burdensome government regulations there are few venture capital sources available for such efforts – especially in the uncertainty promulgated by the current election year. In fact, affordable financing to modernize and upgrade America’s smaller PCB enterprises is largely unavailable.

We must also consider the question posed by Andrew Strong an associate director of Cambridge Consultants when we think about reconstituting older manufacturing plants for potential re-shoring: “Repair, Replace Or Re-Invent?” I would suggest, assuming that the products to be made have sufficient competitive market longevity, replace with improvements based on recent developments, automation, design changes, new materials, and lean manufacturing principles — assuming sufficient financing is available.

Reshoring continues to be a very “hot topic.” A member of our 2,500+ Linked-In network members wrote the following thought-provoking and incendiary comment: “Reshoring for electronics manufacturing doesn’t make sense due to high levels of process automation, extensive and effective supply chain already established, end product unit value to weight ratio enabling low unit shipping cost and relatively smooth global logistics.

The issues with establishing new manufacturing for other products in the USA are highest corporate tax rates, increasingly difficult regulatory positions discouraging small businesses and startups, government interference in attempting to “pick winners,” and uncertainty about the sustainability and competitiveness of our free market capitalism as we continue to follow the European socialists countries into oblivion.”

Another colleague of the past half-century sent an interesting response to the “silent  complaint” story linking it to reshoring. We posted it on our “Comments & Discussion” page.

What do YOU think? Do you wish to engage in this vital conversation? Should we redefine the challenge? Do you have a workable solution? Let us know!

Onshoring

Onshoring has become the word of the moment, the expression of hope, the exposure of wishful thinking to those who try to intepret relatively small onshoring activities as major moves for job and economic recovery.

Flextronics CEO Mike McNamara pointed out in an interview with Larry Dignan of ZDNet, “As you see things that get pushed back into the US, “a la” the (recent) Apple comment it is more than just having the right cost structure. You also have to design for more automation and more different kinds of productivity. So, it is an evolution; it is not just flipping a switch. You actually have to spend a lot of work in the design, all the way through to the manufacturing process, knowing where you are going to manufacture. I think it is going to take time.”

It will not only take time, it will take incentives from the government. If Taiwan can do it, why can’t America do it? A major lure could be the lowering of one of the world’s highest corporate tax rates. Another would be to remove or simplify many of the “make-do” reporting procedures and requirements that seem to do nothing but tie a company’s hands, increase costs, and create more public sector jobs.

Taiwan’s new reinvestment incentives began last month, with an aggressive goal of more than doubling the returning investment from overseas Taiwanese businesses to $6.89 billion over the next two years. Companies need to meet certain requirements, such as producing critical components or marketing products under their own brand. Taiwan’s government announced on Dec. 6 that Catcher Technology and Largan Precision will invest in new factories in Taiwan that will create some 3,800 jobs over the next few years.

A Look at Reshoring

A recent article by Software Advice ERP analyst Derek Singleton looks at what products can be manufactured in the US.

In it, Singleton looks at what’s driving the reshoring trend, which industries are good candidates to come back, and profiles three companies (Hurst, General Electric and Peerless Industries) that have brought production back from Asia — and why.

Read more here.

Rethinking Reshoring

The reshoring drumbeat continues to get louder, and has now attracted the attention of the trade groups. The IPC this week launched a survey in an attempt to quantify the trend.

I took a look and would admit to finding the way some of the questions are asked perplexing — click here to see for yourself — because I don’t think that the answers derived will necessarily show whether the trend is real or not.

Most of the survey is aimed at where manufacturers plan to locate their sites, as opposed to where buyers intend to source from. In my experience, manufacturers are the tail on the supply chain dog: They move to where they think they can land the most business.

Another potential problem I see is the way the questions are worded. For instance, one  asks, “Does your company plan to move existing operations to the Americas in the next three years?” If the respondents are primarily US-based companies with US-only operations, then the trend may well appear to be “no.”

The supply chain is very complicated, and the implications of reshoring a potential game-changer for many companies. I commend IPC for its attempt to generate some quantitative analysis, although I’m uncertain whether the questions as asked will get to the core of what’s really happening (or not happening).