Harvard Business Review: New Math Will Drive a U.S. Manufacturing Comeback
Making the United States an even more attractive location for factories and investments is critical for the health of our nation. More domestic factories would help create more balanced trade flows and a more stable global economy. But company decisions on what and where to place production facilities, while influenced by many factors, ultimately depend on the math.
Thankfully, the math these days is starting to work in America's favor again.
Our research last year suggested to us that changing conditions in China would bring home some of the manufacturing work that migrated overseas during the past decade. We originally saw this "insourcing" phenomenon, as the White House now refers to it, starting around 2015.
We were deliberately conservative in our estimates and made clear that the coming manufacturing renaissance would benefit some industries more than others, with seven sectors benefitting the most: vehicles and auto parts, appliances and electrical equipment, furniture, plastic and rubber products, machinery, fabricated metal products, and computers and electronics. These seven sectors currently account for nearly two-thirds of the more than $325 billion the U.S. imports from China.
We noted that several factors had combined to push these sectors toward a tipping point, when U.S. manufacturing becomes an attractive alternative to China. These factors include China's rapidly rising labor costs, which we discussed in an earlier HBR blog; the increased value of the yuan; the challenge of managing long-distance supply chains; the quality control concerns that continue to haunt many manufacturers that have offshored production; and the significantly higher productivity of U.S. workers. ...