Insourcing, reshoring, even backshoring are all terms used to described the growing trend of previously-outsourced manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S.
What exactly is driving this trend since Asia, and specifically China, has been earmarked as the go to place for cheap labor over the last decade? The answer is simple — when it comes to goods for the U.S. market, on a total cost basis, manufacturing in China is becoming less attractive while manufacturing in the U.S. is becoming all the more so.
With increased exposure to the West, Chinese workers are demanding higher wages. According to The Boston Consulting Group’s report Made in America, Again, Chinese wages are growing 15-20 percent each year.
Labor typically represents only 7-25 percent of the cost in manufacturing a product. Other factors also moving in the U.S.’ favor include a favorable exchange rate, increased U.S. worker productivity and rising energy and land costs in China. Longer supply chains necessitate higher inventory and shipping expenses as well as pose political, intellectual property and weather related risks — all of which have become less tolerable to global manufacturers.
The combination of these factors led The Boston Consulting Group to conclude that “By sometime around 2015 — for many goods destined for North American consumers — manufacturing in some parts of the U.S. will be just as economical as manufacturing in China.”
In addition, China’s manufacturing infrastructure will increasingly be put to use to serve the local market. Its rising middle class will demand more products, absorbing a larger percentage of the goods produced in China. Given the costs and risks mentioned above, global supply chains appear to be shortening, with companies returning to the U.S. to manufacture goods closer to the end user.
Virginia’s furniture industry is a great illustration of this trend, with a number of expansions announced over the last few months. In Galax, Va., Albany Industries’ first Virginia location will create 335 new jobs and Vaughn-Bassett’s expansion of an existing factory and acquisition of an additional factory will create more than 100 jobs.
In addition, Netherlands producer Axxor Group chose Pittsylvania County for its first U.S. operation to supply honeycomb to nearby IKEA subsidiary Swedwood North America. Most recently, Laminate Technologies selected Henry County for its new Mid-Atlantic manufacturing operation, creating 30 new jobs.
Virginia’s cost-effective operating climate combined with its highly-skilled manufacturing workforce puts the Commonwealth in a prime position to capitalize on this trend. From Galax, Va., Vaughn-Bassett CEO John Bassett explained, “We are winning the battle against our Asian competition because we have the finest workforce in the world and we have the best equipped factories in the world,” as quoted by WSLS 10 News.
With 2011 manufacturing job creation up 31% and investment up 75% over last year, Virginia has already distinguished itself as a manufacturing powerhouse. To learn why Virginia’s pro-business climate and educated workforce make it a great location for manufacturing companies, click here.