If we take an objective, eagle’s eye look at the manufacturing sector in America right now, what we see is – to put it politely – chaotic. While we are still (just barely) the world’s largest manufacturing center, we have rising industrial superpowers which compete directly with American manufacturing of all stripes. Indeed, many once-iconic North American industries have been outsourced in recent decades in favor of cheaper production methods available overseas. Whether it’s the powerful leather industries of countries like Vietnam, Ethiopia, or Colombia; or the massive steel and electronics manufacturing bases that help drive the economies of countries such as China, Taiwan, Germany, South Korea, or India; America has a lot of world-class competition on her hands – much of it of her own creation. And that list isn’t meant to be comprehensive; that’s just to name a few of the contestants.
Not only that, but these are lean economic times. While we’ve made headway in recovering from the Great Recession of 2007, it’s hardly the pretty picture any of us wants to see. We still have millions of skilled and unskilled workers unemployed, and that’s not an issue that can be swept under the rug by anyone, as far as we’re concerned.
On the other hand, 2012 saw a sea-change in the way a lot of American companies think about our nation’s capacity to build. Both major political parties made the revival of U.S. manufacturing (particularly small business manufacturing) a cornerstone of their respective platforms. And now the mainstream market seems to be following suit: American and Canadian companies are adjusting their inventory strategies to match leaner demand; and this, in turn, requires a more efficient supply chain. The larger production orders issuing out of China or Indonesia are being – in many instances – curtailed in favor of smaller, specialized orders produced by local shops right here in Illinois, Texas, or North Carolina. Also, with international freight charges being what they arethis creates an added incentive for American companies to “re-source” their manufacturing back to the States, since the higher wages in the U.S.A. may neutralize the costs of shipping, large inventories, and (possible) poor quality issues.
We may be beginning to experience the transition to a manufacturing revival in America. It’s a long road ahead of us, but it’s nice to see things looking up again. PMI is proud to be a part of this moment in history, by working with our customers to better match their supply with actual demand.