Within our Annual 2015 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains (now available in a full complimentary research report), Prediction Three notes that the momentum for U.S. and North America based manufacturing sourcing resurgence continues but will uncover broader supply chain ecosystem needs or deficiencies. This week, The Wall Street Journal featured a front page article, Companies Tiptoe Back Toward ‘Made in the USA’ (paid subscription required) that reinforces the tenets of our prediction.

The article profiles a select group of various mid-market industry manufacturers located in the United States such as Thorley Industries, K’Nex Brands, PrideSports, Capital Brands LLC and Lasko, that have addressed the option of returning manufacturing to the U.S. Brought forward are the renewed attraction of lower inventory and transportation costs, stable wage rates and the importance of better control and protection of intellectual property. Another attraction was noted as less international travel, teleconference time and distraction among supply chain and product management teams. Having had manufacturing presence already in the U.S. or North America helps in evaluating a nearshoring decision.

However, the interviews of companies do bring forward the current realities that in certain industries: “The U.S. needs to rebuild its supplier base, as well as invest in more efficient manufacturing equipment.” One example cited is small electric motors utilized in consumer or industrial products. The economics involved in the manufacturing of such motors requires manual assembly as well as very high scaled volumes, and China remains the most globally competitive sourcing of smaller motors. Another highlighted drawback is the ability of certain Chinese manufacturers to flex their workforces in large volumes. There are other select component supply examples as well.

Supply Chain Matters readers are certainly aware that Apple’s manufacturing sourcing strategies that favor China are because of the workforce flexibilities of contract manufacturers who came add thousands of workers in a matter of weeks, as well as their ability to respond to frequent product design changes.

In the end, manufacturing sourcing will always be highly dependent on the industry, supply chain ecosystem, product demand sourcing and overall economics involved in landed costs of a product.  It requires that procurement teams continue to hone their strategic sourcing skills and have very collaborative relationships with product management and other supply chain focused planning and execution teams. Supply chain leaders themselves need to be deeply immersed in the various tenets of a strategic sourcing decision including the detailed analysis of pros and cons.

Quantitative numbers reflected in U.S. and North America PMI Indices continue to reflect increased manufacturing momentum for U.S. and North America based manufacturing, but in today’s business climate, the economics can often change, and thus sourcing is no longer a static initiative but rather a continual evaluation and assessment process. Such decision processes can greatly benefit from more sophisticated tools and technologies.

Bob Ferrari