I recently re-united with an old flame who happens to live on the other side of the country. When I returned to my end of the Earth the inevitable cooling of passions happened and she started complaining that I wasn’t “making myself more available for her”. I think I replied, “I’ll try to do better,” but I said it in a tone that made it sound more like because I live on the other side of the country, lady! We are literally battling space-time curvature just to bounce signals off a couple satellites to talk between two plastic-silicon rectangles! Seriously!
Distance has cooled the public passions of US manufacturing as well, thanks (or no thanks, depending on where you are on that space-timeline) to consequences of the global economy. It seems jobs and plants have been eking farther and farther away from the American consumer for decades. Now we get the news that American manufacturing companies… “such as Caterpillar, NCR and Wham-O….have either repatriated some manufacturing operations or are planning new operations in the
.” (Manufacturing Economy Daily- July 6, 2011) US
It’s not just the big boys like Caterpillar either. In a recent survey done by the global consulting firm Accenture, 61% of manufacturing respondents said they were highly considering moving supply location to demand location. What’s clear is that with worldwide shifts in the perception of traditional energy resources come shifts in profitable manufacturing methods. Off-shoring was the name of the game for the latter part of last century. Ironically, with institutions like the IMF throwing around the “End of the American Century” title these days (Apparently they predicted our century to end for 2016. I had no idea we owned a century. Thank you, IMF for giving CNN a new Anderson Cooper-prime-time-segment-title), the end of “our” century may just mean a re-shoring of US manufacturing assets and operations, which can only mean an overall, more healthy American economy.
Of course this won’t happen overnight. And there are concerns that may stall these trends. In the same survey, 74% of respondents cited labor costs as their chief worry to relocate stateside. Another 67% said proximity to the customer, and 64% cited lack of skilled workers. Yes, these are issues, but the issues are evolving as we speak. The discrepancy between labor pay here and in other superpower countries like
is already shrinking. Software companies will be the first to tell you that being closer to the customer almost always results in a more informed customer, which means products are scrutinized and made more efficient. Finally, American skill and innovation can be found in China ’s ace up its sleeve; its closely nurtured university-private sector relationship. A relationship that, with President Obama’s latest pledge to supply manufacturing with campus department information and programs, will only grow more over the next few years. America
Bottom line: when things get unpredictable, businesses simplify, and a simple distance is the logical move for these unpredictable times.
(Unless, of course, you happen to be a certain girl on the other side of the country, who constantly drinks frappacinos and thinks Justin Bieber is a legitimate musician. No. No he is not. What did I ever see in her, anyway?)
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company, Inc.