Manufacturing Sees Shift from Asia Back to USA

Ironic Economics

In what some analysts see as a bit of economic irony, there is a slow but steady in the manufacture certain products away from Asia and back to North America.

“What you’re starting to see is the economics shifting more into the United States’ favor regarding sourcing from the United States versus sourcing from a low-cost country,”

said Daniel Meckstroth, chief economist at the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a Washington trade group.

The irony is that it is precisely because the US is going through a slow economic period and China and India are experiencing brisk growth as their emerging economies surge that help US manufacturers to minimize the cost gap between them and their Asian rivals.

Wage Gap Closing

According to one consulting group it is even possible that by the year 2015 labor costs in China and the US could achieve parity. If the present Chinese inflation rate of 5.5% continues while the US maintains the lower 3.6% rate of inflation, and if Chinese wages continue rise at the present 15- 20 percent, then wages in the US and China could very well be indistinguishable.

Efficiency Helping US

In Milwaukee, at the Master Lock factory, the shift back to “made in the USA” is already happening in full force. Just two years ago the lock-making machinery there was only running a few hours a day because it was cheaper to order padlocks from China rather than making them at home.

Today the lock-making machine is running at a whirlwind pace seven days a week and three shifts per day. How can this be when wages are six times higher in the US than in China? The answer is because of superior efficiency. In Milwaukee locks are produced thirty times faster than in the factories in China, which more than makes up for the wage gap.

“I can manufacture combination locks in Milwaukee for less of a cost than I can in China,”

said Bob Rice, a senior vice president at the largest U.S. padlock manufacturer.

In the past two years Bob Rice has added about 80 workers to his workforce, which totals 440 at the moment, and could very well continue to rise. A good sign for the future of US manufacturing.

James Cannon

About James Cannon

James Cannon is an experienced hedge fund analyst. He has served on the advisory boards for various different Fortune 500 companies as well as serving as an adjunct professor of finance. James Cannon has written for a variety of Financial Magazines both on and off line. Contact James at james[at]businessdistrict.com