Now it wants to reverse that. The company is two years into a 10-year plan to buy $250b more in products from American factories. Continue reading “WalMart Helped Push Manufacturing Overseas”
Domestic Goods Are All the Rage — But Are They Good for the Bottom Line?
Not since the 1970s has “Made in America” been such a hot way to market your product.
On one end is Walmart‘s promise to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made merchandise over the next decade; on the other are designers touting investments in New York’s shrinking garment district as a way to justify higher prices.
At the Financial Times’ New York Conference last month, Brunswick Group executive Susan Gilchrist said that Made in America is “not just about the PR opportunities. Purely from an economic view, China is losing its cost advantage.”
In 2001, the average hourly wage in China was 58¢, according to data from the Boston Consulting Group. By 2015, it will be $6. Combine that with the high productivity of American manufacturers and low energy costs, and the cost gap will close for most categories of goods to just 7% by 2015.
It’s making more business sense to manufacture in the U.S. But does it make marketing sense as the focus of a brand’s message?
In a September survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the Boston Consulting Group, more than 80% said they preferred U.S.-made goods, and that they would pay more for said goods. The same questions were asked of 1,000 Chinese consumers: 47% prefer Made in America.
Yet actions and sentiment are two different things: It often comes down to quality vs. a deal. When American-made goods deliver both, it works. “Consumers are starting to make a different tradeoff,” says Harold Sirkin, senior partner and managing director at BCG and author of the study. “Retailers are able to sell goods at a slight premium, but not too much.”
The push has support from celebrities such as Martha Stewart and Jay-Z. And American manufacturing is the raison d’etre of year-old ad agency Made Movement.
“Made in America will succeed for the same reason organic has succeeded,” said Dave Schiff, a founder of the shop. “Just like people didn’t want to eat food that was poisoning them, they want to live in a better economic climate.”
Made in America is nothing new for some brands. New Balance, American Apparel, Red Wing and Pendleton have been producing in the U.S. for years.
Others are making a push to sell more U.S.-made products. Apple recently announced it would bring some Mac production back to the U.S. And apparel brands like Club Monaco have launched lines and products marketed specifically as “Made in the USA.”
Walmart, meanwhile, sells more than $400 billion of goods each year, so some analysts say its commitment is meaningless when it comes to the bottom line. But Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said that two-thirds of its products are “made here, sourced here, or grown here.” Most of that, of course, is food — Walmart is the nation’s largest grocer. This new batch of funds will help create jobs in areas where Walmart typically spends overseas, such as apparel, sporting equipment and furniture.
To learn more about Made in USA Certification: http://www.USA-C.com
Why Manufacturing Will Return to the U.S.
For more than a decade, deciding where to build a manufacturing plant to supply the world was simple for many companies. With its seemingly limitless supply of low-cost labor and an enormous, rapidly developing domestic market, an artificially low currency, and significant government incentives to attract foreign investment, China was the clear choice.
Now, however, a combination of economic forces is fast eroding China’s cost advantage as an export platform for the North American market. Meanwhile, the U.S., with an increasingly flexible workforce and a resilient corporate sector, is becoming more attractive as a place to manufacture many goods consumed on this continent. An analysis by The Boston Consulting Group concludes 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. The key reasons for this shift include the following:
- Wage and benefit increases of 15 to 20 percent per year at the average Chinese factory will slash China’s labor-cost advantage over low-cost states in the U.S., from 55 percent today to 39 percent in 2015, when adjusted for the higher productivity of U.S. workers. Because labor accounts for a small portion of a product’s manufacturing costs, the savings gained from outsourcing to China will drop to single digits for many products.
- For many goods, when transportation, duties, supply chain risks, industrial real estate, and other costs are fully accounted for, the cost savings of manufacturing in China rather than in some U.S. states will become minimal within the next five years.
- Automation and other measures to improve productivity in China won’t be enough to preserve the country’s cost advantage. Indeed, they will undercut the primary attraction of outsourcing to China—access to low-cost labor.
- Given rising income levels in China and the rest of developing Asia, demand for goods in the region will increase rapidly. Multinational companies are likely to devote more of their capacity in China to serving the domestic Chinese as well as the larger Asian market, and to bring some production work for the North American market back to the U.S.
- Manufacturing of some goods will shift from China to nations with lower labor costs, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mexico. But these nations’ ability to absorb the higher-end manufacturing that would otherwise go to China will be limited by inadequate infrastructure, skilled workers, scale, and domestic supply networks, as well as by political and intellectual-property risks. Low worker productivity, corruption, and the risk to personal safety are added concerns in some countries.
This reallocation of global manufacturing is in its very early phases. It will vary dramatically from industry to industry, depending on labor content, transportation costs, China’s competitive strengths, and the strategic needs of individual companies. But we believe that it will become more pronounced over the next five years, especially as companies face decisions about where to add future capacity. While China will remain an important manufacturing platform for Asia and Europe, the U.S. will become increasingly attractive for the production of many goods sold to consumers in North America.
This report, the first in a series, examines the economic trends that point to a U.S. manufacturing renaissance. It also explores the strategic implications of the shifting cost equation for companies engaged in global sourcing.
Oliver St. John, USA TODAY10:11p.m. EST January 21, 2013
It’s becoming downright American to make stuff in America.
Small manufacturers, craftsmen and retailers are marketing the Made-in-USA tag to score do-gooder points with consumers for employing stateside, says Margarita Mendoza, founder of the Made in America Movement, a lobbying organization for small manufacturers.
It’s working: Over 80% of Americans are willing to pay more for Made-in-USA products, 93% of whom say it’s because they want to keep jobs in the USA, according to a survey released in November by Boston Consulting Group. In ultra-partisan times, it’s one of the few issues both Democrats and Republicans agree on.
When considering similar products made in the U.S. vs. China, the average American is willing to pay up to 60% more for U.S.-made wooden baby toys, 30% more for U.S.-made mobile phones and 19% more for U.S.-made gas ranges, the survey says.
Now Wal-Mart wants a piece of the action. The behemoth, embroiled over the past year with worker protests and foreign bribery investigations, pledged recently to source $50 billion of products in the U.S. over the next 10 years, says Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove. They’re not alone. Mendoza says both Caterpillar and 3M have also made efforts to source more in the U.S.
“Regardless if this is a PR ploy or not, it doesn’t matter. A lot more people will look for the Made-in-USA tag,” she says, adding that, considering Wal-Mart’s size, $5 billion a year is only “a drop in the bucket,” for the retailer whose 2012 sales reached almost $444 billion.
Kyle Rancourt says his American-made shoe company, Rancourt & Co., hit it big as concern over U.S. jobs mounted when the recession hit in 2009. But he says he lies awake at night worrying if Made-in-USA is just a passing fad.
“It’s inevitable that times will change,” Rancourt says. “But I am still holding out hope that this has become a core value of our country.”
Mendoza says that if buying American turns out to be a passing fad, the country is in trouble.
“If they don’t understand the economic factor, we need to pull on their heartstrings,” she says. “The thought of having a country like China taking over, that alone is bone-chilling.”
But do folks care enough about U.S. manufacturing jobs to permanently change the way they shop? David Aaker, vice chairman of brand consulting firm Prophet, says the companies that get the most credit for being American, such as Apple and Cisco, don’t even source products in the U.S.
“I don’t think it matters unless it becomes visible,” Aaker says. “The most common way for that is if something bad happens, like if Nike gets some press about conditions in factories overseas.”
But Rancourt says his customers believe foreign-made shoes lack the soul of their American counterparts.
“There’s hundreds if not thousands of workers working on those factories. They do one specific job, maybe put an eyelet into a specific place,” he says. “They don’t have an idea or concept of a finished product and how that should look.”
Just watch out for phony Made-in-USA claims. It’s illegal to claim a product is U.S.-made unless both the product and all it’s components are sourced in the U.S. Even products that could imply a phony country of origin with a flag or country outline are verboten. Julia Solomon Ensor, enforcement lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission, says the FTC gets “several complaints each month about potentially deceptive ‘Made-in-the-USA’ claims.”
It sets a bad example. Mendoza says the U.S. needs to let kids know it’s OK to work in manufacturing. “Not all children are going to grow up to be dentists, and lawyers, and investment bankers.”
BRANDS reviving the “Made in the U.S.A.” slogan to attract buyers for American-produced goods are relying less on patriotism and more on data that shows consumers are willing to pay a premium for better quality, quicker availability and product safety.
This ad for Whirlpool, which makes some products abroad, also said most of its appliances “sold in the U.S. come from our U.S. factories.”
The Whirlpool Corporation, for example, specified in full-page print advertisements this year that 80 percent of its appliances “sold in the U.S. come from our U.S. factories.” Despite its deep American roots, the 101-year-old company — which makes Maytag, Amana, KitchenAid and Jenn-Air products — has, like other corporate giants, moved some manufacturing abroad.
As a result of its centennial celebrations last year, some consumers have urged the company to talk more about its American origins, said William Beck, a senior marketing director at Whirlpool, which spent $57.4 million in 2011 on advertising, according to Kantar Media, a WPP unit.
In recent months, the appliance giant has been underlining its American factories, and noting in its overall brand advertising that it employs about 22,000 workers (15,000 of them at its manufacturing plants), and spends $7.4 billion annually on operating and maintaining its factories in Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
But Whirlpool, whose ad drew a full-page rebuttal from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers accusing it of shutting factories in the United States, said nostalgia and similar sentiments do not drive its sales. “Whirlpool’s key differentiating points are quality and innovation,” said Mr. Beck, and “the icing is that, hey, we’re made in the United States.”
Whirlpool does not share its market research, but other market studies show that customers increasingly take note of where a product is made. Perception Research Services International, in a September study, found that four out of five shoppers notice a “Made in the U.S.A.” label on packaging, and 76 percent of them said they would be more likely to buy a product because of the label.
While shoppers, especially those over 35, say they want to help the economy by buying United States-made goods, “the motivating factors actually may be quality and safety,” said Jonathan Asher, executive vice president of Perception Research Services. The company, which is based in Teaneck, N.J., surveyed 1,400 consumers last summer. “People are paying attention in categories that are ingested like food, medicine and personal care products, but less so in electronics, office supplies and appliances,” he said.
In a separate study, the Boston Consulting Group found that 80 percent of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for “Made in the U.S.A.” products than for those carrying a “Made in China” label.
They would pay the biggest differential for items like baby food and wooden toys, and a smaller percentage for electronics, apparel and appliances, said Kate Manfred, director of the group’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight in the Americas, which released the study in mid-November.
“Safety and quality, and keeping jobs in America, are the important factors,” she said.
Bixbi, a Boulder, Colo., pet treat provider, has relied on safety to increase sales. The company, which started in 2008 amid revelations of tainted dog food ingredients imported from overseas, sells dog treats made from locally raised chickens and other animals.
“Our sales have grown 600 percent each year,” said James Crouch, who founded the small company with his brother, Michael. “Locally sourced is a key advantage.”
But for all the talk about American-made goods, Bixbi is one of the few clients that have adopted “Made in the U.S.A.” marketing, said Dave Schiff, co-founder of Made Movement, a Boulder advertising firm that handles the Bixbi account.
China has long been a desired destination among the world’s biggest multinationals looking to fill labor-intensive positions on the cheap. But recent riots there may have some foreign manufacturers thinking about moving production closer to home.
From Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) biggest iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, which employs tens of thousands of people in China, to Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), manufacturers have long taken advantage of China’s low-cost labor, solid infrastructure and softer regulations.
But calls for better wages and working conditions have been growing louder in China over the last decade, recently exploding in a 2,000-person fight at Foxconn just days after the new iPhone 5 began selling in the U.S.
And after years of relative peacefulness, disputes between China and Japan ramped up earlier this month, showing once again that China is not immune to social and economic strife.
“Wages alone won’t be determinative,” said Marshall Meyer, a professor and China expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Short term the concern is social and political stability.”
The recent socioeconomic problems in China come as the government undergoes a once-a-decade transition, which has brought political upheaval and distracted the incoming Communist Party. The two-week disappearing act by China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping earlier this month and doubts over the accuracy of the country’s economic data have also highlighted the uncertainty that comes when companies conduct business in China.
Manufacturers may not have reached their tipping point yet, but the latest news out of the region, coupled with ongoing labor issues and rising wages, is further chipping away at their confidence.
“The combination of increased costs and unrest of labor force at some point will shift the collective wisdom,” Meyer said.
Source: Chesapeake Bay Candle
Chesapeake Bay Candle’s U.S. factory in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
By: Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Published: Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Chesapeake Bay Candle never thought twice about offshoring its manufacturing when the company started 17 years ago. To make the product it wanted, each candle had to be handmade, and there was no cost effective way to do that in the United States.
Four years ago, however, the company reversed that thinking, centering its operations domestically, and betting that as the global economy changes, the move will actually save it money.
Chesapeake Bay, with a factory in Glen Burnie, Md., is hardly alone in rethinking its manufacturing plans these days. More and more American firms are bringing those operations home — and while it might be a little premature to call this “re-shoring” effort a movement, it’s certainly starting to become a trend.
President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech, noted that American manufacturers created new jobs in 2011 for the first time since the late 1990s. In a recent survey by MFG.com, an online marketplace that helps businesses find manufacturers for their products, 40 percent of the manufacturing firms it polled said they had benefited from work that had previously been sourced to a supplier in another country.
“[Consumer’s] desire to customize products is become more and more ravenous,” saysMitch Free, founder of MFG.com. “In order to stay relevant, [companies] have to be able to adapt very quickly. The way you do that is being somewhat close to your market. Instead of producing a big lot overseas and shipping it [here], companies can now rapidly assemble supply chains wherever they’re selling the product. They save on logistics costs. They take advantage of the local currency. And they generate good will in the market.”
MFG isn’t the only study that has pointed to an increase in re-shoring. A survey by the Boston Consulting Group in February found more than one-third of U.S.-based manufacturing executives at companies with sales greater than $1 billion are either planning or considering bringing production back to the United States from China.
- Wages in China are climbing at 15 to 20 percent a year, according to Boston Consulting Group
- Speed to market is becoming more critical, as companies keep lower inventories.
“Companies are realizing that the economics of manufacturing are swinging in favor of the U.S., for goods to be sold both at home and to major export markets,” said Harold L. Sirkin, senior partner at the company. “This trend is likely to accelerate starting around 2015.”
For Chesapeake Bay, it was less a matter of customization as it was cost control.
The candle company originally based its manufacturing in China, but as anti-dumping laws (designed to prevent predatory pricing) began to impact duty rates, Chesapeake Bay took its operations to Mexico.
Unhappy with the manufacturing ecosystem there, it tried a few other countries, eventually landing in Vietnam in 2000 — a popular manufacturing hub for companies.
“The Vietnamese population is very young and it’s pretty abundant,” says Mei Xu, Chesapeake Bay’s co-founder and CEO. “The work ethics are very similar to those of the Chinese. They all want to work hard to provide a better life for their children.”
Labor costs, however, are on the rise in countries like China and Vietnam. BCG says wages in China are currently climbing at 15 to 20 percent per year, due to the demand for skilled labor. The group expects net labor costs for China and the U.S. to converge in the next three years.
Xu notes that Vietnam closely follows China’s lead on issues like salary and benefits. Today, the average salary for a manufacturing employee in the country is between $300 and $400 per month.
That’s still well below the $12.50 to $13 per hour employees in the United States can earn, but salaries only make up 20 to 30 percent of a product’s total cost according to BCG.
Other factors, meanwhile, such as shipping are seeing prices increase as well, due to rising oil prices. Xu says Chesapeake Bay noticed some shipping companies cutting back their overseas routes as well, which threatened the company’s turnaround time.
That speed to market is more critical today than ever as companies keep lower inventories on hand as a precautionary measure.
“When the economy was strong and the sales of product companies were strong, they were placing big orders offshore,” says Free. “They’d order a billion widgets and they’d get them shipped here. When the recession hit, they were stuck with that inventory, and that hit their profit margins pretty quickly. They knew it would cost more [to place smaller orders domestically], but it was a less risky capital outlay. And if consumer demand turned, they wouldn’t be stuck holding a lot of inventory they would have to eat.”
Meanwhile, advances in technology domestically have made it easier to be competitive with overseas companies.
“We have some new machinery and new methods that can be more competitive with China,” says Bruce Brandel, president of The Packaging Team, which supplies blister packaging for consumer product goods. “We’re starting to see people who moved to Mexico or China say ‘If you look at the total picture and cost, it’s not much of an advantage — and maybe a disadvantage — to be there’.”
For The Packaging Team, the degree of that competitiveness varies by product and order size, but the savings comes from new equipment Brandel says increases the speed of sealing packages ten-fold.
“If you’re spending $2 an hour there, you should be able to spend $20 an hour here with the machinery making up the difference,” he says. “Also, there are what I call soft costs [that go with offshoring]. Things like lost opportunities, being unable to meet timelines or dealing with late deliveries. What does that cost you?”
There are risks to re-shoring, too. Xu says Chesapeake (which has since transitioned to machine-filled candles) spent $5 million to secure a large factory in Maryland when it moved manufacturing here. That plant spans 125,000 square feet and can produce up to 2,000 candles per hour. But right now, it’s not being used to capacity.
The ability to ship product in two weeks versus six or seven is certainly beneficial, but there are overhead concerns. Xu notes that she remains optimistic, though. The number of people required on the manufacturing line is significantly lower in the U.S., which helps lower costs, she says.
Right now, the cost to make a candle in the U.S. is approximately the same as it is to make one in Vietnam, but Chesapeake says its betting it will see notable savings in the future, given the rising salary trends and fuel prices.
Despite what many people might think, capitalizing on the “Made in USA” movement is less of an incentive for many companies.
“In my opinion, there’s only one thing that runs corporations today, and it ain’t pride, it’s all dollars,” says Brandel. “[Made in America pride] is a good concept, but if the dollars don’t make sense, it isn’t going to happen. And maybe that’s the way capitalism is supposed to work.”
Even U.S. consumers don’t seem to be as passionate about it as many claim — though, ironically, there’s a notable demand for U.S.-made products in overseas markets — including China.
“If my Chinese consumers are asking for ‘Made in USA’ product, wouldn’t my U.S. customers do the same and pay a bit more?” says Xu. “Our [U.S.] customers, our buyers, are saying they value [an item that is] made in the U.S.A. if it’s the same price. … If it’s more expensive [at retail], there’s a pain threshold and we don’t know what it is — how much more they’ll pay.”