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9:45 pm
August 16, 2012
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My Take: Reflecting On The Term 'For Real'

newjaneresize2 thumb thumbHere we are again: another August, another installment of our annual “Executive Outlook” section. What’s different, of course, is the theme of this year’s Outlook (and what essentially has turned into the overall theme of this month’s magazine)—”Is reshoring for real?”  We sent the following  questions to several executives of leading suppliers to industry and invited them to weigh in on the topic in 400 words or less: 

“Our publication and others have recently noted what appears to be a growing “onshore” trend that could be bringing increased numbers of manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. from foreign countries. What are your thoughts about this reported reshoring of jobs? Is the trend real? If it is, how should U.S. manufacturers prepare for it with regard to hiring and training of workers?”

Twelve invitees took us up on our project. We’re delighted they did. Whether they wrote from the perspective of their operations or about what they’re seeing with their own suppliers and/or customers, they were passionate on the issue. Were they in total agreement? No… at least not in 100% agreement on the depth and breadth of the trend or if it would stick. 

What most of our respondents did agree on were the factors said to be fueling onshoring/reshoring, including increasing labor costs in developing countries, higher expenses for transportation/shipping, longer lead times, protection of intellectual property, etc. Most of them also agreed that along with growing and sustaining demand for products, one of the biggest challenges to large-scale reshoring is our own workforce—or lack of an adequately educated, trained, skilled one. Who would a’thunk it?
We have met the enemy and it is us.

A number of this year’s “Outlookers” went into detail on the types of training programs their companies are encouraging, nurturing and/or sponsoring to help America grow and prepare a workforce to manage and maintain the more automated operations of the future. We know that future is already here (which is one reason so many existing industrial jobs are going unfilled). And, as more than one contributor alluded to, the manufacturing operations that do seem to be returning to the U.S. are much more automated than they were when they were offshored. (If we don’t help our workforce get it together with respect to higher-tech skills, could those jobs be offshored yet again?)

Finally, I bet you’re dying to know if politics reared its ugly head in our “Outlook.” Not really—although there was some hint that government might want to help a bit more. Not just offering incentives to bring jobs home, but revisiting other issues impacting our ability to compete in a global marketplace. That’s not news. But enough of my analysis. Please turn to page 17 and do your own. MT

jalexander@atpnetwork.com

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