When I first interviewed Harry Moser in early 2010, the concept of reshoring was not much more than a glimmer in his eye.
Moser, who at the time was chairman emeritus at Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Agie Charmilles LLC, was planning his first reshoring fair later in the year. As he eased into retirement, he told me he was looking forward to having more time to devote to his passion: making the case for bringing offshored manufacturing jobs back to America.
Since then, it's safe to say Moser has made tremendous progress.
Moser, a 2010 inductee into the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, will crisscross the country to give roughly 100 presentations on the virtues of reshoring this year. His reshoring initiative now receives funding from 15 corporate and association sponsors, and he expects a handful more by the end of the year (enough to hire a staff member).
In recent weeks, Moser has been interviewed about reshoring by the likes of Fortune and Reuters, and he has influenced proposed federal legislation aiming to encourage U.S. companies to bring manufacturing work back home.
The crux of Moser's argument is that if U.S. manufacturers take into consideration the "total cost of ownership" for products made in China but destined to be sold in America -- transportation costs, reject rates, foreign wage inflation, potential intellectual-property theft and other factors -- the United States compares favorably with China and other so-called low-cost countries.
To help quantify his argument, Moser has developed a software tool -- TCO Estimator V.5 -- that compares the costs of manufacturing parts and tools in 17 countries, based on 29 factors (such as freight and wage rates). The software can project manufacturing costs five years into the future.
Moser, 67, has become the face of the reshoring movement. Earlier this week, IndustryWeek caught up with Moser to get an update on his efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.
IW: In May, the Boston Consulting Group got some media attention for an analysis that concluded that rising labor costs in China, coupled with higher productivity in America, will wipe out most of China's cost advantage within the next five years. Why is this kind of media attention so important?
HM: I think it's important because a major reason people offshored was because they read about everybody else offshoring, and figured it had to be the right thing to do. And so the more they see about reshoring, the more they're going to say, "Well I guess that's what everybody's doing."
In fact, in my PowerPoint presentation, I talk about how offshoring was a herd mentality to some extent. Big companies saw each other doing it, and maybe the company had a bad quarter and they told Wall Street, "Well we're going to solve this, we're going to fix this margin, we'll offshore a third of the work" kind of thing, to show that they were real men running the company and taking decisive action -- even if it was sometimes the wrong decision.