Inside California Manufacturing

Nearsourcing is the Next Best Thing to Reshoring

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"As logistics costs continue to increase worldwide, sourcing regionally will become the most reasonable course of action for companies with a global market."

The basic definition of nearsourcing is to source outside your own facility, but within your own region and not on the other side of the globe. Nearsourcing may have a different meaning depending on the region in which you are located in the United States. For the purposes of this article, the definition of nearsourcing means sourcing in Mexico, which is the meaning understood in California and in other states along the international border with Mexico.

As much as it is would be desirable for all the manufacturing we lost to offshoring in China to return to the United States, it is an unrealistic expectation in the global economy. As logistics costs continue to increase worldwide, sourcing regionally will become the most reasonable course of action for companies with a global market.

Although reshoring through returning manufacturing to America is gaining momentum as wages and logistics costs rise in China, there is still a substantial cost differential for high volume and/or high labor content products. What is a good solution to this problem? Nearsourcing to Mexico may be the right answer.

Nearsourcing to Mexico by U. S. manufacturers began in the 1965 after the “maquila program was initiated in 1965 during the Diaz Ordaz presidency as a means of attracting foreign investment, increasing exports, and fostering industrialization along the U.S./Mexico border.” By the mid-1980s there were thousands of maquiladoras in cities along Mexico’s border with the U. S. Some of my first customers when I started my rep agency in 1985 were maquiladoras owned by U. S. corporations in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.

For many years, Americans crossed the border to work in the maquiladora plants as engineers, purchasing agents, department heads and plant managers, but gradually Americans were replaced by Mexican nationals, first the engineers, then purchasing agents, then department heads, and more recently as plant or general managers.

Prior to NAFTA, all production that was generated in the Mexican plants had to return to the country of origin or had to go to a third country. During the first phase of NAFTA from 1994-2000, the maquiladoras continued to benefit from the waiver of Mexican import duties on raw materials while also benefitting from the preferential duty rates on those products that satisfy NAFTA rules of origin. Since then, duties on raw materials that originate in non-NAFTA countries increased, but not as much as originally anticipated.

During the second phase of NAFTA, changing rules made it gradually more difficult to sell to the maquiladoras because persons wishing to conduct business at maquiladoras had to purchase a FN certificate (by the day or year), provide written proof of an appointment, and within a few years, have a passport. If a company was caught having a visitor that didn’t have written proof of an advance appointment, the company was fined. Thus, it became illegal to do what is called “cold calling” on prospects without an appointment.

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