Access to talented workers capable of supporting innovation is the key factor driving global competitiveness at manufacturing companies -- well ahead of 'classic' factors typically associated with competitive manufacturing, such as labor, materials and energy.
According to the 2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, a research report from Deloittes Global Manufacturing Industry group and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, difficulties accessing the right kind of talent are likely to contribute to the United States becoming less globally competitive in the next five years.
"At its broadest level, the study confirms that the global competitive landscape for manufacturing is undergoing a transformational shift that will reshape the drivers of economic growth, high-value job creation, national prosperity and national security," according to Deborah L. Wince-Smith, CEO of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness.
The report shows that while the overall top three competitive drivers (talent-driven innovation, cost of labor and materials, energy cost and policies) remain relatively stable across all geographic regions, there is some variance in their importance by region -- especially in Mexico and South America, where talent did not rank number one. In these two countries, 'quality of physical infrastructure' ranked the highest.
"A strong manufacturing sector is a crucial component of a country's intellectual capital, innovation capacity, and economic prosperity. In today's environment, manufacturing competitiveness is driven by an empowered talent base, especially as manufacturers around the world integrate technology platforms and interfaces into their products," said James Quigley, CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. "From the Americas to Europe and from Asia, to Africa, understanding the public policy and market forces that shape the manufacturing landscape is essential to winning in the global economy."
Newcomer Economies to Gain Ground as U.S. Slips
The report identified the emergence of a new group of leaders in the manufacturing competitive index over the next five years. These include Mexico, Poland and Thailand -- countries not always considered alongside longer-standing, up-and-comers like Brazil and Russia. Not unexpectedly, Asian giants like China, India and the Republic of Korea are projected to dominate the index in five years, as they do now.
Further, dominant manufacturing super powers of the late 20th century -- the United States, Japan and Germany -- are expected to become less competitive over the next five years. Other Western European nations will be similarly challenged, especially the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy and Belgium, a finding made more dramatic by the continuing upheaval of the Euro.
"All Western European nations show an expected decline in rank over the next five years, which should be a cause for concern across the Continent," says Hans Roehm, global managing partner, global manufacturing industry group, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
The 'epicenter' for manufacturing continues to shift to emerging markets; Asia, in particular, according to the report. "What had been the world order in the second half of the late 20th century is giving rise to new manufacturing paradigms. But, even with the rise of China, India and Korea and the overall competitive repositioning of nations, the United States, Germany and Japan are still formidable and very competitive," said Craig Giffi, who serves as vice chairman and U.S. national industry leader for consumer and industrial products at Deloitte LLP.
However, the study also shows the United States slipping in rank from fourth to fifth by 2015, the highest ranking country to show a decline -- while China and India remain as the leaders. "This finding deserves careful consideration as the U.S. evaluates its global competitiveness position," cautions Giffi.
Competing Seen as Easiest in Asia, Tougher in U.S. and Europe
The report identified a clear geographical divergence in the perception of public policy support for competitiveness. Most respondents from China think that their government makes competitiveness easy compared to respondents in Europe and the United States, with 70% of them citing government support of science, technology and innovation as advantageous.
The European respondents identified public policy support for infrastructure development (46.1%), science and technology and innovation (43.4%), and intellectual property protection (42.1%) as their advantage. Respondents in the Unites States cited intellectual property policies (75.5%) and technology policies (61.3%) as their competitive edge.
Respondents in each region also identified differing policies that inhibit competitiveness. In China, these included immigration policies (32.1%) and healthcare (27.7%); in the United States, government intervention and ownership in companies (59.2%), corporate tax policies (53.1%), healthcare policies (51%), product liability laws (42.9%) and immigration policies (32.7%); and in Europe labor laws and regulations (42.1%), environment policies (36.8%) and energy policies (31.6%)
To view the 2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, visit www.deloitte.com/globalcompetitiveness