More Than a Third of Large Manufacturers Consider Reshoring from China to the U.S.

April 20, 2012
Rising Chinese wages, logistics among factors prompting companies to rethink where they manufacture.

More than a third of U.S.-based manufacturing executives at companies with sales greater than $1 billion are planning to bring back production to the United States from China or are considering it, according to a new survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Decision makers at 106 companies across a broad range of industries responded to the survey, which BCG conducted in late February. Thirty-seven percent said they plan to reshore manufacturing operations or are actively considering it. That response rate rose to 48% among executives at companies with $10 billion or more in revenuesa third of the sample.

The top factors cited as driving future decisions on production locations: labor costs (57%), product quality (41%), ease of doing business (29%), and proximity to customers (28%). In addition, 92% said they believe that labor costs in China will continue to escalate, and 70% agreed that sourcing in China is more costly than it looks on paper.

The results are consistent with earlier BCG findings on the changing economics that are starting to favor the manufacturing of certain goods in the U.S. In a report released last month, "U.S. Manufacturing Nears the Tipping Point: Which Industries, Why, and How Much?," BCG predicted that improved U.S. competitiveness and rising costs in China will put the U.S. in a strong position to add 2 million to 3 million jobs in a range of industries and an estimated $100 billion in annual output by the end of the decade.

These survey findings confirm our own analysis and what we are hearing from major companies, said Harold L. Sirkin, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the firms Made in America, Again series. 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. This trend is likely to accelerate starting around 2015.

Interest in shifting manufacturing to the U.S. is particularly strong among companies in several sectors identified in BCGs March report as nearing a tipping point. In these industry groups, Chinas cost advantage is likely to shrink within the next few years to the point where companies should rethink where they produce certain goods, mainly those for sale in North America.

The tipping-point sectors are transportation goods, appliances and electrical equipment, furniture, plastic and rubber products, machinery, fabricated metal products, and computers and electronics. BCG predicts that production of 10% to 30% of U.S. imports from China in these industries, which account for approximately 70% of goods that the U.S. imports from that nation, could shift to the U.S. before the end of the decade.

In the new survey, 67% of respondents in rubber and plastic products, 42% in machinery, 41% in electronics, 40% in computers, and 35% in fabricated metal products said they expect that their companies will reshore production from China to the U.S.

Not long ago, many companies regarded China as the low-cost default option for manufacturing, observed Michael Zinser, a BCG partner who leads the firms U.S. manufacturing practice. This survey shows that companies are coming to the conclusion surprisingly fast that the U.S. is becoming more competitive when the total costs of manufacturing are accounted for.

See also:

Is U.S. Becoming a Low-Cost Country?

85% of Execs See Manufacturing Jobs Returning to U.S.

Job Shops Need Marketing, Skilled Workers to Grow

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