by Alyssa Oursler | December 6, 2012 11:54 am
Cue the cheering; the rumors are true. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) — a great American tech story and the largest company ever — will be bringing some offshore manufacturing jobs back home next year.
But there’s more reason to celebrate: Apple isn’t alone.
Manufacturing jobs began declining around 1980 — slipping steadily at first, then with increasing tenacity. Since 2010, though, that trend slowly has been reversing. While some gains can simply be attributed to jobs added post-recession, there also is evidence that the herd mentality of offshoring seems to be shifting.
In a recent survey, 14% of U.S. companies said they “definitely plan” to move some manufacturing back home, according to The Wall Street Journal , while a report earlier in the year surveyed found 37% of surveyed companies were “actively considering it.”
Each company has its own reasons, of course, whether it be higher oil prices, rising Chinese wages, improved quality or a rapid innovation cycle, but the end result is the same.
So, let’s take a look at a few names that are moving to make more in America:
Of course, we had to start with Tim Cook’s recent announcement. Yesterday, Apple’s CEO interviewed with NBC and Bloomberg Businessweek and announced that one of the existing Mac lines will be manufactured solely in the U.S. in 2013.
The maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads has taken some heat for its offshoring practices in the past — especially in regards to the suicides and shutdowns at Foxconn facilities in China — so making positive production publicity is a refreshing change.
Of course, Apple’s plans to spend $100 million on the American manufacturing in 2013 is admittedly pocket change for the tech giant, but it’s a step in the right direction — one that Cook hopes might inspire others to follow his lead.
Cook said Chinese workers are more skilled in terms of modern manufacturing, though, and that’s why Apple isn’t bringing all its jobs home. Still, he emphasized that AAPL has created more than 600,000 jobs in the U.S.
Apple isn’t actually the one paving the way in terms of assembling its products here at home, though. This past summer, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) unveiled a “Made in the U.S.A.” gadget ahead of its rival: The Nexus Q.
The spherical streaming entertainment device — a piece of self-contained hardware — is being made right in San Jose, Calif. But Google handled the insourcing plans much differently than Apple. Cook announced the homegrown Mac on national TV, while Google hardly drew attention to the detail at the Nexus’ unveiling.
In fact, when asked about it, the company’s vice president said Google figured it would “try it and see what happens.”
Google also pointed to the benefits of having design and engineering facilities near one another, according to The New York Times.
General Electric (NYSE:GE) has been another leader in the reshoring trend. The company opened two new assembly lines — the first in 55 years — in legendary Appliance Park earlier this year, and another one is on the way.
That’s just one piece of the company’s plans to create more American jobs and build 15 new factories.
Many new facilities will be making parts that GE has never before produced domestically. In some cases, it has meant a redesigning and rethinking of the product, its part and the manufacturing processes … but that also has allowed some products to end up being cheaper than the “China price,” as The Atlantic recently described.
GE has a map on its website that breaks down of all the new jobs it has created here in the states since 2009 — more than 15,500 in 20 different states.
Automaker Ford (NYSE:F) first made headlines last year when it struck a four-year labor agreement that added 12,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs — many of which were brought back home from Mexico, China and Japan. The deal with the United Auto Workers union lowered Ford’s U.S. costs, allowing the large shift to take place.
Just in September, the $6.2 billion investment in new factories helped Ford add 1,200 workers to its Flat Rock plant in Michigan. The facility and new wave of workers will be building the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion — recently named “Green Car of the Year.” This is the first time the car will be built in the U.S., though production of the hybrid versions will remain in Mexico.
Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR), another maker of home appliances, was part of this wave months ago as well.
It didn’t bring the big stuff back home, though; instead, it started with the manufacturing of its KitchenAid hand mixers. After six years of using contractors in China, the company is once again making the popular products right in Ohio.
Of course, while that adds it to the list of company’s reshoring jobs, The Wall Street Journal reports that only 25 or so net U.S. jobs were gained at the company.
Still, Whirlpool’s move (and others) show some promise … and demonstrate that relying on low-cost areas of Asia for production is no longer a gimme.
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