Assembly Blog

Reshoring, Jobs and Quality

January 24, 2013

Jobs are coming back through “reshoring.” At least that is what we heard in a speech last May when President Barack Obama congratulated General Electric and Caterpillar for bringing jobs back to the United States. I suspect we will continue to hear this particular theme for a while.

Certainly, there are solid examples of reshoring. Not long ago, ASSEMBLY magazine gave us an in-depth look at the resurgence of jobs at Appliance Park, where GE now makes appliances that had been produced in China. It is hard to ignore the scale of this development and we can all appreciate the impact.

A report from the Boston Consulting Group indicates that 37 percent of big manufacturers (sales of $1 billion or more) are serious about shifting production back to the United States. Much of the reasoning has been that rising costs in energy and offshore wages make homeland production more economically feasible.

Even as production returns home, we know China will continue to grow. So will South America, Europe and hopefully all our trading partners. We can applaud companies that bring jobs to people wherever they live. Since many of us at InterTech live in the United States (where the company was founded 40 years ago), we welcome the opportunity to work directly with manufacturers here.

As insourcing continues, I envision even more collaboration between local testing specialists and manufacturing engineers that share the same geography. It just makes sense as a way to improve and deliver smarter, more cost-effective manufacturing technology for test-centric assembly.

Take FDA regulations, for instance. It is easy to understand local expertise is best for that. If nothing else, go to your local leak testing expert to establish the correct physical measurements based on known standards. The importance of well-defined values for standardized leak measurement cannot be overstated, regardless of industry or geography.

The important thing is that our manufacturers adjust to new logistics that may arise from reshoring. Local expertise helps ensure quality does not suffer, and when it comes to leak testing, the next challenge is to set up realistic and cost-effective quality control and test requirements for homeland manufacturing. It comes down to the fact that products made in Tennessee still have to compete with those made in Taiwan.

Let’s not just bring back jobs; let’s boost quality to ensure they stay in places like Appliance Park.

What do you think? What do you think manufacturers should watch out for when bringing production back to the United States? Has your company recently reshored assembly? Is it planning to? What should engineers be thinking about before and after reshoring?

Jacques Hoffmann is President of InterTech Development Co., which designs and builds equipment for leak testing, functional testing and test-centric assembly. He can be reached at 847-679-3377.

Editor’s note: “Hoffmann on Testing” is part of a series of guest spots by industry experts that will appear regularly on ASSEMBLY’s blog page. Check back frequently to read more commentaries from Jacques, as well as contributions on automated assembly systems, machine vision, robotics and ergonomics.

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