NPR: Manufacturing in U.S. may be smart, poised for return

A fascinating report from NPR’s All Things Considered on Saturday: Not Just Patriotic, U.S. Manufacturing May Be Smart

With the ongoing problems of outsourcing and offshoring, compounded by the recent deep recession, manufacturing in the U.S. has fallen to historically low levels.

But we might see the trend reverse itself, at least to some degree. That reversal might already be underway.

From the piece:

The advantages to making products in the U.S. are starting to stack up — and companies are taking notice. Among them are Apple, which announced Thursday it plans to start producing some of its Mac computers here instead of in China, and General Electric, which is making big investments at home.

It’s not just a matter of publicity, either. As the December issue of The Atlantic reports, companies are seeing real economic advantages to “insourcing,” a reversal of the outsourcing trends that sent U.S. manufacturing overseas.

The portion about GE is especially interesting, including this:

The new philosophy was simple: It might make more business sense to have everyone involved in a product work in the same place. That thinking led to a change that couldn’t have happened if some workers were in China, others in Mexico and some in the U.S.

GE holds up another example of improved efficiency. The marketing team wanted to eliminate four visible screws to improve the dishwasher’s design. A diverse group of workers found a way to do that, making the manufacturing process quicker as a result.

With workers in different departments physically sharing the same space, Calvaruso says, these cross-interest conversations can happen more easily.

The entire report is worth a read and/or listen.