Survey: 85 percent of manufacturing executives see manufacturing returning to U.S.

December 16, 2011

According to a survey conducted by Cook Associates Executive Search (www.cookassociates.com/executive-search), 85 percent of manufacturing executives see the possibility of certain manufacturing operations returning to the U.S., with 37 percent citing overseas costs as the major factor. Nineteen percent cited logistics, and 36 percent stipulated other reasons, including economic/political issues, quality and safety concerns, patriotism, and overseas skills shortages for highly technical manufacturing processes.

Cook Associates Executive Search polled nearly 3,000 manufacturing executives primarily in small- to mid-sized U.S. companies from October 13 through November 18, 2011. Participants consisted of C-level executives (CEO, CFO, COO) and key functional Vice Presidents (Operations, Manufacturing, Supply Chain). The survey data was supplemented by written comments submitted by individual executives.

The survey identified low-volume, high-precision, high-mix operations, automated manufacturing, and engineered products requiring technology improvements or innovation as the primary forms of manufacturing returning to the States. "With increased manufacturing here in the U.S., we would expect increasing demand for engineering, product development, operations and finance positions," says Kevin Logterman, Managing Director, Industrial and Family Business for Cook. "We’ll also see demand increase for finance/accounting specialists (CFOs, Controllers) who understand overseas operations and are able to calculate the true costs for exporting since they are difficult to quantify."

Logterman commented, "The executives we polled told us that wage inflation in traditional overseas venues, especially China, is changing the value proposition for American manufacturers. Once, costs were the primary driver for moving manufacturing offshore, but now companies are doing the math and thinking more about staying at home. Also, executives told us that because logistics are complex to begin with, the financial argument has to be compelling and the dynamics are changing."

“In order to stay competitive in a slow economy, respondents are focusing more on quality and customer service as differentiators, both of which are better managed domestically. They also said that skill sets for certain manufacturing functions are not readily available overseas — China and Asia generally are unable to meet the demand for skilled workers. Finally, patriotism was cited as a factor as executives looked for a return to a 'Made in America' mentality in the U.S."



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