Made in the USA isn’t Dead, Just Different

Like me, you may have experienced surprise when you've purchased a common consumer product, found the Country of Origin label and read "Made in the USA"?  "Wow–look at that, made in the USA!" 

A great article put our by the AP on, Made in the U.S.A. isn't dead, just different, helps to put the shifts in the U.S. manufacturing sector into perspective.  The common perception that virtually nothing is Made in the U.S.A anymore is inaccurate.  As the article points out, the question revolves more around what is no longer made in the U.S., and what is: 

It may seem like the country that used to make everything is on the brink of making nothing.

In January, 207,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs vanished in the largest one-month drop since October 1982. Factory activity is hovering at a 28-year low. Even before the recession, plants were hemorrhaging work to foreign competitors with cheap labor. And some companies were moving production overseas.

But manufacturing in the United States isn't dead or even dying. It's moving upscale, following the biggest profits, and becoming more efficient, just like Henry Ford did when he created the assembly line to make the Model T.

The U.S. by far remains the world's leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It hit a record $1.6 trillion in 2007 – nearly double the $811 billion in 1987. For every $1 of value produced in China's factories, America generates $2.50.

Leading manufacturer?  Of what?USA factory worker

The U.S. sold more than $200 billion worth of aircraft, missiles and space-related equipment in 2007. And $80 billion worth of autos and auto parts. Deere & Co., best known for its bright green and yellow tractors, sold $16.5 billion worth of farming equipment last year, much of it to the rest of the world. Then there's energy products like gas turbines for power plants made by General Electric, computer chips from Intel and fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Household names like GE, General Motors, IBM, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard are among the largest manufacturers by revenue.

The article illuminates an issue that is too often simplified and/or approached from a perspective that highlights our shedding of low-skilled manufacturing jobs and inefficient industries.  This is no doubt challenging to many. 

At the same time, America is advancing up the value chain and doing more with less.   US manufacturing is not only doing more with less, but also making supply chains more responsive and efficient.  Another advantage of US manufacturing which companies are becoming aware of is its utility in the reduction of risk.  The rise in lean and JIT manufacturing in the US allows companies to become more responsive to short-term demand fluctuations to hedge inventory risk (Inventory is a bad bad word right now), and speed go-to-market product cycles. 

We're losing.  We're gaining.  We're changing.