Tim, I have seen the same exported factory machinery in China and other parts of Asia. In Indonesia, which touts itself as a lower cost alternative to China (imagine that!), nearly all the managers were ex-pats, mostly Americans.
We have spoken with U.S.-based companies like pc-board makers who say they have brought work back from Asia for the reasons jmiller has cited. Lower manufacturing costs in Asia were outweighed by low quality, logistics issues and communications problems. I'm guessing more of this type of mid-level, -volume manufacturing will come back from Asia.
I would take issue with the assertion that elimination of the tax on overseas profits would result in greater investment in the U.S. Many multinational companies are sitting on piles of cash now and have shown no inclination to invest in workers, infrastructure or innovative products. Moreover, many benefit from the U.S. R&D tax credit, but you'd be hard pressed to find a single innovation since this "tax incentive" was created in 1981.
Thanks to all who weighed in on this thread about the vital issue of reviving U.S. manufacturing.
On the issue of what we do to compete with the likes of Foxconn, we certainly can't replicate its model, nor would we want. We can fix our manufacturing problems while at the same time preserving the dignity of work. I believe we need to rebuild a flexible manufacturing base that can be quickly scaled up in order to compete with Asian manufacturers. The we leverage our unmatched worker productivity.
I'll next puruse other reader comments and respond where I can.
I agree with a lot of what everyone here has to say. It is important that we do reverse unemployment and get jobs back for many Americans. The task though is no longer bringing back jobs to America, the way we have structured the global marketplace today could simply not support it. Instead we must create new jobs to support and give structure to the jobs we have moved oversees. Yes, bringing back jobs would result in a few more Americans getting back jobs, but if we can build a stronger support network for the future, we will have created a strong enough infrastruture if or when jobs are to come back to America.
By the way, it is amazing the way everyone discusses things here unlike yahoo and other ridiculous sites that simply post racist, religious, and outrageous things that are most likely due to a lack of education.
@Dave, Yeah, I agree with your accessment of doing business in China although I bet the Chinese pave the way for companies like Foxcon. It's no doubt a nightmare for little startups.
My point was that it's also harder for small startups here. And unlike very large companies, small startups in the US would not even THINK of locating in China. So which should we be doing more to encourage?
If you've weighed in here, please take our Quick Poll on "Should the government support the return of manufacturing jobs to the US?" It's on the lower right side of the Design News home page. Results so far are here. The answer options are:
a) Yes, by funding research, education, and tax credits
b) Yes, in principle, but without spending taxpayer money
c) No, the government shouldn't pick winners and losers
@Tcrook: I agree that an "us vs. them" attitude can be counterproductive. I just wanted to point out the fallacy of thinking that regulations are driving U.S. companies to go to China. Some regulations can and do hurt business, but the Chinese government's level of intervention in the economy dwarfs that of the U.S, so an aversion to regulation is clearly not the driving force. As your example suggests, the real driving force is access to cheap goods and services produced by cheap labor.
As your example also shows, the idea that the U.S. can't compete with China in manufacturing is also false. In spite of our flaws, I think we actually have a lot of good things going for us. With smart government policy, combined with private initiative and technological innovation, we can have a bright future.
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