The whole changeover with tech writing I mentioned followed a somewhat parallel path. Companies thought they could just turn everything over to Asian teams. Then they discovered they needed to hire back a few native English speakers here who also were familiar with editing and production processes, and they did the handholding. The hire-backs were a small percentage of the jobs lost. Something parallel also happened with call centers, because of language and cultural difference issues. A lot of those jobs came back to this hemisphere, although many went to Canada not the US.
It is funny, and real. Sources at electronics distributor, Avnet, assure me that brand executives have discovered they can't just turn production over to Asia. They still have to hand-hold the process. These executives are getting tired of 4 a.m. phone calls that go on for hours. Interesting reason for some manufacturing to return to North America.
Rob, that's both funny and also understandable. I guess I'd just thought US manufacturers had turned into total workaholics. I've heard many of them talk about starting their day at 7 AM to talk to Europe and going until late at night to talk to Asia.
I understand Mexico is getting a lot of white box manufacturing that is aimed at North Americna consumers. Interestingly, a lot of North American brand owners apparently prefer Mexico partly because Mexico is in their time zone. Apparently executives and managers are tired of late-night phone calls. Sounds funny, but component distributor executives have told me this is actually a factor in the decision on whether or not to go to Asia.
Thanks, Rob. That's an interesting answer. High mix low volume makes a lot of sense. What didn't occur to me before was also heavy items--doh! Also, I thought I'd heard that the manufacturing of practically all consumer electronics, including white box goods but not cars, had moved offshore, presumably to Asia.
Yes, I too have been hearing about a lot of developments. I've been hearing about a surge in home-based monitoring equipment like the defibrillators you mentioned. I hear there's a wide range of home equipment that connects in one way or another to a medical facility. These consumer-based devices have the added promise of higher volume production than devices for medical facilities.
Charles has clearly portrayed the amazing developments in medical domain which are definitely improving the clinical workflow and also imprvoing point of care solutions which in addition to the portabolity and low power solutions are the medical device market drivers.
I'm intrigued by some of the medical electronics developments we've seen in the last few years, Rob. We've seen implantable defbrillators that call the emergency room while the patient sleeps. (I've heard stories of paramedics arriving at the door of a patient and waking them up, based on a call from the defibrillator). We've heard of companies that are developing portable MRIs that could be rolled out onto a football field to check players. We've heard of Band-Aid-sized heart monitors. These are some of the things we're planning to discuss with our guest, Steven Dean.
From what I've seen, the big areas in manufacturing that will not get outsourced include medical, defense, aerospace, and any other manufacturing that includes "high mix, low volume." Defense, of course, remains for security reasons.
Heavy items, of course, need to be close to their end consumers. So if white box goods (washers, dryers, fridges, dishwashers) get outsoruced, it tends to be close to home (Mexico for North America, East Europe for Europe).
Cars, too, need to be close to home. We benefit from Japan opening factories here producing cars for U.S. consumption.
Just because production is in North America, that doesn't necessarily mean outsourcing is out. There are tons of manufacturers in North America (particularly in the Midwest) that provide outsourced manufacturing services to fellow North American companies.
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For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.