Al, great article. It brings together a number of current trends we have been seeing. I have mentioned in a number of comments some examples of these trends. The reasons are, as you point out, being close to markets to be able to respond and quality.
Frankly, while I have tremendous respect for the Chinese and China, they have not been a manufacturing powerhouse for a very long period of time. While we have a resurgence in China's engagement with the world. whcih is a very good thing, this is a recent phenomenon. I know people who are my age whose education and carreer was interrupted by the cultural revolution. Frankly, we sent a lot of low value manufacturing to China (and elsewhere) and it was poorly done. This is another reason for the movement to quality manufacturing in the US. China can do better, but it's real need is to produce products for their own population. That would have a much more positive effect on the whole situation than doing low end manufacturing.
The trend toward automating manufacturing in China can be a disturbing one. China still has lots of people who live on very small incomes. For a smooth transition to a more open society and economy, China needs to be able to fulfill these needs at home. As they have shown around the world, Chinese entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists can hold their own and thrive in an open environment.
Thanks for this Al. We live in a very dynamic ecosystem and the trend to bring manufacturing back home is the natural progression of a complex system, not the decision of an omniscient central planner. While President Obama is proposing tax relief for companies that return jobs to America in an attempt at command and control, this recent movement is returning "manufacturing" to America, but not necessarily "Jobs".Thankfully gone are the days of humans being hired to perform robotic jobs, to the increase of repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome, but also gone are the throngs of low- to mid-level supervisors and managers employed to insure that the workers act like robots. Supervisor jobs will now be performed by SCADA systems and Management decisions will be made by Business Intelligence applications.
This may be a boon for scientists, engineers, and skilled technicians, but a reopened factory that used to employ thousands will now employ hundreds, or increasingly dozens...
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