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Survey: Majority of Large Manufacturers Are Planning or Considering Reshoring From China

Reshoring

CHICAGO, Ill.—A recent survey by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that more than half of U.S.-based manufacturing executives at companies with sales greater than $1 billion are planning to bring back production to the U.S. from China or are actively considering it.

The share of executives who are planning to "reshore" or are considering it rose to 54 percent, compared with 37 percent of executives who responded to a similar BCG survey in February 2012. The survey, conducted last fall, elicited responses from more than 200 decision makers at companies across a broad range of industries. Virtually all of the companies manufacture in the U.S. and overseas and make products for both U.S. and non-U.S. consumption.

The survey also found a sharp increase in the percentage of executives who are actively engaged in the process of shifting production to the United States. When asked whether they expect to move production in light of rising wages in China, 21 percent of respondents—around twice as many as in 2012—said they are "actively doing this" or that they "will move production to the U.S. in the next two years."

The increase in willingness to reshore supports earlier BCG findings that are part of the firm's "Made in America, Again" series, produced by its Operations and Global Advantage practices. The series explores the shifting economics of global manufacturing and how the changes are starting to favor the production of certain goods in the U.S.

In a report released last August, "Behind the American Export Surge: The U.S. as One of the Developed World's Lowest-Cost Manufacturers," BCG projected that production reshored from China, together with higher exports due to improved U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing, could create 2.5 million to 5 million American factory and related service jobs by 2020.

"Over the past couple of years, we've projected an improvement in U.S. manufacturing competitiveness by 2015 that would help drive an American manufacturing revival," said Harold L. Sirkin, a BCG senior partner and a co-author of the study, in a release from BCG. "The results of our latest survey make clear that a profound shift in attitude is beginning."

According to survey respondents, the top three factors driving future decisions on production locations were labor costs (cited by 43 percent of respondents), proximity to customers (35 percent), and product quality (34 percent). More than 80 percent of respondents cited at least one of these reasons as a key factor. Other leading factors include access to skilled labor, transportation costs, supply-chain lead time, and ease of doing business.

"The wide range of reasons executives cite for shifting production shows that companies are becoming more sophisticated in their understanding of all the factors that must be considered when deciding where to manufacture," said Michael Zinser, a BCG partner who leads the firm's manufacturing work in the Americas, in the release.  "When you look at the total cost of production for many goods, the U.S. appears increasingly attractive."

Justin Rose, a BCG partner who, along with Sirkin and Zinser, is a co-author of "The US Manufacturing Renaissance: How Shifting Global Economics Are Creating an American Comeback" Knowledge@Wharton, 2012), stated in the release that the survey findings confirm that the reshoring trend is more than anecdotal. "As the costs and benefits become more apparent, we expect more companies to consider manufacturing in the U.S. if their products are to be consumed in the U.S.," he commented.

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