As a country, we will persevere and adapt to the pandemic. Many viable near-term and long-term opportunities could turn in favor of U.S. economic expansion. There are many benefits of reshoring the U.S. economy. As White House trade advisor Peter Navarro noted: “Manufacturing jobs not only provide good wages but also create more jobs, both up-and downstream through multiplier effects.” Also, reshoring ensures access to necessary drugs and other items related to our national security.

In this article, our goal is to inform you about the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on American businesses while also covering the benefits of manufacturing returning to the United States and how American companies can continue being successful as buy American motives increase in popularity.

Understanding the impact of the pandemic on American businesses

As we have seen throughout the past few months, many Americans have become unemployed due to the lost capability for U.S. manufacturers and businesses to continue producing services and goods.

Many of these issues stem from the dependency on foreign supply chain and manufacturing, namely our reliance on China. As of July, the number of unemployed individuals is well over 20 million, where the unemployment rate is at 11.1 percent, which is down from the 14.7 percent previously seen in April.

Before we can elaborate on why manufacturing should return to the U.S., we have to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on manufacturing markets and its effects. As we initially experienced from the early stages of the pandemic, production and importing of goods and parts used in products sold in the United States were immediately halted.

This supply chain disruption altered the lead times for materials and finished goods manufactured in China. The turnaround process that would take two to four days to confirm orders turned into a process that would require 2 to 3 weeks for order confirmation.

This issue also affects the current need for medicine, medical equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for our medical facilities and first responders. While numerous American businesses have taken the stance and changed their production lines to help meet our citizens’ needs, it is not enough.

In the United States, only 28 percent of manufacturing facilities can make active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). The remaining 72 percent of API production occurs in other countries. The limited capability to produce these APIs places the U.S. in a predicament where we cannot meet the necessity or demand for essential lifesaving medications for our citizens.

Various organizations and businesses have become vital suppliers of PPE, either through working to create masks and face shields using eco-friendly 3D printing technology or changing their production lines to meet the medical community’s needs.

Ultimately, these issues have also affected many businesses in the United States. Companies deemed essential must decide how to meet the business’s and customers’ needs while following the guidelines and recommendations to protect their employees better.

Markets that serve in major industries such as transportation and food processing have to take extra precautions to safeguard their employees and the people who use their services and products. As more businesses plan to reshore their goods to the United States, people may be curious about reshoring and the expected trends of reshoring.

Glogal map illustrates supply chain connections.The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains globally, leading many manufacturers to consider reshoring their operations.

What is the meaning of reshoring?

According to the Reshoring Initiative, reshoring is “the practice of bringing manufacturing and services back to the U.S. from overseas.” Many businesses based in the U.S. rely on outsourced manufacturing and services for various reasons, whether due to the availability of resources, the potential of saving money during production, or their service specialization. However, this reliance also leaves those businesses vulnerable to situations seen earlier in 2020.

Conditions that change the availability of resources can impact businesses that can affect the on-time delivery of products and keep stock within reasonable margins. After experiencing this unforeseen level of increased disruption, many companies have started building manufacturing capacity and supply networks to other countries.

Other corporations have made claims regarding their reshoring initiatives to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S. In fact, since 2018, many well-known businesses such as Apple, Boeing, General Motors, and G.E. have begun reshoring many of their essential jobs and manufacturing processes back to the U.S. We applaud these reshoring trends and highlight associated benefits with reshoring.

Reshoring trends and challenges

While many manufacturers have begun reshoring and redistributing their manufacturing processes due to the impact of COVID-19, other factors have pushed U.S. businesses to consider reshoring the manufacturing of goods. One such trend that has enabled many manufacturers to reshore is factory floors’ automation. With robotic automation advancements, many businesses, such as automotive manufacturing, have begun utilizing robots that have the visual capacity to analyze their work for imperfections. Other robots, such as those that can weld, can perform tasks that typically require a specially trained individual.

In addition to the introduction of robotics, 3D printing has made advancements. Other businesses have also begun investing in this process to minimize their reliance on offshore manufacturing. One such company that has already started 3D printing its electronics in-house is Harris Corporation. With the ability to make specialty parts in-house at a push of a button, many American manufacturing facilities have adapted to implementing 3D printing into their capabilities.

To combat tariffs placed on American exported goods, U.S. officials have proposed incentives to encourage the reshoring of manufacturing processes out of China. The incentives offered to American companies included tax breaks and structured subsidies. The incentives’ goal was to help offset the increased capital needs of establishing domestic manufacturing locations and obtain the needed technologies to continue their operations.

The global supply chain is reliant upon multiple tiers of suppliers. Many of these suppliers have aggregated demand in specific SKUs to fill the output capacity of quality products at lower prices. Manufacturers who source high volumes of these items from suppliers in different countries, such as Medtronic, would not feasibly restrict production to one country.

The Reshoring Institute points to other challenges manufacturers face when leaving foreign countries. In some cases, employees within their facilities abroad have one or two-year contracts paid fully if a company withdraws production. Also, China may not allow a company to remove any machinery, tools, and molds from plants to another country, even if the company has contractual ownership rights of the equipment.

Critically important, you taught your Chinese suppliers how to make your product. As you leave your machinery, tools, and molds behind, your products’ production continues under another business name. These investments make going extremely difficult.

Offshore manufacturing

As you would expect, offshore manufacturing is the relocation of production or assembly of goods to another country. Businesses often use offshore manufacturing for two reasons: the cost and availability of labor and resources. Compared to the rising cost of employment in the U.S., many countries such as India, China, and Taiwan have lower labor costs. According to information provided by Statista, Vietnam is currently the country with the lowest labor cost per hour compared to Mexico and China.

There has been a steady increase in labor costs between the three countries, and many would wonder why all of the businesses that rely on offshore manufacturing have not moved their operations to one country?

This answer falls onto the second reason, the cost, and availability of materials. Businesses that manufacture specialty goods have to absorb the cost of obtaining and transporting those materials. Instead of incurring an exorbitant price to transport and import the materials, businesses will move production to countries where the resources are more readily available and cheaper to produce.

Offshore manufacturing is often confused when a company or business produces its goods outside the country of origin, only to sell those goods in the country where the business is located. Businesses and companies that make a product in another country but sell it in the country that manufactures it are not considered offshore manufacturing.

However, manufacturing businesses producing products in a country outside of where the company is located and bringing that product back to where the business is located participate in offshore manufacturing. This difference in operation is used to determine whether a business is moving its operations to expand its territory versus those focused on benefiting from a cheaper production cost.

When working with offshore manufacturing businesses, one fear American companies have is the potential for intellectual property theft. A survey of North American-based corporations on the CNBC Global CFO Council showed that 1 in 5 of those corporations experienced intellectual property theft from Chinese companies. Intellectual property theft costs the U.S. anywhere between $225 to $600 billion a year. While trade and intellectual property protections have improved, any business’s potential to be affected still exists.

Offshore manufacturing trends

As businesses have experienced first-hand from the initial business disruptions experienced earlier this year, companies that utilize offshore manufacturing have had to expand their supply chains, even so, to identify partners completely independent of China. While not always the most beneficial for minimizing costs, this trend diversifies the partners within the supply chain that do not rely on China. Diversified supply chains allow manufacturing businesses to continue with minimal risk of halting business operations.

Other factors affect businesses from considering offshoring, such as transportation, currency fluctuation, and tariffs. Freight costs and fuel prices have decreased in recent years. Currency fluctuation has also become an issue that has pushed businesses to reconsider offshore manufacturing, affecting the revenue predictions that companies expect.

Tariffs have also become an issue focused on the import-export relationship between the U.S. and China. As the United States is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico, Canada, and the United States can openly trade and transport goods across the countries without tariff barriers for services, manufacturing, or agricultural products.

Tariffs are taxes set on imported and exported products and goods. Tariffs have been the center of Washington D.C. talks during the U.S.-China trade war, as these tariffs are placed on imported goods, making them more expensive for buyers. The trade war is used on both sides as China had also raised tariff prices against American-made products. These taxes affect American businesses that wish to export and American companies that rely on parts to assemble into finished goods. Tariffs can level the field when inferior foreign products invade the market with discounted products, making American-made products appear far more expensive to American customers.

American flag waving with a city in the background.Products must fit a strict set of criteria to be considered Made in the USA.

What does it mean to be “Made in the USA”?

Many businesses will use the phrases “An American Company” or “An American Product,” but you will often see Made in China when you look for the label or tag. Today, many products made in the USA will have the label “Made in USA” and “Made in the USA,” which are the same in meaning.

To qualify for having a product labeled “Made In The USA,” products have to comply with the Made In USA standard. The created “Made In USA” standard prevented businesses from falsely claiming or marketing that their product was made in the USA when manufactured in a foreign country.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Made in USA” means that “all or virtually all” products have been made in America. All significant parts, processing, and labor that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. The product should contain no, or negligible, foreign content. For example, a company produces barbecue grills, where most of the components are manufactured within the United States, but the knobs and wheels are made outside the United States. In this case, this product can legally have the “Made In USA” label as the majority of the parts and costs of manufacturing those parts are based in the U.S.

Conversely, for products that use a majority of parts manufactured and imported from another country but primarily assembled in the U.S., they can be legally labeled “Assembled in the USA.” Many electronics are labeled as being made in a foreign country, as the components undergo a significant transformative change before reaching the United States.

While making a false claim on the origin of a manufactured product can be a chargeable crime, many businesses still try to label their products as such. Nectar Brand LLC, the owner of Nectar Sleep beds, was caught marking their mattresses as having been “Designed and Assembled in USA.” Unfortunately, businesses found committing fraud are only levied a steep fine, but rarely anything else. The revenue from fraud pays the penalties, and the cycle continues.

The primary reason many Americans buy products that claim to be American-made is the quality of the completed product. American-made products are held to a high-quality standard, meaning that the product will last longer and have a lower total cost of ownership because of higher quality materials. Due to this association, businesses will imply that the product is “Made in America,” a deceptive tactic to encourage Americans to buy their product.

Benefits of Reshoring

As more and more companies begin moving their manufacturing and supply chains to the U.S., the question of what benefits will the U.S. experience from this?

1. Shorter lead times: Depending on where the product is manufactured and shipped from, the average time for goods shipment can take around 33 days to reach the U.S. This delay is majorly due to customs checks needed, the time required to plan for transit, and the time needed for the goods to travel overseas to the U.S. When manufacturing returns to the U.S., many products’ expected lead time drastically shortens, where finished goods can immediately ship, cutting time on shipping estimates.

2. Higher product quality: Products manufactured and made in the United States generally have higher quality than those manufactured overseas. Products manufactured in the U.S. are of higher quality due to numerous factors, including the use of safe materials, like genuine hardwood and paint free from lead, availability for designers and engineers to collaborate face to face.

Understanding source materials up and down the supply chain are used to make the product. This tracking allows the business to plan for production carefully and handle issues quickly, ensuring that defective products do not become outstanding issues.

3. Improved responsiveness to changing customer demands: The trends for what consumers need and want continuously change. These businesses rely on manufacturers to make their products, quickly working on new products to meet customer needs. Demand can also include the need for same-day shipping and increased production volume control instead of bulk orders that tie up cash flow during slow turns.

4. Fewer regulatory and compliance risks: When businesses rely on overseas-based manufacturing to produce goods, organizations risk intellectual property theft and product counterfeiting from foreign markets. While laws help protect companies and their products from counterfeiting and intellectual property theft, these laws have little effect on taking down counterfeiters that use websites and social media platforms to sell their products.

5. Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.: With the current state of the economy, it is unfortunate news that many have lost their jobs. With the closing of many businesses, consumer products’ need is in high demand. As more manufacturing moves back to the United States, more manufacturing jobs will become available.

Production line in motionAmerican manufacturers are taking steps to adapt to the current pandemic and future-proof their operations.

How American businesses can successfully adapt during the pandemic

As American businesses adapt to meet guidelines and recommendations to protect their employees, many wonder what companies can do to remain successful. We must remember that those specific roles require employees to physically perform their functions and duties while others can work remotely during such times.

Understanding your business’s capabilities and limitations can help better identify how the company can adapt to the need for change. With this in mind, here are some tips that companies can use to help with dealing with the changes caused by the COVID-19.

1. Develop a flexible supply chain: if your business relies on a supply chain for the manufacturing or creation of parts, develop flexible supply chains that use alternative suppliers. In cases where a company depends on the delivery and creation of parts from a single supplier, situations where the delivery of these parts can become limited or even halted, can severely impact overall production. Developing a flexible supply chain can help your business alleviate production crunches due to parts not being actively manufactured or the sales of components slowing down.

2. Perform more work in-house: With foreign supply chain members slowly returning, businesses will have to consider what responsibilities they can fulfill in-house. Responsible can mean that employees in an owned facility perform certain assembly phases. Perform can also suggest future advances where parts are made exclusively by the business instead of a third party.

3. Making adjustments to production and orders: Some businesses manufacture their goods in the United States but rely on third-party suppliers for parts. We understand that the manufacturing of products is not the issue, but how many orders your business can produce before supplies run out. Each company then considers the limitations of how many orders they can currently fulfill, how many products they can make with the current supplies on hand, and how many orders they can fulfill while abiding by regulations asking for a reduced workforce.

Businesses have had to make drastic changes to their shipping and production capacities when orders of individual products are limited by quantity and orders are delayed due to transportation availability. Finding a reasonable balance to prolong the ability to produce goods will help businesses run out of materials and supplies while still fulfilling orders can help ensure that the company does not have to resort to more drastic measures.

As manufacturing companies invest in smart manufacturing, data analytics, web applications, and work from home models, businesses increase their loss exposure. Leadership teams need to build certainty that their company and its employees are safe from cybercrime organizations that seek to harm.

The lack of strategy to focus on essential asset protection priorities creates much confusion for leadership teams, so misallocations of time and money continue. The lack of oversight means limited accountability and diminished results for the time and money invested.

As a proud supporter of American companies, Certitude Security® is working diligently to inform leaders and facilitate essential asset protection priorities for manufacturers and supply chains throughout the United States.

Problem discussions can be a defining moment in your career. If you are interested in value creation, learn about SPOT-Beam™ by Certitude Security®. We look forward to helping you and your business succeed!