Posts Tagged ‘Total Cost of Ownership’

Lean Leadership Summit Focuses on Essentials to Becoming a Lean Company

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

After being delayed for a few weeks because of Hurricane Irma, Lean Frontiers held its annual Lean Accounting Summit in Savannah, GA on October 24th and 25th.  This was my fourth year to be invited as a speaker at the conference. This year’s summit was different in that the Lean Accounting Summit was combined with Lean Management and Lean People Development into Lean Leadership to include the people development aspect of being a lean enterprise. Co-founder Dwayne Butcher, said, “It’s about time that the whole enterprise be involved in becoming a Lean company. Lean is a business model and must therefore include every part of the business, including those in Executive Leadership, Accounting, HR, Sales, Product Development, Supply Chain. We need to breakdown the silos between these departments.”

Between the keynote speakers, there were three tracks related to Lean Management, Lean Accounting, and Lean People Development.  Besides giving my own presentation, “Rebuild Manufacturing – the key to American Prosperity,” based on my new book of the same name, I attended all of the keynotes and some of the sessions in the Lean Management and Lean Accounting tracks.

Lean Frontiers is not a consulting firm. Its sole focus is to provide learning opportunities to address:  Enterprise?wide adoption of Lean and the foundational skills needed by Lean companies. Dwayne announced a new program, the Lean Learning Pod, that will be taught by Jean Cunningham on Lean accounting. Participating companies will meet in a virtual manner on a regular basis, and Jean will be a mentor to the companies.

Jim Huntzinger, said, “The first Lean Accounting Summit was held in 2005, and out of that summit, Lean Frontiers was born.  Lean is still perceived as a program with short term results by too many, and we need to make the transition to Lean as a business model.  We need to traverse unclear territory — trust the process to go from current condition to the target position. We can use XYZ Thinking:  If we do X, then we will get Y, but if we get Z instead, then we will learn.”

He introduced the first keynote speaker, Art Byrne, former Wiremold CEO, author of Lean Turnaround and now a consultant. He has been practicing Lean since 1982 when he was a General Manager at a General Electric facility. He wrote his book and then wrote the Lean Turnaround Action Plan to show what would happen if a company becomes Lean. The reader is supposed to be management of fictitious company – United Gear & Housing.  He asked, “What is Lean?” His answer was, “It is strategy to run any business to remove waste to deliver more value to customers.”

He described United Gear as a traditional batch company with long set ups of 2-3 hour, a six-week lead time, and a strong management team.  The company is purchased, and the new owner make it clear that everything has to change to with Lean as the strategy.  They will have to:  lead from the top, transform people, increase gross by 5 – 7. Puts, reduce inventory by $70 M increase value, and reduce set up by 90%.  He said, “The present capacity = work + waste., and waste is typically 60%.  I particularly liked his comment. “Think about the stupidity of putting all the same machines in the same department as if the machines liked to be near each other. Instead, we should be putting the machines in the sequence of operations to be performed to go from batch to continuous flow. You could rearrange the machines into cells to go from raw material to finished product. Fewer people would be doing the work, and lead time could drop dramatically from 6 weeks to 2 days.”

He said the Wiremold strategy was to: “Constantly strengthen our base operations, achieve 100% on-time delivery, 50% reduction in defects every year, do 20 inventory turns/year, double in size every 3 to 5 years, use visual control and 5S, do one piece flow and standard work, do Kaizen, use a Pull system, and stretch targets.”

In his concluding comments, he said, “Standard cost accounting and lean don’t go together. The key is for senior management to function as one team.”

In her presentation on “Overcoming Barriers to WOW Results,” Cheryl Jekiel, CEO of the Lean Leadership Resource Center, said that the International Labour Organization for the United Nations asked her to develop and teach a class on Lean HR to be taught in 46 countries.  She had to develop the course for others to use to teach. In developing the course, she used the following working definition of Lean:

  • 7 common practices to improve
  • It’s about the customer
  • Measurable improvement
  • Problem Solving
  • Repeatable processes
  • Overall involvement
  • Visual management
  • Engaging leadership

She said, “HR can make the difference in the results. HR owns the things that are the obstacles. HR has a role in the culture of the company and can weave improvement into activities. HR owns talent strategies: hiring, training & Development, performance management, and reword systems. HR can build lean competencies into job design. The greatest is the waste of human development. Most companies don’t tsp into the power of their people. We define people by the tasks they do and not their capability. People are endlessly creative. The power of the ideas to solve problems is in people. Lean is about building a muscle — the more you do it the better you are at doing it. Lean is a way of expanding capability.  HR tends to engagement, and engagement goes with Lean. Studies show that companies are 7-11% more profitable when employees are engaged. Convert categories into dollars to make the connection of engagement into money.”

One of my favorite presenters is Jerry Solomon, who gave the presentation, “Bridging the Gap Between Accounting & Operations.” He spent 40 years in the manufacturing industry and is now retired in Naples, FL.  His last 14 years were at Barry-Wehmiller in St. Louis as CFO.

He said, “Lean is two pillars to eliminate waste in pursuit of perfection in safety, quality, delivery, and cost.  The two pillars are:  respect for people and continuous improvement. Inspirational leadership and a profound cultural and organizational change are required to become a Lean company. Elimination of waste is driven by Kaizen events, which need to be narrow and deep. The respect for people means no layoffs and requires strong C-level support.”

He explained, “Lean Accounting is using Lean tools in accounting and “plain English” P & Ls. Accounting is one of biggest roadblocks to successful Lean journey. Lean is about being a cash and capacity generator.  We need to change the metrics we use. In the traditional cost accounting pie, overhead is 10-20%, Direct labor is 60-70%, and materials are 20-30%. Today in Lean accounting, overhead is still 10-20%, direct labor is 10-20%, and materials are 60%.  Standard cost accounting is replaced by actual costs and can be understood by everyone. The benefit of Lean accounting is relevant information when you need it that is understandable to the 99% of people and not just the 1% who are accountants. It provides real-time information to run the business.”

On Wednesday, the keynote presentation was “The Continuous Improvement Engine” by David Veech, The Ohio State University, author of Leadersights and The C4 Process.

He said, “The foundation of the continuous improvement engine is trust. Two key things are required: clear expectations with standardized work and leader vulnerability and mastery. Challenges lead us to acquire knowledge and skills. It’s how we lead that sets our stretch goals. It’s a process that occurs with repetition. No one is in this alone, so we have accountability. Learning and coaching is required for mastery. The goal is to have a team of experts.”

He explained, “You need a system for problem solving to find out if ideas work – you can use PDCA, DMAIC, or my C4 system.”  He said, “C4 is short for Concern, Cause, Countermeasure, and Confirm. C4 offers straightforward, easy-to-remember techniques for identifying and solving workplace problems. These four steps-clearly identify the concern, find the true root cause, correct the cause with an effective countermeasure, and confirm that the solution worked.”

He added, “Problem solving builds mastery. Mastery results in self-efficacy, and people that have self-efficacy are willing to try new things and keep trying until they succeed. They need to have intrinsic motivation, which comes from the heart. This intrinsic motivation turns into ideas and generates initiative. The “exhaust” of this continuous improvement engine is:  satisfaction, meaning, awareness, and responsibility. Building relationships in teams is critical to the process.”

In the first breakout session, I attended “Eliminate Standard Cost Step by Step” by Nick Katco, author of the Lean CFO series. He told us that there is nothing in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) that would prevent using Lean Accounting methods. He said, “In GAAP, you need to calculate inventory valuation and Cost of Goods Sold. Using Standard Cost Accounting, you often have to make assumptions whereas in Lean Accounting, you use “Actual expenses incurred to get goods in condition for sale. A major objective of accounting for inventories is the proper determination of income through the process of matching appropriate costs against revenues.  In the continuous nature of manufacturing, there are difficulties in matching specific costs to revenue because products not sold in same period as produced, prices change over time, and production costs change over time.”

He explained how to do a Lean Inventory Valuation for material and production cost capitalization using three different methods:  days of inventory, units of inventory, and days of conversion cost.  He said, “Lean transformation is designed reduce inventory levels in manufacturing companies — 30-60 days is good target. There is no GAAP requirement to value every single product. Average costs replace standard costs. Capitalize total costs, not individual products by a journal entry.”  In conclusion, he advised:  “Design a lean inventory valuation methodology which works for your company and partner with your auditor to create a methodology they will be able to test.”

I had to leave early on Wednesday to catch my plane, so the last presentation I attended was “Lean Transformation from the CFO’s Seat” by CFO  Pete Gingerich of Aluminum Trailer Company. Last year I attended a presentation by the President and CEO, Steve Brenneman, so I was interested in what Mr. Gingerich had to share about their Lean transformation. He said, “In 2007, we did $27 Million and went down to $10 Million in 2009. We had to lay off half of our employees. Steve Brenneman started in 2009, and our first steps were office procedures for handling work folders and then we did 5S on the shop floor. We had lots of problems with material shortages, so we went to a Kanban system. We split into three value streams in 2012 and now have six.”

He explained, “Our big change was in how we pay our workers; we switched from piece rate to hourly and started at a rate of 10% higher than previous year’s rate. We also instituted a profit sharing plan. We didn’t use standard cost accounting, but we did have assumptions for material, labor, and overheads. Now, we know the actual costs for each value stream. Value stream planning is clearer and easier.”

He added, “We thought that our custom trailer was the most profitable, but it is actually our midline model trailer because too many engineers are involved in our custom trailer.

We have an annual meeting for top management, quarterly meetings for managers, and weekly meetings for team leaders. We have switched to rolling forecasts from budgeting, and we do weekly production planning forecasts and weekly P & Ls. Each value stream has its own weekly P& L with more detail. Lean accounting is based on shop floor metrics. We avoid allocations because if you can’t control them, why do you want to see them. We can close a quarter in one day. We clarified the definition of sales and revenue so employees would understand. We have had to work with suppliers on our Kanban system to cut inventory, such as having tires on a rack that is replenished daily. In 2009, we only did five turns of inventory, but in 2016, we did 19 turns.”

It’s always a pleasure to hear about a successful transformation into a Lean company rather than just a Lean manufacturer. I am a big proponent of Lean accounting because standard cost accounting is the biggest obstacle to more companies returning manufacturing to America using Total Cost Analysis.  When costs are divided into separate accounts, the purchasing agents and buyers do not have access to all of actual and hidden costs to be able to do a true TCO analysis. More CFOs need to take the time to attend the Lean Accounting Summit or get training from one of the qualified consultants and learn how to convert to Lean accounting.

Reshoring has Become an Economic Development Strategy

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

As a result of my writing and speaking about returning manufacturing to America through reshoring, I recently received information from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) inviting me to educate my audience on the findings of their research and the tools and resources available when manufacturers are considering reshoring.

The IEDC is a non-profit membership organization serving economic developers with more than 4,700 members. Their mission as economic developers is to “promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base.”

Last year, the IEDC received a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to “examine current reshoring practices and create materials to spread awareness of reshoring trends, tools and resources that are available to ease the process.” For the past 16 months, IEDC has conducted research on why companies are choosing to reshore and what resources are available to assist American companies that are considering reshoring. In the past year, IEDC has provided educational training sessions with reshoring experts, such as Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative, for economic developers.

IDEC also created the Reshoring American Jobs webpage, a project funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). “It is the go-to place to learn about and find resources to support activities encouraging reshoring in communities. Economic developers will find the latest news, case studies, and in-depth research on reshoring activity to help them stay in-the-know on reshoring trends information.” The micro site is divided into three sections:

Understanding Reshoring” discusses the critical role reshoring plays in strengthening the economy, identifies challenges to reshoring, and highlights lessons learned from communities that have worked with reshored companies.”

  • Defining the Reshoring Discussion” White Paper
  • National Assessment of Reshoring Activities
  • Webinars: Defining the Reshoring Discussion, Reshoring Tools….They’re Out There
  • Tools for Reshoring “provides resources and best practices in reshoring American jobs to aid economic developers in assisting reshoring companies.”
  • Reshoring in the Media “tracks the latest discussions on trends covered by popular and trade media. The content will help demystify the reshoring movement and serves as a practical reference for economic development professionals.”

In March 2016, IEDC published a 30-page white paper on “Defining the Reshoring Discussion,” in which the introduction and historical perspective states, “…as foreign countries strengthened their manufacturing competitiveness over the years, American manufacturers struggled to maintain their cost and productivity advantages on a global scale. Some American manufacturers adjusted to foreign competition by shifting their focus to complex, high-value products and industries—and increasing manufacturing investment, output, and employment. Others either closed U.S.-based factories or sought cost savings by offshoring some, or all, of their operations to less expensive foreign locations. Shortly after China joined the World Trade Organization at the end of 2001, a large exodus of U.S. manufacturers occurred.”

Now, however, supply chain dynamics have changed, and the report states, “…the cost savings that American firms had enjoyed began to erode around the year 2010. Changing macro-economic factors, such as labor and transportation cost increases, absorbed much of the savings from which manufacturers had previously benefited. Also, after experiencing offshoring firsthand, many companies found that hidden costs often outweighed the cost benefits of manufacturing overseas. Some of these hidden costs that were not always considered include factors such as increased costs of monitoring and quality control, uncertain protection of intellectual property, and lengthy supply chains.”

While the white paper presents a broad overview of the discussion of reshoring, some common themes emerged from their review of resources:

  • “The decision to reshore is often described as a response by business to both macroeconomic and internal business-related factors.
  • The term reshoring is used to describe a range of activities that occur in numerous industries, not just manufacturing.
  • A company’s decision to reshore can be encouraged through the creation of favorable business conditions, a skilled workforce, and incentives that encourage innovative manufacturing practices.
  • Reshored jobs will likely be different from the jobs that existed before offshoring gained momentum or jobs that currently exist offshore.”

The reason economic development agencies have become interested in reshoring is that “The impacts of reshoring extend beyond individual companies and provide benefits for entire regions as the effects multiply through local economies.”

From an economic development viewpoint, “it is important to understand that reshoring is fundamentally a location decision. In this sense, a company’s decision to stay in the U.S. or relocate will be based on its total operation costs in a given location.”

The white paper highlights some of the findings of the data from 25 national economies research studied by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) from 2004 to 2014. The BCG study

found that the following factors significantly impact manufacturing location decisions:

  • Increased wages – “China’s wages rose 15 to 20 percent per year at the average Chinese factory”
  • Fluctuating currency value – “when compared against the U.S. dollar, the Chinese yuan increased in value by 35 percent
  • “Labor productivity, which is measured as the gains in output per manufacturing Worker”
  • “Reduction of energy costs from 2004 to 2014, especially in energy-dependent industries such as iron and steel and chemicals industries”

Naturally, the white paper mentions the work of Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative, in developing the Total Cost of Ownership Estimator™ in an effort “to help decision-makers estimate total costs of outsourced parts or products by aggregating, then quantifying all cost and risk factors into a single cost.”

The paper then discusses the different definitions of reshoring from a popular understanding to a more academic definition. The most common definition is “the return of Manufacturing to the U.S.” From an economic development perspective, the following definition may be more appropriate: “a manufacturing location decision that is a change in policy from a previous decision to locate manufacturing offshore from the firm’s home location.” (Ken Cottrill in his article titled “Reshoring: New Day, False Dawn, or Something Else.”) Cottrill divides reshoring into four categories:

In-house reshoring refers to the relocation of manufacturing activities, which were being performed in facilities owned abroad, back to facilities in the U.S.”

Relocating in-house manufacturing activities, which were being performed in facilities abroad, back to U.S.-based suppliers, is labeled “reshoring for outsourcing.”

Outsourced reshoring describes the process of relocating manufacturing activities from offshore suppliers back to U.S.-based suppliers.

Reshoring for Insourcing is “when a company relocates manufacturing activities being outsourced to offshore suppliers back to its U.S.-based facilities, it is considered reshoring for insourcing.”

The authors comment that reshoring applies to industries other than manufacturing, such as the information technology (IT) sector, stating that ”challenges such as time zone differences, identity theft, privacy concerns, and issues with utility infrastructure abroad led more companies to return their IT operations to the U.S.”

The white paper contains several pages describing what is currently being done to encourage reshoring by government programs such as the Make It in America Challenge and National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which are too lengthy to discuss in this short article. However, I do want to describe the following tools that can be useful to economic development professionals as well as companies in the reshoring process:

Assess Costs Everywhere (ACE) Tool: This U.S. Department of Commerce tool was developed within the Economics and Statistics Administration, in partnership with the NIST-MEP, and with support from various agencies within the U.S. Department of Commerce, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and SelectUSA. “The tool provides a framework for manufacturers to assess total costs by identifying and discussing 10 cost and risk factors. These include: labor wage fluctuations; travel and oversight; shipping time; product quality; inputs such as energy costs; intellectual property protection; regulatory compliance; political and security risks; and trade financing costs.” ACE also provides case studies and links to public and private resources.

National Excess Manufacturing Capacity Catalog (NEXCAP): This resource was developed by the University of Michigan and “provides a catalog of vacant manufacturing facilities as well as critical data on skilled workforce supply, community assets, and other information pertinent to location decisionmaking.” It was funded by the Economic Development Administration.

U.S. Cluster Mapping Project: This is another project funded by the EDA and led by Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness by “conducting research and publishing data records on industry clusters and regional business environments in the United States…[allows] users to share and discuss best practices in economic development, policy and innovation.”

The paper discusses the importance of “industrial commons,” a term coined by Harvard Business School’s Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih in 2009,which refers” to a foundation of knowledge and capabilities that is shared within an industry sector in a particular geographic area. This includes technical, design, and operational capabilities as well as “R&D know-how, advanced process development and engineering skills, and manufacturing competencies related to a specific technology.”

Next, it discusses the impact of innovation and one point particularly worth noting is: “Manufacturing outputs have more than doubled since 1972, in constant dollars, even with a 33 percent reduction in employment…Improved output and efficiency is largely attributed to technological advancements that increase productivity and decrease labor-intensive activities. As gaps between wages in developed and developing economies continue to shrink, U.S. manufacturers will need to focus on innovation, using technology to improve productivity and reserving labor for value-added activities.”

In the section considering the need for more workforce development and what could be done in the future to encourage reshoring, “Mark Muro, Senior Fellow and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, argues that offering incentives focused solely on manufacturing reshoring is not enough… the focus should be on building the vibrancy of the critical advanced manufacturing industry sector. Muro argues that the U.S. must strengthen the depth of the nation’s regional advanced industry ecosystems…he calls for governments, companies, and individuals to work collectively to rebuild the nation’s local skills pools, industrial innovation capacity, and supply chains.”

While no in-depth studies have been conducted on the potential effect of reshoring on creating jobs, the paper provides the following chart showing estimates under various scenarios (recreated):

Scenario Description Source Jobs Reshored Cumulative Total Jobs
Using TCI analysis Reshoring Initiative 500,000 1,000,000
If Chinese Wage Trends continue at 18%/year Boston Consulting Group 1,000,000 2,000,000
Adoption of better U. S. training, increased process improvements & competitive tax rates Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2,000,000 4,000,000
End of foreign currency manipulation Almost all manufacturing groups 3,000,000 6,000,000
Cumulative Total jobs is based on a two support jobs created for every manufacturing job reshored

The paper states, “The brightest reshoring prospects involve those that can profit from the current manufacturing environment. This would include manufacturers that depend on natural gas, require minimal labor, and need flexibility in production to meet changing customer needs.”

The authors’ conclusion in the paper echoes a conclusion in the second edition my book published in 2012:   They conclude that “there are opportunities for various levels of government, the private sector, and partnerships between the two to create an environment to support the manufacturers who can reshore.” Let’s not waste another four years coming to the same conclusion.


Reshoring is Answer to Corporations Cutting U. S. Jobs and Adding Jobs Offshore

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

As originally reported in a Wall Street Journal article in April 2011, U. S. Department of Commerce data shows that major U. S. corporations cut their work forces in the U. S. by 2.9 million jobs during the 2000s while increasing their employment overseas by 2.4 million.

This trend continues according to data revealed by Trade Assistance Adjustment (TAA) filings made to the U. D. Department of Labor in a recent article in Manufacturing & Technology News. TAA provides benefits and training to workers displaced by trade and sifting manufacturing offshore. The article lists 50 companies that laid off workers in the first three weeks of July, about 80% of which were manufacturing jobs. Other types of jobs displaced were customer service, technical support, information technology, data processing, and even engineering design. TPA assistance is like putting a bandage on after your arm was cut off.

While over 25 companies were shifting manufacturing offshore to China or India, it was surprising to see that Mexico was the next highest location to which manufacturing was being shifted. The reason for this is that new data produced by the Bank of America shows that labor rates in Mexico could be lower than China by as much as 20%, quite a change from 10 years ago when Mexican labor rates were 188 percent higher than China.

Other reasons for this switch to Mexico are lower transportation costs, faster delivery, higher productivity from automation, more reliable quality, and better payment terms than from China. As a resident of the border region of California and Mexico, I have seen this first hand. “Nearsourcing” to Mexico is occurring when reshoring to the U. S. is not economically justifiable at the present time.

Our major regional organization, CONNECT, has a Nearsourcing Initiative focused on matching San Diego companies in need of outsourcing with the region’s local manufacturers. “The program includes workshops that educate the region’s innovation entrepreneurs on the benefits of contracting with local manufacturers, including reduced time to market, increased innovation and reduced risk and costs; and a matchmaking program that helps San Diego innovation companies in need of outsourcing to Innovate Locally, Grow Globally – to connect and contract with qualified San Diego production resources.” Educational workshops and networking meetings have been held over the past two years, and manufacturers are encouraged to seek local vendors or even be matched with regional vendors by using the database of primary industries, developed by the East County Economic Development Council, and the CONNECT Resource Guide.

CONNECT’s SME (Small-Medium Enterprises) Operations Roundtable group has also taken the lead in educating San Diego’s regional manufacturers on how to use the Total Cost of Ownership EstimatorTM developed by Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative, by means of a presentation I gave with a local contract manufacturer in February as an authorized speaker on behalf of the Reshoring Initiative.

It is crucial for American companies that do not have offshore plants to be trained on how to do a true Total Cost of Ownership Analysis using the TCO Estimator as a counter to the continuing trend of offshoring manufacturing jobs by multinational corporations that have facilities all over the world. For multinational corporations, the U. S. market represents a smaller piece of a bigger whole in the global economy. While offshoring may no longer be a relentless search for the lowest wages, many corporations go to Brazil, to China, to India, and other countries because that is where their customers are located.

I believe that training people performing two particular job functions is one of the keys to facilitating more reshoring ? supply chain personnel and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). I have had the pleasure in the past year of speaking to three regional APICS’ chapters and a four-state regional conference last weekend. APICS is composed of supply chain/logistics people. I learned that in the 13th edition of APICS’ dictionary, the definition of Total Cost of Ownership is:  “In supply chain management, the total cost of ownership of the supply delivery system is the sum of all the costs associated with every activity of the supply stream.” This is a good definition, not as complete as mine, but good. If supply chain personnel had utilized this definition in the past decade, a great deal of offshoring would never have occurred.

My question to conference attendees was what prevented the utilization of this good definition. One answer was:  We were not allowed to consider anything but the piece price and sometimes transportation costs in making the decision to select domestic vs. offshore vendors. Another answer was:  We were being mandated by upper management to outsource to China to save money. Others thought that their managers were doing what everyone else was doing; i.e., going to China to save money. In other words, they were following the “herd mentality” like buffalo were driven off a cliff by American Indians in our past history.

Another problem mentioned was that in the cost accounting systems used by most corporations,  transportation costs, travel costs to vendors, rework costs of defective parts, cost of inventory, etc. are in separate accounting categories and there wasn’t any software available to do a true Total Cost of Ownership analysis until Harry Moser developed his TCO estimator. This is why I believe that CFOs are critical in turning the tide towards reshoring vs. offshoring.


Yes, I believe that as wages continue to rise offshore, especially in China, transportation costs continue to increase, and risk factors such as political instability, intellectual property theft, and counterfeit parts take their toll, more and more companies will see the economic advantage and wisdom of reshoring.


However, we can accelerate reshoring if we can expand the reach of our education and training on understanding and using a true Total Cost of Ownership analysis to CFOs and other C level management. Harry Moser and I are no longer the only persons singing the “reshoring” tune. Consultants at the Manufacturing Extension Programs nationwide, such as California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) and Manex are being trained in how to use the Reshoring Initiative’s Total Cost of Ownership EstimatorTM. I have even met former “offshoring” consultants who are rebranding themselves to be reshoring consultants. I urge everyone to do what you can to promote reshoring if you want to help create jobs and save American manufacturing.


What are the Obstacles to More Companies Reshoring?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

While there is still a debate about how much reshoring is actually taking place, there is no doubt it is happening, especially in the seven tipping-point industries that the Boston Consulting Group predicted would reshore:  transportation goods, appliances and electrical equipment, furniture, plastic and rubber products, machinery, fabricated metal products, and computers and electronics.

For example, we’ve read about General Electric reshoring appliances such as water heaters, washing machines, and refrigerators to a factory in Kentucky, and Caterpillar is opening a new factory in Texas to make excavators. And, yes, even furniture manufacturing is coming back. At the High Point Furniture Show in April 2012, where the Made in America Pavilion housed 50 U.S. manufacturers, Ashley Furniture announced that it was building a new factory in North Carolina. Lincolnton Furniture also announced they had broken ground on a new furniture factory.

Earlier this year, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said the company would invest $100 to build a factory in Texas to assemble Macintosh computers, which would include components made in Illinois and Florida, and rely on equipment produced in Kentucky and Michigan.

The results of February 2012 survey from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG),  showed that 37 percent of U.S. manufacturers with sales above $1?billion said they were considering shifting some production from China to the United States, and of the very biggest firms, with sales above $10 billion, 48% were considering reshoring. The factors they pointed to were not only that wages and benefits were rising in China, but the country is also enacting stricter labor laws and experiencing more frequent labor disputes and strikes.

According to BCG, pay and benefits for the average Chinese factory worker rose by 10% a year between 2000 and 2005 and speeded up to 19% a year between 2005 and 2010. Wages have been predicted to rise by 60% this year alone after additional strikes.

So, we might ask, “Why aren’t more companies reshoring? There are three main reasons:

  1. Most companies don’t conduct a Total Cost of Ownership Analysis when making a decision to outsource manufacturing.
  2. The United States has a high overall cost of manufacturing.
  3. There are still tax incentives to offshore manufacturing.

Total Cost of Ownership Analysis

In spite of the fact that I have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of people about the importance of doing a Total Cost of Ownership Analysis since my book came out in 2009, and Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative, has spoken to thousands and thousands of people since releasing his free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator™ in 2010, we have only reached a small portion of the people making the decisions about outsourcing.

Most manufacturing companies that have sourced and are still sourcing parts and products offshore don’t do a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis. They base their decisions largely on low pieces that are based on cheaper foreign-labor rates and government subsidies by the governments of foreign countries to their manufacturers as part of their country’s predatory mercantilist practices.

If a company chooses not to practice TCO, it will impact their success or failure in the long run. It would be better if more companies would move forward by utilizing the freely available TCO spreadsheets, such as the one developed by Harry Moser that will allow you to quantity even the hidden costs and risk factors of doing business offshore.

After doing a thorough TCO analysis on all of outsourced parts for your products, the next step is to build an integrated team will periodically refine and refresh the analysis. You can even expand the definition of TCO to include the physical length of the entire supply chain and the lead times associated with the entire process.

American manufacturers need to embrace the New Industrial Revolution recently written about in the June 11, 2013 Wall Street Journal by columnist John Koten. He wrote, “Welcome to the New Industrial Revolution – a weave of technologies and ideas that are creating a computer-driven manufacturing environment that bears little resemblance to the gritty and grimy shop floors of the past. The revolution threatens to shatter long-standing business models, upend global trade patterns and revive American industry.”

Koten quotes Michael Idelchik, head of advanced technologies at GE’s global research lab, who said, “The future is not going to be about stretched-out global supply chains connected to a web of distant giant factories. It’s about small, nimble manufacturing operations using highly sophisticated new tools and new materials.”

High Cost of Manufacturing in America

While the difference in labor rates between the U. S. and Asia is diminishing, the U. S. has the highest corporate tax rates now after Japan reduced their corporate tax rate last year. In addition, the U. S. has high health care costs that are getting worse instead of better under the Affordable Care Act, and the U. S. has the most stringent environment regulations in the world.

In his November 2011 column in Industry Week, Stephen Gold, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, wrote, “While manufacturers face a host of challenges, the data demonstrate that domestically imposed costs ? by commission or omission of government ? further undermine our ability to compete by adding at 20% to the cost of making stuff in the country…The single most significant drag on manufacturing competitiveness is the United States’ high corporate tax rate ?an average federal-state statutory rate of 40% that has not changed in decades.”

According to the second quarter 2013 survey of 317 manufacturers by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)/Industry Week, concerns over health care and insurance costs caused by the Affordable Care Act are mounting. Key survey findings include the following:  82.2 percent of manufacturers identified rising health care and insurance costs as their top challenge, an increase from 74.0 percent in the previous survey and 66.9 percent identified the unfavorable business climate due to taxes and regulation as an important challenge.

Other pressures for American manufacturers are revealed by the results of a joint survey conducted by MSC Industrial Supply Company and Industry Week Custom Research, nearly half (49.3%) of the manufacturing executives polled listed “raw material costs as one of the top market pressures, followed by “attracting and retaining talent” at 36.6%, “competition from countries offering lower costs” at 31.5%, and “expansion into new markets” at 31.0%. To help them be as competitive as possible in the global marketplace, 46% have implemented lean practices, and 26.5% have plans underway to implement lean.

Tax Incentives for Offshoring

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the U.S. tax code provides the following deductions, offsets, tax credits and incentives to corporations to “offshore” their profits overseas:

Tax Havens ? “The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines a tax haven country as one that imposes no or low taxes, does not exchange information about economic activity and lacks economic transparency.” Tax havens are used by a majority of the largest American corporations.

Offshore Deferral ? U.S. citizens and corporations are supposed  to pay tax on income earned abroad, but  “multinational corporations are allowed to “defer” paying income tax on profits made overseas until — or if ever — those profits are repatriated back to the United States.” U.S. corporations take advantage of this offshore deferral rule by setting up subsidiaries in lower tax countries. Subsidiaries, even when they are wholly owned by a U.S. parent company, are not subject to U.S. taxation. The deferral clause has been in the tax code for more than half a century and has outlasted numerous reform efforts. A USA Today article states that in April 1961, President Kennedy asked Congress to rewrite tax provisions that “consistently favor United States private investment abroad compared with investment in our own economy.”

Profit Shifting ? A U.S. corporation can also avoid paying taxes on its income by shifting its income to its foreign subsidiary in a practice called profit shifting. “Profit shifting involves an accounting practice of transferring assets, such as intellectual property rights and patents, to subsidiaries in tax haven countries. All royalty income earned from these assets is booked by the foreign subsidiary and so is not subject to U.S. taxation.” This practice is particularly prevalent in the pharmaceutical and computer industries; for example, pharmaceutical company Merck made more than $9 billion in profits in 2010 but paid no U.S. taxes.

Earnings Stripping ? Earnings stripping is a practice in which a U.S. parent corporation undergoes a corporate inversion so that its foreign subsidiary in a tax haven country becomes the parent company and the U.S. corporation becomes the subsidiary. This “paper inversion” allows all of the corporation’s global income to be booked by its new foreign parent. In addition, the new foreign parent can “loan” money to its U.S. subsidiary. Because it is a debt of the subsidiary, the money is not taxable. What’s more, the interest on the “loan” that the subsidiary pays to the foreign parent is tax deductible in the United States for the subsidiary.

The same USA Today article states, “Corporate lobbyists say that any move to eliminate deferral would have to be packaged with a significant cut in the 35% corporate tax rate…Otherwise, the largest companies, facing an effective tax increase, would have an incentive to switch their legal residence to another country.” Obviously, no one would want large American corporations to move totally out of the U. S. so the only way to address this problem is to eliminate these tax loopholes while significantly reducing the corporate tax rates. We are long overdue for comprehensive tax reform for both personal and corporate taxes.

At the “Manufacturing in California – Making California Thrive” economic summit that was held on February 14th in San Diego, attendees voted regulatory reform and a national manufacturing strategy as the top two critical issues to be addressed. A national manufacturing strategy would encompass such issues as corporate taxes, intellectual property protection, trade reform, and other factors adding to the high cost of manufacturing in the U. S. If you have a strategy that supports manufacturing, it will alleviate these other issues. A Manufacturing Task Force was formed after the summit, of which I became chair. We have been visiting the elected representatives in our region to provide them with our Task Force report and make them more aware of the needs of American manufacturers. Now our Task Force is evolving into the California chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous (CPA) which had facilitated the summit. CPA has established state chapters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado and is developing chapters in Florida, Michigan, and New York. If you would like to support our work in California, please contact me at or contact CPA at for involvement in other states.

Is Reshoring a Myth or Reality?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

When I first started talking about saving America manufacturing and returning manufacturing to America four years ago after the first edition of my book, Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can, came out, I was met with a great deal of skepticism. Some typical comments were:  “I don’t think we can.” “It’s too late.” “I wish we could.” “We need to.” Very few thought we actually could return manufacturing to America.

A lot has changed in four years. At last week’s Del Mar Design and Electronics Show (DMEDS) in San Diego, CA, a very successful fellow manufacturers’ sales rep, stopped me in the parking lot and said, “I used to think you were nuts, but you were right. Manufacturing is returning to America.” While this manufacturers’ representative sales agency is headquartered in southern California, it has affiliate companies in Mexico, Malaysia, China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen) and Taiwan (Taipei and Hsinchu) so I did not take this admission lightly.

The theme of this year’s DMEDS was “The Re-Birth of American Manufacturing, and it featured a full-day Reshoring track. This track began with my presentation on “Reshoring: Bringing Manufacturing Back to America Using Total Cost Analysis and ended with “Reshoring:  What is a Fit and How Can it Save Your Company Money?” This track also featured “Lean Manufacturing is the Path to Operational Excellence,” “3D Printing:  What it is, Isn’t, Will Be and Won’t Be,” and “Save Your Factory with Robotic Automation.”

While there were offshore companies exhibiting at DMEDS, it was dominated by U. S. manufacturers, regional contract manufacturers, and local sales reps and distributors. The buzz at the show was that manufacturing is returning to America, and every contract manufacturer I spoke to at the show had experienced a “reshoring” event.

In the past year, there have been numerous articles debating whether “reshoring” is a myth or really happening. For example, the cover article of the April 22, 2013 issue of Time magazine was “Made in USA – Manufacturing is Back ? But Where are the Jobs? The first page of the article is full of pictures of products that have returned from offshore, representing an unbelievable cross section of consumer goods, ranging from toys such as the Frisbee. Slinky and Crayola crayons to electric mixers, barbecues, saws, hammers, and many more.

The reason the article poses the questions about how many jobs are being created by the return of manufacturing to America is that the manufacturing plants of the present and future have more machines and fewer workers than in the past. Robotics, automation, and lean manufacturing are helping companies do more with fewer people, and the rapidly improving technology of additive manufacturing is changing the way parts are being made.

The article featured a glimpse of manufacturing’s future in the stories of two companies:

  • ExOne, near Pittsburgh, PA, providing Digital Part Materialization (DPM) that transforms engineering design files directly into fully functional objects using 3D printing machines
  • GE’s highly automated battery factory in Schenectady, NY.

ExOne needs only two workers and a design engineer per shift to support its 12 metal-printing machines. The GE plant produces Durathon sodium batteries that are large and powerful enough to power cell phone towers. Because of being highly automated, the plant only employs 370 high-tech workers in a 200,000 sq. ft. facility.

What was most encouraging to me was that the article reported that Ashley Furniture is building a new plant south of Winston-Salem, NC that will employ 500 people. This is an industry that even I doubted would ever come back to the U.S.

Key statistics pointed out in the article were that China’s average hourly wage was only $0.50 in 2000 but is projected to be $4.50 by 2015. This is probably a conservative estimate because China’s wages rose by 15-20% over the last five years but are expected to increase by another 60% in 2013 alone. Another factor noted is that the cost to ship a 40-ft. container from China to the West Coast rose from $1,184 in 2009 to $2,302 this year. These facts corroborate the Boston Consulting Group’s 2011 report that there will be a convergence in the total costs between China and the U. S. by 2015.


This quote from GE CEO Jeff Immelt concluded the article:  “Will U.S. manufacturing go from 9% to 30% of all jobs? That’s unlikely. But could you see a steady increase in jobs over the next quarters and year? I think that will happen.” I agree and so does Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative and developer of the Total Cost of OwnershipTM spreadsheet.


Mr. Moser’s organization promotes and tracks cases of reshoring across the U.S. He estimates that between 2010 and 2012, about 50,000 jobs were created in the U.S. because of the trend—which equates to 10% of the 500,000 manufacturing jobs created in the past three years.


On the myth side of the debate, the 2012 Hackett Group’s report, “Reshoring Global Manufacturing:  Myths and Realities” by Michel Janssen, Erik Dorr and David P. Sievers

states, “By next year, China’s cost advantage over manufacturers in industrialized nations and competing low-cost destinations will evaporate.” However, they conclude that “few of the low-skill Chinese manufacturing jobs will ever return to advanced economies; most will simply move to other low-cost countries.


Using hard data from their 2012 Supply Chain Optimization study, they analyzed the trend in “reshoring” of manufacturing capacity, and their findings debunk the myth that manufacturing capacity is returning in a big way to Western countries as a result of rising costs in China. The report states, “The reality is that the net amount of capacity coming back barely offsets the amount that continues to be sent offshore.”

The report also offers recommendations on how companies should plot their manufacturing sourcing strategies. Interestingly, their recommendations incorporate some of the factors that Mr. Moser and I include as part of a Total Cost of Ownership analysis, such as “integrate the views of manufacturing, procurement, finance and business-unit leadership,” “Establish a game plan to deal with risk: Geopolitical, supply base, environmental and commodity risks are a given,” “Establish a proactive approach to anticipate risks, creating mitigation plans with clear triggers for implementation,” and “Broaden the decision making approach beyond total landed cost.”

The Hackett Group’s definition of “Total landed cost” is not as broad and encompassing as the definition of Total Cost of Ownership I provide in the 2009 edition of my book and that Mr. Moser uses in the TCO spreadsheet he developed in 2010. Their definition is “Total landed cost is the set of end-to end supply chain costs to transform raw materials and components into a finished good ready for sale. Key components include: raw material and component costs, manufacturing costs (fixed and variable), transportation and logistics, inventory carrying cost, and taxes and duties.

My definition of TCO includes the “hidden costs of doing business offshore,” such as Intellectual Property theft, danger of counterfeit parts, the risk factors of political instability, natural disasters, riots, strikes, technological depth and reserve capacity of suppliers, currency fluctuation. Mr. Moser’s TCO spreadsheet includes calculations for factors such as Intellectual Property risk, political instability risk, effect on innovation, product liability risk, annual wage inflation, and currency appreciation.

While the number of companies bringing products lines back to America is increasing, I have to admit that as manufacturers’ sales reps for all American companies; we are still losing business to China for individual parts our principals are quoting. Just recently, we lost several rubber parts that our rubber molder has made for a customer in our territory for 15 years. Our customer had been purchased by a multinational awhile back that has a subsidiary in China, so the new management decided to tool up these parts in China and discontinue ordering them from our molder. I am sure that the decision was made based on the lower piece price without doing a TCO analysis.

You can help your company get the most value for its dollars and help return manufacturing to America by doing the following:

  • Use the TCO spreadsheet available for free at
  • Use the archived webinars to inform staff and customers
  • Work with groups being trained on TCO – Manufacturing Extension Program (MEPs) sites around the country
  • Prepare your workforce for reshoring
  • Submit cases of reshoring for publication and posting using the Reshoring Initiative’s  template
  • Sponsor the Reshoring Initiative

I strongly believe that if more companies would learn to understand and utilize the TCO estimator spreadsheet of the “Reshoring Initiative,” they would realize that the best value for their company is to source their parts, assemblies, and products in America. Doing this would help return manufacturing to America to create a far higher percentage of jobs than the 10% that have been brought back to America thus far and help maintain more manufacturing in U. S.


What Do American Manufacturers Owe Their Country?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Last week The Economist conducted an on-line debate on the question:  Do multinational corporations have a duty to maintain a strong presence in their home countries? After a very intense written debate between Harry Moser, former president of GF AgieCharmilles  and founder of the Reshoring Initiative, and Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law, Columbia University, the vote was 54% “yes,” and 46% “no.”

The moderator of the debate was Tamzin Booth, European business correspondent for The Economist, who introduced the topic by stating, “after the Great Recession, with high levels of unemployment persisting in rich countries, politicians are putting enormous pressure on firms to either keep operations at home or bring them back. The offshoring and outsourcing of work overseas have never been more unpopular. So strong is the backlash against firms which shift jobs abroad that many companies are choosing not to do it for fear of igniting a public outcry. And a “reshoring” trend, bringing factories home to America from China and elsewhere, is gathering pace and support from several American multinationals, including General Electric and Ford Motor Company.”

While Mr. Moser acknowledges that multinational corporations (MNCs) “have a responsibility to enhance shareholder return and obey relevant laws and regulations,” he believes that “MNCs also have a duty to maintain a strong presence in their country of origin,” which he defines “as investing, employing, manufacturing and sourcing at least in proportion to their sales in the origin country.”

He states, “This duty has two sources. The first is a quid pro quo for the special benefits that their charter provides. The second is based on understanding that a strong presence is almost always in the interest of their shareholders.”

In his pro argument for the first duty, Mr. Moser quotes Clyde Prestowitz: “Corporations are not created by the shareholders or the management. Rather they are created by the state. They are granted important privileges by the state (limited liability, eternal life, etc). They are granted these privileges because the state expects them to do something beneficial for the society that makes the grant. They may well provide benefits to other societies, but their main purpose is to provide benefits to the societies (not to the shareholders, not to management, but to the societies) that create them.”

This view is corroborated by a recent essay, “The American Corporation,” by Ralph Gomory and Richard Sylla, in which they provide a brief history of corporation formation in America. From 1790 to 1860, over 22,000 corporations were chartered under special legislative acts by states, and

several thousand more were chartered under general incorporation laws introduced in the 1840s and 1850s. These state granted charters were not perpetual and had to be renewed periodically, “with its “powers, responsibilities?including to the community?and basic governance provisions carefully specified.”

The essayists comment that general incorporation laws were the answer to the problem of corruption in legislative chartering, but created their own problems in the late 19th Century with the rise of “Robber Barons, both the business leaders who amassed great power and wealth in the rise of mass-production and mass-distribution industries, and the great financiers of Wall Street who collaborated with them.” The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of so few led to the passage of antitrust laws and corporate regulations at both the federal and state levels regulations in the 20th Century to prevent or rein in monopolies.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression resulted in a multitude of “New Deal” reforms and regulations on the corporate and financial sectors to protect and inform stockholders and the general public.

Gomory and Sylla write that for decades after WWII, “the problem of corporate goals seemed under control,” and “the interests of managers, stockholders workers, consumers and society seemed well aligned” while the U. S. and the Soviet Union were fighting a Cold War.

As late as 1981, the U. S. Business Roundtable issued a statement recognizing the stewardship obligations of corporations to society:  “Corporations have a responsibility, first of all, to make available to the public quality goods and services at fair prices, thereby earning a profit that attracts investment to continue and enhance the enterprise, provide jobs, and build the economy.” In addition, “The long-term viability of the corporation depends upon its responsibility to the society of which it is a part. And the well being of society depends upon profitable and responsible business enterprises.”

Establishing plants in another country in order to do business in that country and be closer to your customers is a reasonable business decision for many companies whose products are sold globally, such as Coca Cola and other food and beverage manufacturers. I concur with Mr. Moser’s statement. “We do not question multinational companies’ right to invest offshore.” However, it is another thing to transfer all or most of the manufacturing of your products to be sold mainly in the U. S. market to another country, at the cost of hundreds, if not thousands, of American jobs.

This brings us to Mr. Moser’s second pro argument to the question; namely, “a strong presence is almost always in the interest of their shareholders.” He states that his experience with the Reshoring Initiative’s free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator™ has shown that “in their excessive focus on offshoring of manufacturing, many MNCs make suboptimal decisions, actually reducing the long-term return to their shareholders. Thus many MNCs will more fully maximise returns for shareholders if they maintain a stronger presence.”

This is because most MNCs do not accurately measure the “Total Cost of Ownership” or “landed costs” in making decisions regarding where to manufacture their products. They ignore the “hidden costs” of doing business offshore about which I have written extensively in my book , such as:  quality problems, legal liabilities, currency fluctuations, travel expenses, difficulty in making design changes, time and effort to manage offshore contract, and cost of inventory.

In addition, Mr. Moser states that the behaviors of MNCs include:

  • “Ignoring a whole range of medium-term risks: IP loss; impact on innovation; and loss of competence and control due to increasing reliance on offshore outsourcing firms. The further a firm is removed from the manufacturing of its products, the harder it is to evolve and make future related products.
  • Ignoring longer-term catastrophic risks associated with shifting their presence offshore, including the decline in American economic, technological and military strength: risk of losing sales and assets in developing countries, especially when competing with local state-owned enterprises (SOEs); loss of the government-funded R&D that gives them a head start in many technologies; loss of strong origin-country defence and legal systems that protect the corporate charter; loss of “Pax Americana” that protects their trade around the world; and populist calls for anti-MNC political actions resulting from income inequality driven by a shriveling middle class.”

One important risk that Mr. Moser did not mention is the risk of theft of Intellectual Property by offshore manufacturers, especially in China. For many years, China has been doing this by reverse engineering, counterfeiting, and cyber espionage, but it has been made easier in the past two years by the mandatory technology transfer required by the Chinese government for corporations who set up plants in China.

In his con argument, Professor Bhagwati asserts that global sourcing and locating plants around the world has happened already, and “there is little point in tilting at reality.” He states, “Multinationals’ products, after all, can now hardly even be defined as American, French or any other nationality when their parts come from every corner of the world. All that matters, he argues, is that worldwide operations bring profits to the multinational, thereby benefiting the country in which it is headquartered. , “MNC investment abroad is good, not bad, for America unless it is a result of distorting tax policies that lead to overinvestment abroad. Asking MNCs to have a presence at home, and subsidising or forcing them under threat of penalties to do so, makes little sense unless you claim that this presence produces some externalities…the benefits to the MNC, and hence to America most likely, will accrue regardless of where the MNC does R&D, in Bangalore or Boston.”

In is rebuttal, Professor Bhagwati states, “Compelling an American MNC to retain a strong presence in America would be the wrong prescription no matter which of the two rationales you accept…Forcing them to produce at home when that makes them uncompetitive in world markets is surely the wrong prescription: it makes them uncompetitive in markets which today are fiercely competitive.

While I realize and have written about the fact that American manufacturers are under a disadvantage in dealing with countries like China that practice “predatory mercantilism,” it is my opinion that American multinational and national manufacturing corporations have more than a “duty to maintain a strong presence in their home countries.” As American citizens, we “pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Thus, we owe “allegiance” to our country, which is defined as “the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government.” Other synonyms are:  fidelity, faithfulness, adherence, and devotion.

Obviously, if you are a loyal, faithful, devoted citizen of the United States this means that you take actions in your personal and business life to support your country and do not purposely take actions that may cause harm to your country. Moving a majority of manufacturing to other countries, especially China is doing harm to your country since China has a written plan to replace the United States as the world’s super power. Therefore, American multinational corporations and other American manufacturers owe allegiance to the United States of America by maintaining a strong presence in our country.