Outsourcing continues to be a hot topic. It is especially true in Michigan, where the Governor's race is heating up. It is the topic of the race. Incumbent Granholm is trying to woo Toyota into building an engine plant here along with trying to find jobs in the only state in the union with negative job growth (see one reason why here). But she spends more time blaming the Federal government, even when other states still seem able to attract jobs. Challenger DeVos has, as a businessman, a record of doing his own outsourcing of jobs. I'm sure when it's all said in done, nothing will really change in Michigan.
Here's the real point: if you have strong operational capabilities, whether its based on lean or something else, you can produce anywhere you want. And if lean is a central tenant of your philosophy, then focus on the customer is likely a driving force behind your actions. And where better to manufacturer than where you customer is located.
Toyota is launching a major marketing campaign to convince buyers that they are truly an American company. In one striking example, the Sienna has more U.S. content than the Ford Mustang. Toyota hires American's in West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas and Michigan. They will soon produce more cars in the US than Chrysler.
This morning, Honda is announcing their sixth North American assembly plant, this time in Indiana. They had already announced that it would be in the mid-west, the very heart of UAW country. They didn't go as far as put it in Michigan, but they also didn't run to the deep south as most transplants did. Maybe this is where those 35,000 GM and Delphi people that are taking the buyout, already with plenty of skills and knowledge, can find new jobs. In a market where hard manufacturing skills are in short supply, these people if they are willing to move will likely find a home at Honda.
At the other end of the spectrum, LEGO (not LEGOS, they are sensitive about that) will move a large amount of their production (over 900 jobs) to a cheap labor Eastern European country, and will give up control of manufacturing to Flextronics, based in Singapore. Lego was always very bullish on their prospects of staying put, and just as Honda can build cars in Indiana, I'm sure Lego could manufacturing in Denmark if they have strong operational capabilities.
Don't wait for Washington to solve the outsourcing problem for you. I see too many companies waiting for the booming voice from the sky to fix it. The answer is right under your nose. Focus on your capabilities. Get lean skills embedded. More importantly, put those skills to work. The most capable companies write their own tickets, they don't wait to handled their ticket overseas.
UPDATE: Since Wall Street seems to love it when companies announce either downsizing or outsourcing, it is always a little amusing when it happens to them. J.P. Morgan is moving jobs to India. It turns out, from a value stream perspective, that it is EASIER to ship information from India than manufacturered product. Hmm.
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