Primeiro, algumas razões iniciais económico-financeiras que levam os decisores a equacionar a hipótese de voltar a produzir mais próximo do consumo:
"Even then, changes in the global economy were coming into focus that made this more than just an exercise—changes that have continued to this day.
- Oil prices are three times what they were in 2000, making cargo-ship fuel much more expensive now than it was then.
- The natural-gas boom in the U.S. has dramatically lowered the cost for running something as energy-intensive as a factory here at home. (Natural gas now costs four times as much in Asia as it does in the U.S.)
- In dollars, wages in China are some five times what they were in 2000—and they are expected to keep rising 18 percent a year.
- American unions are changing their priorities. Appliance Park’s union was so fractious in the ’70s and ’80s that the place was known as “Strike City.” That same union agreed to a two-tier wage scale in 2005—and today, 70 percent of the jobs there are on the lower tier, which starts at just over $13.50 an hour, almost $8 less than what the starting wage used to be.
- U.S. labor productivity has continued its long march upward, meaning that labor costs have become a smaller and smaller proportion of the total cost of finished goods. You simply can’t save much money chasing wages anymore."
"“We got the water heater into the room, and the first thing [the group] said to us was ‘This is just a mess,’ ” Nolan recalls. Not the product, but the design. “In terms of manufacturability, it was terrible.”Terceiro, um factor que não me canso de salientar, a rapidez e flexibilidade que a proximidade traz, aquilo a que costumo chamar a nossa mais importante vantagem competitiva nos têxteis e no calçado, no mundo das modas:
It was so hard to assemble that no one in the big room wanted to make it. Instead they redesigned it. The team eliminated 1 out of every 5 parts. It cut the cost of the materials by 25 percent. It eliminated the tangle of tubing that couldn’t be easily welded. By considering the workers who would have to put the water heater together—in fact, by having those workers right at the table, looking at the design as it was drawn—the team cut the work hours necessary to assemble the water heater from 10 hours in China to two hours in Louisville. In the end, says Nolan, not one part was the same. So a funny thing happened to the GeoSpring on the way from the cheap Chinese factory to the expensive Kentucky factory: The material cost went down. The labor required to make it went down. The quality went up. Even the energy efficiency went up. GE wasn’t just able to hold the retail sticker to the “China price.” It beat that price by nearly 20 percent. The China-made GeoSpring retailed for $1,599. The Louisville-made GeoSpring retails for $1,299."
"Time-to-market has also improved, greatly. It used to take five weeks to get the GeoSpring water heaters from the factory to U.S. retailers—four weeks on the boat from China and one week dockside to clear customs. Today, the water heaters—and the dishwashers and refrigerators—move straight from the manufacturing buildings to Appliance Park’s warehouse out back, from which they can be delivered to Lowe’s and Home Depot. Total time from factory to warehouse: 30 minutes."Quarto, muitos decisores começam a rever os cálculos que os levaram para a China em primeiro lugar, muitos nem fizeram contas, foram imbuídos pelo espírito de manada:
"“The way we see it,” says Moser, “about 60 percent of the companies that offshored manufacturing didn’t really do the math. They looked only at the labor rate—they didn’t look at the hidden costs.” Moser believes that about a quarter of what’s made outside the U.S. could be more profitably made at home. “There was a herd mentality to the offshoring,” says John Shook, a manufacturing expert and the CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “And there was some bullshit. But it was also the inability to see the total costs—the engineers in the U.S. and factory managers in China who can’t talk to each other; the management hours and money flying to Asia to find out why the quality they wanted wasn’t being delivered. The cost of all that is huge.”"Nunca me esqueço dos gráficos da Ventoro, os números eram impressionantes, se calhar estavam certos.
Tudo isto levou a esta mudança de posição na GE:
"Writing in Harvard Business Reviewin March, he [Jeff Imelt o CEO da GE] declared that outsourcing is “quickly becoming mostly outdated as a business model for GE Appliances.” Just four years after he tried to sell Appliance Park, believing it to be a relic of an era GE had transcended, he’s spending some $800 million to bring the place back to life. “I don’t do that because I run a charity,” he said at a public event in September. “I do that because I think we can do it here and make more money.”"E o fenómeno não é exclusivo da GE porque:
"The recalibration of costs in recent years is one reason, and the competitive benefit of keeping production stateside is another. But the logic of onshoring today goes even further—and is driven, in part, by the newfound impatience of the product cycle itself.Just a few years ago, the design of a new range or refrigerator was assumed to last seven years. Now, says Lou Lenzi, GE’s managers figure no model will be good for more than two or three years. This phenomenon is not limited to GE. The feverish cycle of innovation and new products beloved in the electronics world has infected all kinds of consumer categories. Products that once seemed mature—from stoves to greeting cards—are being reinvigorated with cheap computing technology. And the product life cycle is speeding up—many goods get outflanked by “smarter” versions every couple of years, or faster.E porque:
Factories take a while to settle into a new product, a new design. They face a learning curve. But models that have a run of only a couple years become outdated just as the assembly line starts to hum. That, too, makes using faraway factories challenging, even if they are cheap."
"ONE KEY DIFFERENCE between the U.S. economy today and that of 15 or 20 years ago is the labor environment—not just wages in factories, but the degree of flexibility displayed by unions and workers. Many observers would say these changes reflect a loss of power and leverage by workers, and they would be right. But management, more keenly aware of offshoring’s perils, is also trying to create a different (and better) factory environment. Hourly employees increasingly participate in workplace decision making in ways that are more like what you find in white-collar technology companies."