East West Manufacturing Blog

Do Products "Made in America" Really Matter?

Written by Andy Reese | July 07, 2015

Take a breath before proceeding. I can see the hackles on your back are raised. You are the coiled rattlesnake ready to strike.  There is no political agenda here, just a few thoughts about the topic.

OK, let’s be objective for just a second about the mainstream media drumbeat for “We need it made it America”, or typically it sounds like ‘Merica’!

We are Americans! We fight the battles of the world, we innovate, we invent, we make stuff, we grow stuff, we have pride and have the cowboy swagger.  In the last 25 years, we have seen thousands of jobs leave our shores to go somewhere, “over there.” Everything from textiles, to automobiles, to more than I can count products in between, have migrated to a country (yes, some have migrated back) that offers some combination of:

Lower labor wages Cheaper Tax Rates Strong Supply Chain More/cheaper raw materials
Lack of Unions Closer to Customers Tax Incentives Or (insert your own thoughts here)

You’ve read about Walmart’s $50 Billion initiative to purchase more domestically manufactured products and create more US Jobs..  You’ve seen boycotts to just buy American.  Amidst all that propaganda, since Apple introduced the IPhone in 2007, over 500 MILLION have been sold according to Forbes.

If the United States accounts for just 20% off all IPhones sold since 2007, that’s a mere 100 Million iPhones in less than 8 years!  So What??

Zero of the iPhones have been Made in ‘Merica!  They are so ubiquitous that I bet your mom has one! (Mine does, she’s in her 70s).

Wheels down, flaps out, landing this plane.  America will always be on the forefront of innovation.  We love to invent stuff.  It’s really what separates the US from the rest of the world (bold statement, I agree, lots of innovation occurs globally – save your hate mail for a second).  Don’t miss this point:  Why we have bought 100 Million IPhones that proudly state on the box “Designed in California – Assembled in China.”

 Photo Source

Because ultimately we really don’t care where it’s made WHEN we have to pay for it!  That $29.00 ‘imported’ sweater you bought online would cost you $89.00 if it was made here in the good old US of A.  If a product works, functions well, and doesn’t cost you or me a fortune, we’ll buy it. We are consumers and our appetite exceeds our desire for American Manufacturing for the sake of simply having products made in America.

This is a provocative topic.  I totally agree. This isn’t a dissertation on the topic, just an observation that some products should be made right here in America just as some products, components, or sub-assemblies, can be made ‘over there’ with the same quality for less money.

I know the argument is always, “jobs.” The reality is that some sources, US News & World Report have over half a million manufacturing jobs are going unfilled here in the United States because a lack of skills.  Let’s ask a show of hands of who wants to go work in a manufacturing plant? C’mon, raise ‘em high.  Clearly the answer is not many.  Some jobs left because people here in the US simply didn’t want to do them!

Onshore or Offshore is a conversation that is not going away anytime soon.  Remove the emotion and instead complete a deep business case to explore “where” is the best place for you to have your products, component, or sub-assembly made.  The answer may be Virginia.  It might also be Vietnam.

Here’s a real-world example of what a decisions a business is faced with about where to have their product made: A Manufacturer's Dilemma: To Outsource or Not Outsource? What would you do if you were a business owner faced with that decision?