Will production move
closer to home?
By Alan S. Brown,
U.S.manufacturers have taken a beating this past decade. As the econ- omy pulls itself out of the
recession, they are approaching a crossroads. Do they continue to
send production offshore, or do they keep it at home and find ways to
thrive in an increasingly competitive world?
The evidence points to very different conclusions. Nowhere are those contra-
dictions better illustrated than in two stories that manufacturing consultant Chris Tsai
told a Boothroyd Dewhurst forum on resurrecting U.S. manufacturing last year.
Tsai spent much of his career at Eastman Kodak, where he helped move digital camera production to China. “We started producing parts there and assembling them in U.S. factories where the
intellectual property resides,” he recalled.
“The Chinese wanted to grow the service, and instead of parts they offered to sell us finished, tested
components. Eventually, we would ramp up new products in U.S. factories, then move them to China.
The next logical step was to ask why we needed to spend millions to move production. So we shut down our
factory and moved production directly to China. That was my job as global production manager before I left.
“We’re now teaching our Chinese brethren to launch and support technology products with as little support
as possible from the United States. They have the technological competency, the IP, so what’s next? Designing the
product? Kodak has no need in the United States for technical people or scientists. So if you look at where Kodak is
going, it’s becoming a marketing company.
“Where is all the value and IP created? That’s in China. If my experience at Kodak is any indication, we’re on a nasty
slippery slope to becoming the premier third-world country,” Tsai said. (A Kodak spokesman, Christopher Veronda,