A small but growing band of U.S. manufacturers are turning the seemingly inexorable offshoring movement on its head, bringing some production to the U.S.

Manufacturing-FactoryFaced with rising costs, General Electric is moving production of its new energy-efficient water heater halfway around the world. The country it’s leaving? China. The one it’s bringing 400 jobs and a newly renovated factory? The United States.

A small but growing band of U.S. manufacturers — including giants such as General Electric (GE), NCR (NCR) and Caterpillar (CAT)— are turning the seemingly inexorable offshoring movement on its head, bringing some production to the U.S. from far-flung locations such as China. Others that were buying components overseas are switching to U.S. suppliers.

Ford Motor said Wednesday that it’s bringing nearly 2,000 jobs to its U.S. plants by 2012 from suppliers, including those in Japan, Mexico and India.

Experts say the initiatives could moderate job losses that have dramatically shrunk the U.S. manufacturing industry. “I think we’re going to start to see a slowing of lost jobs, and we’ll see some jobs coming back,” says Simon Ellis, an analyst for IDC Manufacturing Insights. “At some point, it will balance out, and we’ll reach an equilibrium.”

There are myriad reasons for the shifts, often called “onshoring” or “reshoring.” Chinese wages and shipping costs have risen sharply in the past few years while U.S. salaries have stayed flat, or in some cases, fallen in the recession. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturers have been frustrated by the sometimes poor quality of goods made by foreign contractors, theft of their intellectual property and long product-delivery cycles that make them less responsive to customer demand.

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Source: Paul Davidson | USA Today
Photo: Dave Einsel | USA Today