The Future Of Outsourcing December 8, 2008Posted by Jeff Fuchs in manufacturing, supply chain.
Tags: manufacturing, offshoring, outsourcing
Globalization has been brutal to midwestern manufacturers like the Paper Converting Machine Company in Green Bay, Wisconsin. First came the 2001 recession. Then, two years ago, one of the company’s biggest customers told it to slash its machinery prices by 40% and urged it to move production to China. Last year, a St. Louis holding company, Barry-Wehmiller Cos., acquired the manufacturer and promptly cut workers and nonunion pay. In five years sales have plunged by 40%, and the workforce has shrunk from 2,000 to 1,100. Employees have been traumatized, says operations manager Craig Compton. “All you hear about is China and all these companies closing or taking their operations overseas.”
But now, Compton says, he is “probably the most optimistic I’ve been in five years.” Hope is coming from an unusual source. As part of its turnaround strategy, Barry-Wehmiller plans to shift some design work to its 160-engineer center in Chennai, India. By having U.S. and Indian designers collaborate 24/7, PCMC hopes to slash development costs and time, win orders it often missed due to engineering constraints — and keep production in Green Bay. Barry-Wehmiller says the strategy already has boosted profits at some of the 32 other midsize U.S. machinery makers it has bought. “We can compete and create great American jobs,” vows CEO Robert Chapman. “But not without offshoring.”
Chapman and others see a chance to turn around dying businesses, speed up their pace of innovation, or fund development projects that otherwise would have been unaffordable. More aggressive outsourcers are aiming to create radical business models that can give them an edge and change the game in their industries. Old-line multinationals see offshoring as a catalyst for a broader plan to overhaul outdated office operations and prepare for new competitive battles. And while some want to downsize, others are keen to liberate expensive analysts, engineers, and salesmen from routine tasks so they can spend more time innovating and dealing with customers. “This isn’t about labor cost,” says Daniel Marovitz, technology managing director for Deutsche Bank’s global businesses. “The issue is that if you don’t do it, you won’t survive.”
Read the full article in BusinessWeek here.