We are moving rapidly into an age of transnational manufacturing, where things made in one country are shipped across national borders for further work, storage, sales, repair, remanufacture, recycle, or disposal; but our laws, policies, and management practices are slow in adjusting to this reality. They are often based on inaccurate premises. This article examines these premises and suggests what they imply for management of manufacturing. First, a common view is that manufacturing investment in the industrialized nations is declining and shifting to the developing countries. This is not true. Investment in manufacturing in both industrialized and developing nations is increasing and, in absolute value, there is a lot more investment in industrialized countries than in developing countries. Second, a related view argued by many is that manufacturing does not have a bright future in the rich countries. I argue that manufacturers can thrive in the industrialized countries if they learn how to add more value for the end users. They must go beyond productivity improvement to producing more technologically advanced and customized products, responding faster to changing customer demands, and appending more services to their products. Doing all this is easier in the industrialized countries because the needed skills and infrastructure are more readily available there. Third, another potentially misleading notion is related to why companies invest in manufacturing abroad. Access to low‐cost production is not the main motivation in most cases; rather it is access to market. Superior global manufacturers use their foreign factories for much more: to serve their worldwide customers better, preempt competitors, work with sophisticated suppliers, collect critical marketing, technological, and competitive intelligence, and attract talented individuals into the company. They build integrated global production networks, not collections of disjointed factories that are spread internationally. Thus their investment in manufacturing abroad is not a substitute for investment at home, it is a complement. Building and managing such integrated global factor networks is the next challenge in manufacturing.
Production and Operations Management – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 1997
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