Not Just Patriotic, U.S. Manufacturing May Be Smart

Posted: Dec 08 2012

dated: Dec. 8, 2012

The advantages to making products in the U.S. are starting to stack up — and companies are taking notice. Among them are Apple, which announced Thursday it plans to start producing some of its Mac computers here instead of in China, and General Electric, which is making big investments at home.

It's not just a matter of publicity, either. As the December issue of The Atlantic reports, companies are seeing real economic advantages to "insourcing," a reversal of the outsourcing trends that sent U.S. manufacturing overseas.

A New Approach

General Electric opened Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky., in 1951, but lately it has been making some changes there. In August, the company announced an $800 million investment in jobs, products and the manufacturing process itself.

Back in 2008, Rich Calvaruso gathered his team at Appliance Park and told them they had to rethink the dishwasher. As a "Lean" leader, Calvaruso's job is to figure out how to make things more efficiently. So he asked a team of factory workers, designers and marketers to put their heads together. They managed to cut down the time it takes to build the dishwasher by one-third.

The dishwasher's orientation was the key. When it was set up a certain way, operators down the line could do their work without spending time manipulating the washer itself.

Even though it now takes fewer people to make that dishwasher, not a single person was laid off. Calvaruso tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, that those employees were freed up to work in other parts of the company.

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