Notwithstanding the recent rise in the value of the U.S. dollar that is vexing manufacturers that export, the United States has continued to emerge as a surprisingly competitive player in global manufacturing. Now a new evaluation by the Boston Consulting Group may help solidify the U.S.’ status as a “rising star of global manufacturing.”
America’s rise is just part of what the consulting firm called a long-overdue “redrawing [of] the map of global manufacturing cost competitiveness,” one that overturns notions that have been in place for nearly three decades and has driven corporate manufacturing investment and sourcing decisions over that time. The new view based on the firm’s analysis of manufacturing costs for the world’s 25 leading export economies, it said, “should drive many companies to rethink decades-old assumptions about sourcing strategies and where to build future production capacity.”
In fact now, BCG noted, “years of steady change in wages, productivity, energy costs, currency values, and other factors are quietly but dramatically redrawing” that map and reorganizing it into “a quilt-work pattern of low-cost economies, high-cost economies, and many that fall in between.” This is standing the old view on its head—in which Latin America, Eastern Europe and most of Asia were viewed as low-cost regions, while the U.S., Western Europe and Japan were perceived as having high costs.
“Except for China and South Korea, the rest of the world’s top-10 goods exporters are 10%-25% more expensive than the U.S.”
The U.S.’ improved standing is due to low wage growth, sustained productivity gains, until lately, stable exchange rates, and a big energy-cost advantage. “Except for China and South Korea, the rest of the world’s top-10 goods exporters are 10%-25% more expensive than the U.S.”
Some of those same factors are driving success for Mexico, which made Boston Consulting Group’s rising star list.” The flood of factory investments by global automakers, for example, attests to the new reality that “Mexico now has lower average manufacturing costs than China on a unit-cost basis.”
In other “distinct patterns of change in manufacturing cost competitiveness,” BCG noticed that several economies typically regarded as low-cost manufacturing bases are under pressure, including Brazil, Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia. Weak productivity growth and rising energy costs have hurt several traditional high-cost countries even more, including Australia and a handful of western European countries.
Some nations have enjoyed relative stability over the 10 years covered by the study, ending last year, including The Netherlands and the UK.
This report should add significantly to the body of recent data that suggests the United States has become more manufacturing-friendly. American manufacturing CEOs may rely on it to favor “the home team” for more siting decisions in the future.