July 16, 2020:
The massive disruption caused by COVID-19 has revealed the shocking fragility of the global supply chain.
Forget politics, wars, or tariffs. No recent event has had the impact of this virus.
While it was first detected in China, this highly contagious, invisible enemy respects no borders. It has rapidly affected the entire world’s ability to produce goods and services.
Predictably, the disruption caused by COVID-19 has prompted calls for a return of manufacturing in the United States. It’s an argument that pops up periodically. And on the surface, it does make sense.
Why leave ourselves so vulnerable to what’s going on in the rest of the world? Why stick with a system where most of our supplies and products are available primarily from overseas, and then only in quantities to meet immediate demand?
Why not once again be self-sufficient while also employing millions of people?
But here’s some straight talk: it is simply not realistic to think we can bring all manufacturing—including that of PCBs—back to American shores.
Would our companies, or our local, state and federal governments, be willing to invest the staggering amounts of money in technology and skilled labor that would be required to make that happen?
Would American consumers be willing to pay the significantly higher prices that would be necessary to make everything here?
I just don’t see that happening.
The truth is, while this all began in China, Chinese manufacturing is already back on its feet. And is back to capacity faster than the rest of the world. That’s because the Chinese have invested heavily in automation for years, and they already have a specifically trained (and less expensive) labor force.
The United States, for the most part, simply cannot compete with that.
At least for the time being, I believe the global supply chain is our only option.
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