I had a conversation today with an acquaintance from one of the (if not THE) coolest manufacturing areas in the U.S. - Meadville, Pennsylvania. Alex is the daddy-o at Sharp Tool & Die there. Sharp is a small custom parts manufacturer that specializes in high-tolerance work for the aerospace and defense industries.
(For those not aware, Meadville is considered the cradle of the tool & die industry in the U.S. It's where many of the old-world craftsmen and artisans settled and established a community of manufacturing's most gifted. For a great example of what this community still is - even after the past few, lost decades for manufacturers here - check out the Precision Machining Institute [PMI]. It's one heckuva community/industry-supported endeavor.)
Anywho, there were a few really interesting points from our conversation that I thought you'd be interested in hearing. It's good intelligence, from a solid source, in an area close to the pulse of manufacturing:
- Work is picking up - customers are ordering more, and activity is noticably better. Sharp is "swamped" with work.
- Alex says he's seen real examples in his area of work being repatriated from low-cost countries to the U.S. The examples he named were large foundry projects, sourced by the government and returned here primarily because of quality issues with the materials used by the low-cost country supplier.
- He also noted that while some shops in his area did go out of business over the past 2 years, those that remain are busy since volumes are increasing but the number of sources have diminished.
So what are you seeing in your area? Have you seen actual examples of work being backshored to the U.S.? Are you seeing business conditions improve? Send us your descriptions, and we'll pass them along.