Will 2012 Be The Year Manufacturing Returns to Mexico?

Alix Partners recently released their 2011 U.S. Manufacutring-Outsourcing Index and it had a few surprises. First of all, not only is Mexico now the country with the lowest-landed costs for U.S. customers (which SI has been predicting would be the case for some time now), but the four other major outsourcing destinations analyzed — Romania, Russia, India, and Vietnam — all had lower landed costs than China as well.

Alix Partner’s projected landed costs from China for the next four years based on the three assumptions of:

  • 30% annual increase in wage rates, consistent with Chinese wage inflation over the last several years,
  • 5% annual increase in the strength of the yuan, consistent with the widely accepted estimate of the undervaluation of the yuan by 20% to 25% relative to the US dollar, and
  • 5% annual increase in freight rates, consistent with increasing fuel prices.

If these assumptions hold true, then the landed cost of manufacturing in China will equal the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. by 2015! (And if only one of the predictions come true, the savings from outsourcing for an average organization will only be 10% in the best case!) In other words, at this point very little is needed to erode not only some, but all of China’s cost saving potential in manufacturing outsourcing.

It would seem that for companies looking to outsource manufacturing, the writing is already on the wall: unless you already have a Best-In-Class operation in China, the chances of realizing any value (given the initial start-up costs associated with outsourcing and streamlining such an operation) are quickly approaching zero as time goes on.