Ever since the pandemic, there’s been quite a few articles about this despite the fact we’ve known the answer for well over a decade. (Or at least SI was giving away the answer, for free, over a decade ago, even though it seems no one was listening.) Or at least some of use have known the answer for well over a decade. So why was no one listening? Why is the answer still not well known? Is it not clear? Is the new generation not looking on their own and wanting the answer spoon fed to them? Are the articles with the solution either too generic, too politically correct, too vague or not actionable?
It’s hard to say, but to make sure this article is not too generic, not too politically correct, not too vague, and not inapplicable, we’re going to be very, very specific, as politically incorrect as possible, as to the point as possible, and actionable in our messaging. And we’re going to keep it as short and sweet as possible so that the message will be clearly understood.
Unless you are selling the product to China (/Asia), when sourcing,
It’s that simple.
Risk Mitigation 101 for Buyers is to have two sources of supply because risk mitigation 101 in systems design is no single point of failure. But over the last three decades, we have built a global supply chain where all roads simultaneously end in China and start in China. When there isn’t a single product you buy where a component or raw material doesn’t get produced or processed in China, it doesn’t matter that you use two different distributors or manufacturers for the product as the choke point is still China. Thus, if the factories or ports shut down because of China’s ridiculous “zero tolerance” policy to an unstoppable epidemic (which is not even as lethal as the bird flu if a large majority of your population that can be safely vaccinated is vaccinated); if the shipping industry gets overloaded due to a lack of ships, workforce (see yesterday’s article on how strikes are going to be your biggest source of supply chain disruptions for the next decade), or containers (which happens, especially since there are way more ships carrying goods from China than carrying goods to China, semi full ships will not load containers to take back until completely empty, and this results in many ships sailing back mostly empty); or critical commodities or utilities expected locally become temporarily unavailable to the factory, you, and everyone else in the world relying on that product, are shut down.
There’s a reason that North America used to primarily source products not made in the USA from Mexico or South America. If there was a disruption, you found out sooner. If a factory had a fire, you could fly in, assess the damage, and send in your engineers to help fix it — quickly. If not, you weren’t far from alternate suppliers you could fly down to assess, and if suitable, negotiate with. If there was a transportation backup, it was easier to clean up — you weren’t waiting for ships, you just sent down more trucks or ordered more rail cars.
And the answer should now be obvious:
- Home-source anything that can be grown / mined / produced at reasonable economy of scale in multiple geographically separated locations in your home “region” (i.e. multiple states in the US; multiple connected countries in the EU)
- Near-source anything that can grown / mined / produced at reasonable economy of scale in a relatively near-by country or region connected by land where the product can be shipped by rail and truck (Mexico / Central America / Northern parts of South America for the US)
- Far-(Over-Sea)-Source only what can’t be home-sourced or near-sourced, which should just be raw materials or small components (i.e. there’s no excuse to be manufacturing and importing washing machines, refrigerators, and cars which are super bulky and weighty when there are only a few core components that need extreme specialization [where it would be hard to find another / build a new factory] or materials that need to be processed pre-transport
Which means that if you are sourcing for the Americas, the amount of sourcing that you should be doing from China is likely about 10% of what you’re actually doing, which, at the end of the day, gave you short term savings in exchange for long term debt including, but not limited to:
- customer churn and angst
(happy customers seeing value fork over $$$ a lot faster and in greater amounts than those that aren’t, and they aren’t happy when they don’t get their products on time)
- constantly increasing transportation costs …
containers went from < 5K to > 30K during the height of COVID, and while they have come back down, they’re still 30% to 50% more on average, and since most ocean going vessels still use HFO (the dirtiest oil there is, FYI), and the global port strikes are resulting in significant wage increase (partially due to significant inflation in many countries), they’re going to keep going up, especially once you factor in those
- high carbon taxes
(everything you make in China is dirty and the shipping is even dirtier)
- high IP theft …
even if most of the products don’t make it out of China, everything you produce in China is copied … everything … and some of the copies are now so good, even high end stores in the US are getting fooled!
- limited options …
many of your best options went out of business over the last two decades as you believed the overpriced consultants with their false promises that the savings would last forever (but nothing lasts forever …)
- increased disruptions
due to the soon to be three-fold increase in natural disasters annually since the China craze began in the late eighties/early nineties (which is projected to be five fold within a decade or so)
On the flip-side, many of the factories you used to use are still where they were. The workforce is still there. The potential is still there. All you have to do is invest in it. It may mean a partial return to the vertically integrated company where you own (part) of your supplier, as you may have to re-enter into co-opetition through conglomerates where you and a group of your peers each minority invest in a new entity to bring that factory back online (or build a new one), but nothing is stopping you. And it might take a year or two (or three) to bring it back, but you can do it, and greatly reduce your supply chain risk in the long term. And, to make it a bit more personal, when you do this, just like Justin, you will have brought SexyBack
Unnecessary Outsourcing, especially Unnecessary Overseas Outsourcing, broke the supply chain. If you want to fix it, JUST STOP!
To be fair, we should point out that this article is aimed at the primary readership of this blog, which is North America / (Western) Europe as well as the continents of Australia, South America, and Africa. This article is NOT aimed at Asia, because China is part of Asia, which means if you are buying to support an Asian market, in this situation you should be buying from China (and Fuck the Americas), as per our qualifying assertion near the beginning of this article.