Manufacturers Find On-Shoring Spurs Productivity

Calibaja-Manufacturing-in-Mexico-Production-line-with-US-Management Ron Palinkas Field Service managementAs kids in a boisterous playgroup click together the brightly colored interlocking plastic rods and connectors to assemble a toy based on Angry Birds, they may not give much thought to where the pieces came from.

But those bright K’NEX toys are trendsetters. Like most plastic toys sold in the United States, K’NEX building sets were made in China. But in 2009 the company began on-shoring much of its manufacturing and kit assembly to the eastern Pennsylvania region.

K’NEX, part of the Rodon Group, a maker of close-tolerance injection molded plastics, is one of the many companies returning manufacturing operations to the U.S. for one simple reason: it makes sense.

In fact, more than half of U.S.-based manufacturing executives at companies with sales more than $1 billion plan re-shore production to the U.S. from China or are actively considering it, according to a 2013 survey by The Boston Consulting Group.

Caterpillar, Ford, NCR and Whirlpool, to name only a few, have brought manufacturing back from over seas, and even Frisbee molding from Wham-O has left Mexico for the U.S. Walmart has committed to stocking $50 billion of domestically sourced products in the next 10 years.

Apple has contracted with a Flextronics America plant in Texas to assemble its new Mac Pro computer, using domestically sourced parts. Gorilla Glass, found in the iPhone display, comes from a small-town factory in Kentucky.

Rising wage rates in China and higher shipping rates are partly behind the on-shoring moves, as are lower U.S. energy prices. But closing the gap between the local market and U.S.-based engineering and marketing staff also pays off.

When GE brought back production of its hybrid water heater to Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky., it also re-designed the product. The company cut 20 percent of the parts and 25 percent of materials costs and sells the product for $300 less than the version made in China. Now the shipping time from factory to distribution center is 30 minutes instead of a month.

In the past five years, K’NEX moved 95 percent of its toy production back to Hatfield, Pa., and uses two nearby plants to print packaging and assemble the components into kits.

Before, the company made the rods, connectors, gears, wheels and other components in the Pennsylvania plant, then shipped them to China for finishing and packaging. The round-trip time was about three months. That lag made it impossible for the company to react to short-term market shifts, such as booming popularity of a licensed product.

With a long supply chain K’NEX had to make bets on which property would be hot six months or more ahead of the holiday shopping season, says CEO Michael Areten.

Building a domestic supply chain gives the company a competitive advantage.

“We got a call from a retailer a few weeks before Christmas that they had shelf space to fill, and I told them we’ll make the products this week and fill the shelves next week,” Araten says. “You can’t do that if you’re bringing it in from Asia.”

Gary Wollenhaupt is a freelance writer covering innovation in manufacturing, marketing, and sustainable green building technology. – See more at:


Refugee Headhunting, a New Niche ron palinkasRecruiter Michael Strucken has found a new niche in the recruiting market–refugees.  Based in Germany, Strucken targets a segment of the population that most people try to ignore–refugees.  This is a great example of recognizing a need and addressing it in such a way that everyone benefits–the refugee, their family, the host country, and the industry.

In one group you might find a Doctor,  a biologist, a laborer and an engineer.  Those who leave a country, regardless of motivation, bring with them the experience and skills from all walks of life.  Providing a method of identifying and pairing those talents with employers is a great way to serve the needs of the individual and the industry.

Rostering versus Scheduling

ron palinkas national field service efficiency



Interesting points from Field Service News



Rostering ensures that you have enough people to fulfill the demand at any point in time. Scheduling ensures those people are doing the right things at the right time.”

“Real productivity gains only come when making the step change from rostering to scheduling. Best-in-class service organisation achieve 81% performance in worker utilization Scheduling enables you to take into account when allocating work such a location and skill set.”

“The daily challenge for field service organisations is how deal with the unexpected without compromising productivity or letting customers down. According to the McKinsey Improving Workforce Productivity, an average 5-10% of jobs are cancelled each day an 10-20% or tasks run shorter or longer than expected.   Managing this requires real-time visibility of your engineers and a dynamic scheduling app that allows you to move work allocation one job at a time.”