The improving competitiveness of US toilet manufacturing

An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “America’s Toilet Turnaround”(September 25, 2013) (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303983904579093463623447196.html) describes plans to add capacity to the Mansfield Plumbing Products plant in Perrysvlle, Ohio and Toto Ltd’s plans to increase its capacity in the Morrow, Georgia plant to make toilets in the US. Despite involving manual labor, the US locations enable faster delivery, quick adjustments to customer preferences and a “Made in the USA” label. But use of automation to apply glaze also enables increased productivity. Do the trends in toilet manufacturing suggest a shift to closer locations in the US and Mexico, and will automation be a necessary ingredient for that competitiveness ? The article claims a wage freeze agreement with the union that holds wages at $17/hour – how long will such agreements impact the competitiveness of US manufacturing ? The article also claims that companies are leveraging use of software to reduce office processes, inventory management and order receipt – will such back office process automation also be a necessary ingredient of US manufacturing competitiveness ?

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3 Responses to The improving competitiveness of US toilet manufacturing

  1. Randall Miao says:

    I don’t think the trends will for sure suggest a shift to produce more in US, the possibility to increase the production in Mexico is high. Shorter lead time will help the company to reduce the operation cost and reduce the risk. Production in US will lead to a higher service level to meet the surge demand. But as the demand for toilet may not increase in a urgent way. The majority of production may hold in Mexico. High-end product can be made in USA will be charged a higher price as labeled “Made in USA”. Automation is a good way to go for the company especially in factory in USA.
    The fixed wage with Union may reduce the competitiveness, but since the USA factory will introduce automation in production, the impact will reduce.
    The automation in back process may be necessary if it can reduced the cost dramatically, otherwise it may not make sense since if automation process is down, it will have big impact on company operation.

  2. Reblogged this on Injection Molded and commented:
    Who knew #2 could be so serious.

  3. Irina Benedyk says:

    It is very difficult to imagine such shifting without any significant technological or social changes.
    I suppose that some new way for automation will be able to do this shifting. It should be revolutionary changes.
    Let image that it is happen and significant part of production of consumer goods have been moved to the US (say 30-34%). So what we will get? The high level of the automation means the small number of new working places. At the same time we will see the sharp drop in the world logistic sector, also some changes will happen in transportation, warehousing, port infrastructure and so on. The US can even loose some working places finally. As prices will not drop, we will get decrease in consumption. So dramatic picture… But it is possible. We know about European car plants served by 1-2 employees.
    Let’s check another scenario – the social driver. If label “Made in USA” becomes more and more popular it can help to manufacture to move to USA, because people will be ready to pay more. In this case we can get a lot of new working places. But competition with other suppliers will lead them to find resoures to reduse wages, and other operational cost. And finally we will come to the first scenario.
    I don’t think that this is bad. It is the opoturnitty for science, engeniring, and it will finaly make other standards of life more higher. But it will takes time and money. For that reson it should be social and political driver first. Otherwise we will see only isolated instances.

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