Guess What? Furniture manufacturing could return to America

the rush to China by unprepared furniture manufacturers may have been premature chickening-out on America and have come home to roost in ways not fully comprehended

Call me crazy. I know you do, all ready (It's a badge of honor!). But furniture manufacturing probably will return to North America. In a different form, and most likely in clustered facilities in the Southeast (Mississippi and North Carolina where most of the industry's creative class resides), the reason is simple: economics and geography.

More than a couple of major studies are underway about the logistical challenges of offshore production. Not only on continuity of the supply chain, but the frightening reality of unpredictability of the long supply chains has many minds at work assessing alternatives.

Made in North America will be returning. If you don't believe me, then consider Ikea crazy, too. The big international retailer knows something, and is constructing North American manufacturing facilities in Danville, Virginia, just up the road from High Point, the furniture capital of the world.

Retrospectively, the rush to China by the unprepared reactionary furniture manufacturers may have been premature chickening-out on America and have come home to roost in ways not fully comprehended. Because the unintended consequences are always lurking, and could be encapsulated in the fabled Chinese maxim, “Don't begin until you know the end.”

The end is near, as we all know. It's just a matter of what end, the beginning or the end. No joke.

Remember, a kind of mercantile physics is occurring. For every action, there's a reaction, with some reactions in the thoughtful forms of investment. All the tacit knowledge and institutional wisdom moving offshore just opens the opportunity right here in North America.

Smart manufacturers (likely to be marketers in the future) are learning that the cost savings may not be there, and there is offshore. But the savings will be in North America, and that includes Canada and Mexico. Hey, aey and olé," they say about North America.

And just how crazy is Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, BMW and others for investing in North America. The Duh-factor is alive and well, and this well is mighty deep.

Yes, we'll have to see the results of the serious supply chain research, whose early findings seem to indicate disappointment to the legacy furniture factories reflexively chasing cheap labor, as they hurriedly abandoned domestic production in favor of offshore dreams that may devolve into onshore schemes. We just don't really know.

Incidentally, if you thought the toothpaste from China could be troublesome, or the lead in the Sino-made toys is a health problem, get ready for some failure and quality issues in the dimension parts and components coming from China. This frightening news is courtesy of insiders who've been in serious discussions with the Chinese.

China is the wild, wild Far East fraught with potential, bottomless caverns of false greed and the seeds of social rebellion that will make Lenin appear to be piker.

Western heads are spinning to comprehend the moving target of logistical stability in a production stable of global instability.

Maybe the horse will gallop back to the American barn. Or am I just a headless horseman and hoarse-man, riding and shouting at Midnight?

Ivan Saul Cutler
Inside Fruniture

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