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Made in the USA (from parts imported).

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I have recently returned from a fairly long trip in the USA. As ever in my free time, I wondered over the supply chain implications of my surroundings.

 

Few places are as conspicuously patriotic as the US. And this behaviour is richly exploited in consumer marketing. It seemed as though practically every other company had ‘America’ in its name or the Stars and Stripes in its logo.

 

Indeed, the phrase ‘made in the US’ has a deep resonance within the marketplace. And in a time of prolonged unemployment following a deep recession, the promise of generating more jobs at home has been seen as a means to generate brand value.

 

How seriously are companies taking this?

 

Walmart has famously declared its intention to buy $50 billion from US-based suppliers over the next 10 years. Essentially, this involves returning previously offshored manufacturing facilities back to domestic production.

 

This seems like a big push, although its procurement team are currently working through the practicalities of this declaration. But, despite the rhetoric, we may ponder over the genuineness of these appeals.

 

During my trip, I acquired a sleeping back from Walmart. Its labelling boosted a large American badge, declaring that the product was ‘made in the USA’, writ across in large letters. Upon closer inspection, smaller writing below indicated that this was produced from parts imported from foreign economies.

 

You may recall from a previously blog that I wrote when I looked into the trumpet supply chain, the labelling on country of origin was less than honest. In a time of a globalised supply chain, I wondered, whether any single country could ever be said to be solely responsible for the production of a good.

 

The label on my sleeping bag speaks to this fact. The bag may have been finally assembled in the USA, but there were vital parts of the manufacturing process that were administered abroad. From a corporate perspective, there is very little value to the ‘made in’ tag. The label only adds consumer value.

 

Eventually, as consumers become more aware of the supply chain, the impact of these labels will diminish. In which case, what value is an expensive supply base in the local geography?

Jonathan Webb
Posted by Jonathan Webb