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With the Chinese stock market in turmoil and China’s wage scales still rising, one might think this would fuel new hope for U.S. PCB manufacturers trying to gain traction in a marketplace that’s been dominated by their Asian counterparts for the better part of two decades. But despite chatter about reshoring of late, the general consensus in the industry doesn’t seem overly optimistic that substantial change will occur.
While some business is certainly making its way back to the U.S., most people expect the bulk of it to relocate to the next-best location with low-cost wages, like Vietnam, Mexico, etc. To remain competitive, China’s government and manufacturers didn’t hesitate to call for more automation from its factories once it lost its cost advantage. It begs the question: If China is turning to automation to retain business, what might the same type of automation do for America’s reshoring effort? In the case of one such North American company, the results have been breathtaking.
The future of American manufacturing might be found in the small community of Charlestown, New Hampshire, at Whelen Engineering. A company founded and headquartered in Connecticut in the 1950s, Whelen is a leading manufacturer of all things relating to emergency lights and sirens for the automobile and aviation industries. For years, Whelen had been spending about $7 million annually on PCBs from China, but being a strong advocate for bringing jobs and dollars back to the U.S., two years ago they decided to purchase their PCBs in America.
Who did they choose as their new supplier? Well, that’s where it gets interesting. Whelen chose to be their own PCB supplier. Where does a company specializing in audio and visual warning equipment get off making their own PCBs?
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October issue of The PCB Magazine