About a month and a half ago, I had the opportunity to tour forklift company MCFA's newly expanded manufacturing facility in Houston. My generous hosts/tour guides were buzzing about the continuing growth of the electric lift truck market and innovative manufacturing techniques. But what struck me the most was the amount of welding and iron bending going on there and just how many of their components were made, if not in MCFA's own plant, than at least nearby.
I found that interesting because when I began covering the supply chain space, I spent many hours in dimly lit conference rooms looking at old, black-and-white photos of Henry Ford's River Rouge Complex and being told that we were moving past that kind of vertical integration to a world of outsourced supply chains that span the globe.
But MCFA is far from being a maverick. Instead the pendulum of change seems to be swinging back. Now companies are talking about regional manufacturing, and the buzz about offshoring has been transformed into a buzz about reshoring or near shoring. I guess everything that was old is new again. MIT, for one, suggests that this is less about a revival in American manufacturing and more about changes in the supply chain.
Are forklift manufacturers on the forefront of this trend? MCFA's efforts to manufacture more lift trucks and parts in the United States is certainly fairly new, but Crown Equipment Corp. has a long history of "vertically integrated manufacturing" that it's quite proud of. I will be interested to hear if this trend is evident in other parts of the material handling industry.