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5 factors driving the reshoring movement in America

(BUSINESS NEWS) As manufacturing jobs return to domestic shores, it’s important to understand the challenges and needs that are encouraging jobs back to the US.

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Manufacturing plant at night across the water with orange and red reflections.

Offshoring has been a staple of the manufacturing industry for decades, but trends have been changing. Over the past few years, reshoring — bringing jobs and processes back to America — has grown steadily. This effort impacts manufacturing as well as the economy as a whole.

Non-durable manufacturing accounts for 4.8% of the GDP and has proved crucial in creating jobs amid COVID-19. That figure doesn’t even account for the entire industry. It’s clear that manufacturing has a considerable impact on the economy, so reshoring in the sector is a big deal.

This effort towards domestic manufacturing isn’t the result of a single factor, but several. As these trends continue to grow, so will their impact on manufacturing. Here are five of the most prevalent.

Automation

Comparatively cheaper production costs in foreign countries are one of the most substantial factors behind offshoring. Now that automation is more widely available for manufacturers, offshoring may no longer be more affordable. The savings from automation allow manufacturers to keep their operations domestic.

Many people cite automation as a threat to American jobs, but it may actually create more. General Motors brought more than 15,000 jobs back to the U.S. in a period of massive digitization. Even though the auto industry uses more robots than any other manufacturing sector, it also leads the field in job creation.

Without the savings advantages of automation, manufacturers may outsource entire factories to foreign nations. An automated factory may mean fewer jobs than a traditional one, but it does provide more local jobs than offshoring. Counterintuitive as it may seem, the industrial world’s trend towards automation can help increase American jobs.

The Amazon Effect

Changing customer expectations are also influencing the manufacturing industry’s move towards domestic production. One of the most substantial changes is something called the Amazon Effect, where consumers expect faster service. Since Amazon delivers fast shipping and has exploded in popularity, people expect the same from all sources.

Companies need to fulfill orders fast, so products have to move from the factory to the logistics chain quickly. Manufacturers that have to ship parts and products from overseas are at an obvious disadvantage here. Domestic manufacturing enables companies to move fast enough to account for the Amazon Effect.

The Amazon Effect is about more than just fast shipping, too. It also entails adapting to sudden market shifts. Shorter lead times from domestic manufacturing enable factories to keep smaller inventories, which improves flexibility. They can then shift to making new products and meeting new demands faster than an offshoring company.

Global supply chain issues

Over the past few years, international tensions have been rising, especially between the U.S. and China. As Americans have grown more suspicious of China, it casts doubt over products outsourced there. That, combined with global supply chain disruptions from COVID-19, is starting to impact manufacturing.

China was the United States’ primary source of medical PPE but had to reduce PPE exports to address COVID-19 in their country. As a result, the need for American-made PPE became all the more clear. As more companies faced supply chain disruptions from shutdowns overseas, it revealed the shortcomings of offshoring.

Domestic production is more reliable in a crisis, especially one as impactful as COVID-19. On top of that, negative views towards China have risen sharply among U.S. citizens recently. As the nation grows more distrusting of China, manufacturers who don’t offshore there become more appealing.

Production quality

Another prominent issue fueling the domestic manufacturing movement is product quality. Many foreign nations could offer lower material costs because the materials were of lower quality. Similarly, production was often affordable because these countries didn’t hold manufacturers to the same standards.

While these factors made outsourced manufacturing affordable, they typically led to poor-quality products. As American consumers adopted higher quality standards, these cheap products became less desirable. If these goods don’t sell well, then any cost savings from outsourced production don’t matter as much.

Just 35% of Baby Boomers say they’d pay more for high-quality products, but 55% of Millennials would. As millennials and like-minded Gen-Zers make up a more substantial portion of the market, these opinions impact manufacturing. Companies that want to appeal more to modern consumers have to ensure higher-quality goods, which is easier with domestic manufacturing.

Environmentalism

When talking about industry trends impacting reshoring, it’s hard not to mention environmentalism. Across the past few years, environmental concerns have grown, both in severity and in public awareness. As consumers become more concerned about sustainability, manufacturing in countries with lower environmental standards becomes less favorable.

While U.S. CO2 emissions have decreased since 2006, China’s emissions have grown, making Chinese-made products less eco-friendly. Offshoring’s environmental impact goes beyond national differences in emission levels, too. A longer supply chain means more transportation, so even sustainably made goods can lead to higher emissions thanks to shipping.

An impressive 73% of Millennial consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a sustainable product. That’s too considerable an advantage for manufacturers to ignore. Manufacturers that want more success with today’s consumers have to be more eco-friendly, and outsourced manufacturing is far from sustainable.

Government environmental laws aside, it’s more challenging to regulate a factory that’s thousands of miles away. Similarly, while manufacturers can access clean power for facilities in the U.S., green transportation isn’t available at scale yet. Considering all of these challenges, it’s far more sustainable to make goods in the U.S.

The reshoring movement shows no signs of stopping

The manufacturing industry’s move back to America has been growing steadily over the past decade. In 2014, the U.S. saw a net gain of 10,000 reshored jobs for the first time in 20 years. Since then, these factors that drive the movement have only grown, leading to more manufacturers favoring domestic production.

Automation, the Amazon Effect, quality standards, distrust of the global supply chain and environmentalism are still growing. As these trends continue to rise, the domestic manufacturing movement will do the same, bringing jobs with it. Offshoring may have been the industry standard for years, but it won’t be for much longer.

Megan Ray Nichols is an editorialist at The American Genius, and is a technical writer who's passionate about technology and the science. She also regularly writes at Smart Data Collective, IoT Times, and ReadWrite. Megan publishes easy to understand articles on her blog, Schooled By Science - subscribe today for weekly updates!

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Business News

DMCA and Twitch streaming, aka a mess of copyright

(BUSINESS NEWS) As live-streaming is booming in popularity, DMCA claims are becoming an existential problem for Twitch. And it’s streamers who bear the burden.

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Twitch streamer in front of gaming PC, likely to face DMCA claims.

Last month hundreds of content creators on the streaming platform Twitch received DMCA takedown notices from their host at the same time, telling them that content on their channel was potentially in violation of copyright law.

Twitch has since summed up the incident in their own words on their blog. Typically, DMCA notices are supposed to provide the recipient with information about their options for submitting a counter-claim or seeking retraction. But, as the post admits, “the only option provided [to streamers] was a mass deletion tool for [their] clips, [and] we only gave [them] three days notice to use this tool.”

If they didn’t, they would risk losing their channel (and in many cases, their full time income.)

The videos in question could span thousands of hours of content, which could not realistically be deleted in the time allowed.

 

No Title

So, what you’re saying is all potentially copywritten music clips/VODS on my channel have already been identified and deleted, so I don’t need to delete anything right now?I need clarification because I don’t have the time to go through 4 years of clips.

Twitch has pretty much looked the other way from the unlicensed use of music on its user channels throughout its history. That’s generated more than a little resentment from groups like the Recording Industry Association of America in the past, and as the site only continues to grow, a massive wave of pressure from the labels has forced the site’s hand

The music industry wants Twitch to arrange for their streamers to use audio under the terms that websites like YouTube use. That includes a diligent Content ID system.

But instead, Twitch has built an in-house solution to this whole mess: Soundtrack, which offers a “rights-cleared music” from “independent artists.”

A spokesperson from Twitch supplied this statement to The Verge: “The music from Soundtrack is put into live streams and does not end up in VODs, and therefore we and our partners agree that sync licenses are not needed for Soundtrack.”

(The music industry doesn’t see it that way though.)

Not only that, but streamers still have a lot of questions about the new expectations on the site. In one case, a streamer had to completely stop their feed because their video was picking up music from an unrelated source.

Someone can even be flagged for playing a game that uses copyrighted music on-stream. Even playing a Star Wars game that makes use of the movie’s copyrighted soundtrack is a risky move. (After all, nobody wants to take any chances with Disney’s infamously aggressive legal team.)

In their apology, they expressed a desire to explore “potential approaches to additional licenses,” but said that “the current constructs for licenses that the record labels have with other services […] make less sense for Twitch.”

Securing a given song’s licensing rights is a pretty implausible task for a young streamer, since major copyright holders don’t generally negotiate on small-scale terms. Twitch, on the other hand, has been owned by Amazon since 2014. Amazon just happens to already be one of the biggest copyright holders in the world, and obtaining the rights to the songs that are in high demand shouldn’t be a prohibitive issue for one of their companies.

But ultimately this debacle isn’t solely their fault. The DMCA is an old law— old enough to drink, even. The people who wrote it could not have possibly accounted for the rapidly expanding new media industry. Under pressures like these, something has to give.

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Business News

There, and back again? Working remotely now, and in a post-vaccine world

(BUSINESS NEWS) Working remotely is now a subject openly discussed in the business world, and is affecting every employee in organizations. Companies should adapt while remaining careful to avoid common pitfalls.

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Mother working remotely with a child jumping on the couch next to her working.

I’m not even sure it’s up for debate anymore – working remotely is not lowering productivity. Several employers (90%!) are saying this (perhaps surprised with the findings). There was a lot of concern and hand wringing about this in the first part of the 2020 decade, but the experiments have bore out data that largely suggests it’s a viable option.

Working remotely has not been without its issues. Communication remains a concern and always will be, whether that is with coworkers or management, parents have more to deal with, and virtual meetings carry their own set of logistics that we’re all still navigating. But productivity has – surprisingly – been upheld despite the massive shift.

So this brings us to the next problem on the horizon – what happens once the pandemic is over, specifically with regard to remote work? Will workers want to return to their offices (assuming they are still available)? Will it affect a company’s entire workforce, or will it be left up to individual employees to decide? Could a hybrid system work?

Hybrid can be horrible,” says Gitlab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij. Gitlab has functioned as a fully remote company since its inception, and now has over 1,300 employees across 66 countries. They have written an extensive book that covers their processes for maintaining this setup, which has seen an increase in downloads since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sujbrandij explains that, “If you try to do hybrid you will have an A team and a B team, those in the office and those deprived of information and career opportunities.” This will create a disconnection between both groups, and will ultimately result in a breakdown in communication between those who work remotely versus those reporting into the office. This can lead to a number of potentially damaging scenarios – favoritism, knowledge being hidden away and siloed, and creating unfounded myths about productivity and commitment.

In other words, companies – once given the opportunity to return to a centralized workspace – may fall into the incorrect assumption that there can be flexible rules that apply to everyone under the guise of personal preference. This is a great idea in theory, but sounds a lot like the time Jim tried to celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same day. The ultimate joke of the episode is that the plan fails spectacularly – there’s so much unforeseen logistics and opinions and requests that everyone ends up disappointed; Michael comes back and consoles a broken Jim, stating that he’d tried that before.

Prithwiraj Choudhury – a professor at Harvard Business School – weighs in with similar advice, stating that companies need to take this transition seriously, with the potential for several months or years to fully complete the process. A recent article he authored explores this idea, with a huge emphasis on the idea that we will not simply work from home, but from anywhere, embracing a future where employees will be able to choose to live in other cities, states, or countries.

He further elaborates that this will be a necessity to help attract and keep key talent, and that this should be one of the primary motivations. “You really need to be convinced of why you are embracing this model. … This is the way to attract and retain the best talent. There are real estate costs and other benefits, but those are secondary.”

One way to help this is to ensure that everyone is on board – that even the C suite executives need to work remotely, functioning as a “shining example” that emphatically and enthusiastically embrace knowledge sharing. They can utilize Slack channels (or other communication avenues), and pursuing all necessary methods to ensure access is evenly applied across the board and given to all employees.

As we turn into a new year where a vaccine might be available, there will come a time when companies must re-evaluate their approach to working remotely again, making sure to have protocol and process that is definitive.

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Business News

End of unemployment benefits spell disaster without plans to replace them

(BUSINESS NEWS) If Congress doesn’t agree on a stimulus extension, December 31st could be a massive “cliff” for millions of unemployed Americans

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Unemployment documents being handed to employer.

If you’re still employed, chances are you know someone who has been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19. Unemployment benefits from the CARES Act have cushioned the economic fallout from the pandemic for millions of Americans who are currently jobless. As someone who was furloughed from my 9-5 at the beginning of quarantine, I was extremely relieved to discover that the government had a plan for myself and others in my shoes.

However, without an agreed upon plan from Congress, these benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. This inaction would make unemployed Americans exceedingly more vulnerable to poverty and eviction. So, what’s the deal Congress? Why are y’all dragging your feet?

Here’s what you have to know about the current state of things:

  • Since the end of July, when extra unemployment benefits (aka the “extra $600) expired, most unemployed people are only making about half of their wage
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about two unemployed workers for every open job (yikes!)
  • Over 10 million people are collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits in America – and another 345,000 filed new applications last week – this isn’t “getting better”
  • After December the federal ban on evictions will be lifted, meaning we will most likely see a massive spike in unhoused individuals and families

All of this is happening as the holiday season approaches and a third wave of COVID spikes across America. As it gets colder in many places, many businesses that made it through the first waves are expected to close and, subsequently, their workers are expected to be laid off.

Everything is coming to a head on December 31st. If Congress doesn’t get its act together and agree on what a pandemic relief extension needs to look like, the American people will undoubtedly experience a very dark and depressing winter and spring.

Jean Kimmel, an economics professor at Western Michigan University, states that: “A society that already was becoming increasingly unequal will just become even more unequal [without benefit extensions].” Because COVID-related unemployment disproportionately affected America’s gig and low-wage workers, as well as women and People of Color, the failure to extend benefits would only further exacerbate the economic inequality in our country, which isn’t good for anyone.

Let’s hope our politicians can put aside their differences for the sake of the general public. Fingers crossed.

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