That's the title of an article at Forbes by Steve Denning, the first in a series examining the state of the US manufacturing economy. It was published last year, but I've only just come across it. Here's an excerpt.
Amazon’s Kindle 2 couldn’t be made in the U.S., even if Amazon wanted to:
- The flex circuit connectors are made in China because the US supplier base migrated to Asia.
- The electrophoretic display is made in Taiwan because the expertise developed from producting flat-panel LCDs migrated to Asia with semiconductor manufacturing.
- The highly polished injection-molded case is made in China because the U.S. supplier base eroded as the manufacture of toys, consumer electronics and computers migrated to China.
- The wireless card is made in South Korea because that country became a center for making mobile phone components and handsets.
- The controller board is made in China because U.S. companies long ago transferred manufacture of printed circuit boards to Asia.
- The Lithium polymer battery is made in China because battery development and manufacturing migrated to China along with the development and manufacture of consumer electronics and notebook computers.
An exception is Apple, which “has been able to preserve a first-rate design capability in the States so far by remaining deeply involved in the selection of components, in industrial design, in software development, and in the articulation of the concept of its products and how they address users’ needs.”
. . .
The lithium battery for GM’s Chevy Volt is being manufactured in South Korea. Making it in the U.S. wasn’t feasible: rechargeable battery manufacturing left the US long ago.
Some efforts are being made to resurrect rechargeable battery manufacture in the U.S., such as the GE-backed A123Systems, but it’s difficult to go it alone when much of the expertise is now in Asia.
In the same way that cost accounting and short-term corporate profits don’t reflect the true health of corporations, the economists’ reckoning of the impact of outsourcing production overseas misses the point. Americans are left with shipping the goods, selling the goods, marketing the goods. But the country is no longer to compete in the key task of actually making the goods.
Pisano and Shih have a frighteningly long list of industries of industries that are “already lost” to the USA:
- “Fabless chips”;
- compact fluorescent lighting; LCDs for monitors, TVs and handheld devices like mobile phones;
- electrophoretic displays;
- lithium ion, lithium polymer and NiMH batteries;
- advanced rechargeable batteries for hybrid vehicles;
- crystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells, inverters and power semiconductors for solar panels;
- desktop, notebook and netbook PCs;
- low-end servers;
- hard-disk drives;
- consumer networking gear such as routers, access points, and home set-top boxes;
- advanced composite used in sporting goods and other consumer gear;
- advanced ceramics and integrated circuit packaging.
There's more at the link, including links to the rest of the articles in the series (scroll down at the linked article to find them). Highly recommended reading.