The auto industry has been talking about "reshoring" in recent years as if it were a kind of patriotic movement — pulling manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. from China, Indonesia and Mexico as way to bolster the American economy.
Garry Craft wishes it were that simple.
"We just transferred a lot of business from Mexico to our plant in Gadsden, Ala., because the company there couldn't get enough people to do the work," said Craft, director of sales at Koller Craft South. "They were having problems getting employees. And once their product got to the border, the trucks were sitting there for five to seven days because of staffing issues at the border."
Koller Craft, an automotive Tier 2 injection molder and assembler of components that include interior trim pieces, decorative parts, cupholder assemblies and door handle assemblies, is adding 15 to 20 people to its 170-employee Gadsden plant to absorb the extra work.
Cross-border shipments have been a vexing issue for suppliers such as Koller Craft since long before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in early 2020. The Trump administration's U.S.-China trade war introduced new unknowns into global supply chains in 2018. Tariffs on steel imports additionally changed some supply chain equations. And border shutdowns and congestion from the pandemic further complicated logistics.
But suppliers in many areas say this year's main issue has been simply having enough workers to make parts and move them to their customers.