Taking a page out of the Farm-to-Table concept so popular in the restaurant industry right now, MetalMiner, a digital multimedia resource for metal-buying organizations, just published a thought provoking white paper titled  “Farm-to-Table” Becomes “Maker-to-User”:How a Manufacturing Movement is Emerging “.  The paper explores import trends by sector and considers the  benefits of local sourcing as a healthy response to recent tariffs, providing “a  positive impact on local economies, greater flexibility and innovation, and shorter lead times.”

“…manufacturers might find themselves in a bind if a product they import is subject to a tariff,” says Fouad Egbaria, of Metal Miner, introducing the white paper. ” Given the number of products that have already come in for new tariffs (or could be subject to new tariffs, once the U.S.’s $200 billion tariff proposal goes through its review process), the odds are good that a manufacturer is going to be affected in some way.

“Beyond consumer preference, localization has other benefits to the overall economy, starting with the notion that it provides a foundation for everything that is built on top of it. After all, if we don’t have strong healthy basic industries, we aren’t going to have strong value-added manufacturing industries.”

We love this application of the farm-to-table concept in building out a more robust local manufacturing ecosystem that’s less dependent on outside forces and more attuned to local needs. It’s one of the reasons we opted to have the FIRST Robotics Competition field for AMRoC built at a local manufacturer, investing in our community, instead of ordering it from out of state.

The authors suggest the reasons for locally sourcing manufacturing materials are pretty similar to the impetus behind the farm-to-table movement.  Besides the obvious impact of new tariff’s, there are other costs, both monetary and social, to sourcing materials outside

“The argument has been made that local sourcing results in more ethical supply chains. Some more high-profile examples of products subject to ethically murky sourcing include cobalt, most of which is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the issue of child labor. Similarly, Thailand’s seafood industry is rife with scrutiny regarding the use of slave labor, as a Human Rights Watch investigation revealed in early 2018.

“Naturally, tracing a part or material from a few counties or states over is much easier than doing the same for an item traveling to the U.S. from thousands of miles away.  Plus, just like with food, a shorter distance from source to delivery also benefits the environment and leads to a lower carbon footprint by virtue of less fuel burned in getting the product to its user.  In addition to the environmental and ethical benefits, local sourcing offers shorter lead times for the user, plus removes exposure to the vagaries of currency risk.”

The white paper looks at issues of local sourcing versus off-shoring, capacity, import scope, innovation and cost considerations.  It’s a good read that makes a compelling case for bringing manufacturing of all types, home.