Walmart outlines policies to 'renew' US manufacturing
- Walmart on Wednesday outlined 10 policy initiatives aimed at addressing the four major barriers the company sees holding back American manufacturing growth: workforce, coordination and financing, regulation, and tax and trade, according to a company press release outlining its proposals, dubbed a “Policy Roadmap to Renew U.S. Manufacturing."
- Walmart’s vice president of U.S. manufacturing, Cindi Marsiglio, presented the 10-point plan to a mix of public and private-sector groups in Washington D.C., which included members of NGOs and think tanks, as well as Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY), who co-chairs the House Manufacturing Caucus.
- Walmart worked with The Boston Consulting Group on the plan, which aims to recapture $300 billion in production of consumer goods and create 1.5 million American jobs, with roughly 250,000 of those being direct manufacturing jobs, Marsiglio told Retail Dive. The policy roadmap is part of Walmart’s 10-year commitment, which started in 2013, to source an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs.
“Manufacturing today does not look like manufacturing of yesterday,” Marsiglio told Retail Dive on Wednesday evening, adding that one challenge to boosting manufacturing in the U.S. is appealing to a younger workforce and rebranding American manufacturing.
“We have a generation of young, newly- and soon-to-be employed individuals that aren't thinking about manufacturing as a path to success, and it's quite the opposite,” she said. “These factories are clean, they're high-tech, there are white lab coats. It's highly automated and highly advanced. I would look at manufacturing employment as necessary. People will be necessary to employ in these factories, and they will be empowered by the technology advances in the U.S.”
As global economics shift, with wages rising overseas, Marsiglio and her team have worked with Walmart suppliers to figure out what they can do to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. — also a major priority for President Donald Trump, who earlier this month hosted companies from across the country to celebrate the Made in America Product Showcase. The policy initiatives laid out by Walmart vary greatly, from building vocational programs linked to local industry to closing supply chain gaps and modernizing trade agreements.
“At Walmart, our mission is simple: it's to go back to the customer, who by the way wants to buy products that support her communities, and reap all the business benefits of a shorter supply chain,” she said. “We win when we put production closest to the consumption, closest to our customers.”
But bringing manufacturing back to a country that has become highly automated is no simple task. Such jobs in the U.S. have declined significantly over the last several decades, yet output has grown strongly. In 1953, manufacturing once made up 32% of the country’s total employment — today it only accounts for 8.5%, according to the Pew Research Center.
While businesses, including some retailers, are making a push to create new American manufacturing plants, it’s unclear what types of manufacturing jobs, and what level of skill requirements, will come with them.
“Our suppliers tell us they need a ready workforce, they want skills developed for a wide variety," Marsiglio said. "From very basic assembly line jobs that maybe you think about when you think of manufacturing, but I would challenge that a little bit because it goes all the way to highly skilled, highly technical job that is necessary for manufacturing in the U.S."
Follow Corinne Ruff on Twitter