An interesting trend we're seeing is a steady uptick in sourcing related to custom injection molding. This is a promising development for the economy as plastics is actually the third largest manufacturing industry in the country. Our data shows some significant increases in this important category. In the last five weeks on the thomasnet.com platform, sourcing for custom injection molding is up 35% over its all-time average. In the related category of injection molded plastic fabrication, sourcing activity has been higher in its all-time average in eight of the past 12 weeks.
As you're probably aware, American companies offshored a huge portion of their injection molding in recent decades. But when we look at how some companies today are weighing the benefits of reshoring versus offshoring, this upward trend in custom injection molding here in America starts to make some sense.
The biggest incentive for offshoring has always been one of cost. But the days of cheap, abundant labor seem to be coming to an end, particularly in Asian countries such as China where there's a growing demand for higher wages among the workforce. According to Harry Moser at the Reshoring Initiative, more and more companies today are looking at the TCO, or total cost of ownership, of offshoring versus reshoring, factoring in such things as increased productivity, shorter supply chains, and agility and innovation in customer responsiveness. Combine that with things like new tax incentives, lower freight costs, and abundant natural gas pushing down energy prices, and those companies, looking at TCO, are finding that they can manufacture more profitably right here at home.
Specific to injection molding, there are also significant quality and consistency advantages to doing it here in the U.S. I speak to our clients regularly in the industry, many who have received overseas tooling from companies that are reshoring. One of those clients, the Rodon Group, reports that the majority of that tooling is virtually unusable here in America. It rarely meets the quality standards set forth by the Society of Plastics Industry, which specify things such as tolerances and finishes for injection molded parts here in the U.S. As Rodon's Jill Worth told me, there's absolutely no doubt that as far as injection molded products go, "Made in America makes a huge difference."
Of course, there are challenges associated with reshoring in this industry, not the least of which is skilled workers reaching retirement age. However, many of the companies reshoring their injection molding are compensating for that talent gap through things such as lean manufacturing and automation. Ultimately, we expect this upward trend in custom injection molding to continue as the benefits of reshoring versus offshoring become clear.
So that's what we're seeing this week. To stay up to date on the latest sourcing and industrial trends from the Thomas Index, please subscribe to our Shop Talk newsletter.
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Tony Uphoff is President and Chief Executive Officer at Thomas Publishing. He is an Award Winning Digital Media, Live Event and Marketing Services Executive, Industry Speaker, and Advisor. A uniquely accomplished operating executive with an unparalleled track record of building, growing and transforming media and marketing businesses.