America Can Beat China In Manufacturing | Precious Metals Role In Revising US Manufacturing



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China is the king of manufacturing. Their appeal started out with cheap labor but has evolved because of they provide businesses with efficient processes, advanced technologies, and the best client relationship management programs.

No wonder it’s close impossible to dethrone them.

But a 100,000-square-foot factory in Portland, Tennessee did just that. How? Renewable energy.

SunPower Corporation, owned by Shoals Technologies, is an American company specializing in solar power generation and energy storage. They manufacture everything you need to feed power onto the grid. They craft cable assemblies, combiner boxes, external fuses, and others.

That’s exactly the kind of products you would have thought went to China years ago.

Most of SunPower’s competitors are Chinese companies like GCL System Integration and Wuxi Sun King. The Chinese-made components are cheaper than Shoals’, but owner Dean Solon says he has an edge.

His stuff is seen as safer, more reliable and easier to install. They have “plug-and-play” hardware that eliminates the need for a crew of expensive electricians out in the field stripping wires and crimping millions of connections by hand.

That means companies are willing to pay 5% to 10% more for it, believing they’ll make up for it in lower labor and maintenance costs.

Last year, that premium added up to earnings of $34 million on $176 million in sales. After a January IPO, the 57-year-old Solon is worth some $2.2 billion, thanks to his 40% stake in the company and after tax proceeds from prior equity sales.

To keep manufacturing costs low, Solon makes the manufacturing process as foolproof as he can. Here are some things they put in place:
Screens mounted on the front of each machine show workers how to do each task.
cycle times measured not in man-hours but man-seconds.
There are lights in each station and it blinks when they fall behind schedule
Teams help one another sort out problems, because if one person slows down for too long, the next in line runs out of parts

Solon has been inspired by Disney parks. Disney Parks are orchestrated to perfection. On the surface everything is calm and happy and serene, but underneath there’s hundreds of people making sure the magic is right.

I have always believed that the next economic battle will happen in the energy sector. SunPower’s business model and manufacturing process is an important case study for America.

It will give America complete control over the renewable energy sector.

Beyond the business processes, there’s also an advantage in the raw materials that go into making these technologies. Those raw materials are precious metals.



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