Lenovo's North Carolina Onshoring Effort: One Year Later


It's been one year since Lenovo opened up its first computer manufacturing plant in the U.S., where it makes laptops, PCs and tablets sold under the Think brand.

The plant, located in Whitsett, N.C., created initially 115 manufacturing jobs in the state. The plant acts as mostly an assembly plant for Lenovo, supplementing plants in Mexico, Brazil and China.

Since the opening of the plant in October 2012, Lenovo says it has added more North Carolina positions to Lenovo, including call-center jobs, logistics, refurbishing center and a returns team. The jobs, Lenovo said, are split between Raleigh, Whitsett and Morrisville, N.C.

CRN sat down with Lenovo's President of Lenovo North America, Jay Parker, and asked him for an update on his company's efforts to bring back jobs to the U.S., and what that means for channel partners and business.

CRN: It's been a year since Lenovo opened its computer assembly plant. How has the initial rollout been?

Parker: We're a leader in this area. We believe we have started a potential trend. It's been very successful for us so far. We opened [the Whitsett plant] in January and got up to full capacity in June. We have about 300 employees at this facility. About 115 jobs are manufacturing and the rest is logistics services, and refurbs and returns.

CRN: Any surprises in the first year getting things off the ground?

Parker: The plant ramped up just like we wanted. The labor pool was better than expected, and our ability to hire skilled workers was excellent. We are not only producing notebooks and desktops, we are now making servers and Thinkpad Tablet 2s.

CRN: Will you expand your manufacturing to include more products, and will you hire more people?

Parker: Right now we are only doing Think-branded products but certainly wouldn't rule out consumer products. As long as our business continues to grow 10 to 20 percent every quarter and year, we are happy to expand in size, but also in breadth, of what we manufacture.

First of all, it's still more economically viable to manufacture overseas. That gap has not closed. But it has shrunk. So labor costs differences have shrunk. Logistics cost differences have shrunk. And so the gap is no longer as large as it once was. It is no longer as great between the U.S. and China and other countries that are manufacturing bases.

So now we can make a business case that says, because of the advantages I get, it is worth the competitive advantage and the customer advantage. Manufacturing here in the U.S. is worth the smaller incremental costs in bringing manufacturing to North Carolina. What we said -- at least on a small scale -- is it's worth taking the risk.

NEXT: Why should partners care about Lenovo making Think products here in the U.S.?