The paper aims to examine the location of manufacturing for the major ski brands. The motivation is to explain, while there are no major manufacturers in the USA, the major European manufactures do produce locally even though their labor costs are even higher than those in the USA.
The paper first describes mid-volume, mid-complexity manufacturing. It then describes the ski industry and ski manufacturing. It then proposes several factors that could drive the choice of ski manufacturing location. It then reports interviews with several top managers at major manufacturers and suppliers.
The findings show that development time and innovation are major drivers in the European market. The desire to lead the market with innovative products precludes the use of manufacturing in Asia, where production and delivery times would be longer.
The findings give an example of the ability of manufacturing to remain in higher labor cost countries if development speed and innovation are significant market drivers.
The health of manufacturing in Western Europe and North America is currently of significant political interest. Companies and government entities may consider what actions they can take to encourage innovation-driven markets.
The paper provides an explanation for a significant portion of the manufacturing of a mid-volume and complexity product remaining in higher labor cost countries. As innovation and development speed are found to be major drivers, this can inform manufacturers in other segments where the products and market share characteristics with those found in higher-end downhill skis.
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