The Scope of U.S. Factoryless Manufacturing - 2015
with Kimberly Bayard and David Byrne
The “factoryless manufacturing” (FM) business model is employed by a rising share of U.S. firms. Factoryless manufacturers outsource the fabrication of products but maintain control of the production process, own the associated intellectual property, and bear the entrepreneurial risk. FM is an important component in the role of U.S. firms in global manufacturing value chains. We estimate the scope of U.S. factoryless manufacturing using three approaches. First, we use financial reports for S&P 500 companies to show that FM is prevalent and increasing in the United States and that FM, once only common in the production of apparel, electronics, toys, and pharmaceuticals, has spread to a broader array of products. Second, we use Economic Census microdata to estimate that manufacturing value-added would have been 5 to 20 percent greater for 2007 if all FGPs were reclassified to manufacturing. Third, using a list of FM semiconductor companies matched to Economic Census microdata, we estimate that value-added would be 20 to 30 percent greater for semiconductor manufacturing, an industry where FM is especially prevalent, if FGPs were included. These results suggest that outsourcing and offshoring of product fabrication by U.S. firms is coupled with significant domestic production management. Thus, identifying FGPs in economic data is important for the study of fragmentation and globalization.