You might not have seen this thought piece from Chris Caplice of MIT. It seems we are betting big money on the import-from-china model, but there are some serious trends that will change things.
Decentralization of production will be good for the Chicago area, where there is already a capable manufacturing workforce. It may make sense to set up here in existing facilities than to build giant factories here. It might even be cheaper than the South.
Making products denser through design means they are cheaper to ship, and makes big factories built for economies of scale but requiring long distance hauls to some markets less practical. Digitization of products— the shift away from physical product to knowledge based products supports this trend. It makes designs easier to distribute; and it makes products customizable, updatable, and configurable so that you do not need to throw away the hardware.
And now that online buying has taken off, retailers are combining their distribution for all channels, including online and walk in, so that inventory is being pushed closer to the customer.
4 Trends That Could Redefine Distribution in the US | Supply Chain @ MIT.
I touch on some of these same issues, particularly omni channel distribution in my July blog: http://www.designingadistributioncenter.blogspot. The ramifications within the 4 walls of the traditional distribution center are enormous because the entire concept of a traditional DC is being turned on its head. Think of just one aspect: replenishment of those “mini DCs” the retail store. Michael Hogue