Royal Philips Electronics’ workers in the Dutch town of Drachten who expected to be fired were astonished when the site manager said the company was bringing production of its top-priced electric shavers home from China.
Rob Karsmakers, the factory manager who returned from four years working for Philips in Asia, told the baffled crowd that the consumer-electronics company would boost investment in Drachten, where it employs 2,000 staff.
“A product engineer in Shanghai now is just as expensive as in Drachten,” said Karsmakers, who has overseen the plant since 2009, in an interview. “But in China, the headcount turnover is high. That is not sustainable.” Philips, which also lights the Eiffel tower and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, employs a total of 14,000 people in the Netherlands.
The nation, the fifth-largest economy in the euro region, has expanded its allure as a manufacturing powerhouse next to its dominant German neighbour. The Netherlands leads in areas as varied as paints and combat uniforms for the US Army. Apple uses chips produced by machines from ASML Holding for its iPhone and iPad, and TomTom NV help drivers navigate unfamiliar roads.
The Dutch trade surplus in the first nine months of last year was the second highest in the euro area behind Germany, Eurostat data show.