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Regarding GE, you can eyeball their public financial statements for a rough idea of their manufacturing:financial ratio:

http://www.ge.com/pdf/investors/events/10192012/ge_webcast_p...

They conveniently split their balance sheet between GE Capital and GE (industrial/manufacturing). Roughly 70% revenue and profit from non-financial (mainly manufacturing - from 747 engines, to trains, to energy, to MRI machines, etc), ~30% from GE Capital.

So yeah, always have been and still very much a manufacturing company.

As a more general answer to your question, in case you missed it, there was a good article and discussion a while back on companies losing manufacturing through outsourcing, and its consequences:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/08/17/why-amaz...

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2907187

TLDR: “So the decline of manufacturing in a region sets off a chain reaction. Once manufacturing is outsourced, process-engineering expertise can’t be maintained, since it depends on daily interactions with manufacturing. Without process-engineering capabilities, companies find it increasingly difficult to conduct advanced research on next-generation process technologies. Without the ability to develop such new processes, they find they can no longer develop new products. In the long term, then, an economy that lacks an infrastructure for advanced process engineering and manufacturing will lose its ability to innovate.”

An interesting counterexample that demonstrates the point is Intel - they've maintained their manufacturing capability, and as a result lead the world in lithography and process technology, a competitive advantage that allowed them to compete with AMD in the mid-to-late 2000s even when AMD's chip designs were better, and to dominate AMD now that both Intel's process technology and chip designs are better.

Andy Grove has apparently dedicated his retirement to advocating for reshoring manufacturing for the deep competitive advantage it confers [1].

[1]: http://duckduckgo.com/?q=andy+grove+manufacturing




FWIIW, GE Capital was closer to 50% of the revenue before the recession kicked them in the teeth. Hard. Indications and rumors had it that GE Capital nearly took the company down in the 2008/2009 time frame.

Ref:

"Loophole Helps GE Benefit From Bank Rescue Program" (article from 2009) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06...

Warren Buffet did a $3 billion "private bailout" in October, 2008 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-14/buffett-ge-bet-pays...

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