Steven Healings
Steven Healings

Member Article

Consider all the Risks before committing to reshore

Steven Healings, group supply chain director for eXception Group examines reshoring.

With rising labour costs, an increase in the number of force majeure events across the globe as well as fluctuating exchange rates, the reasons to bring production either back or closer to home are many.

However, whilst there’s increasing pressure on outsourced or offshore business to return closer to home, rising labour costs really are only part of the equation. There are a number of things to consider before making that decision, not least exchange rate fluctuations, logistics costs, support costs, tax, duties and
importantly government policy - all key factors in the sourcing decision process. The fact remains that without proper due diligence the risks associated with a significant change in sourcing strategy can be enormous and costly.

Take a step-by-step approach and review what made you reshore in the first place. The first step when considering re-shoring is to review the existing business model assumptions and the drivers that led you to reach the decision to off-shore in the first place, and the next, what is driving the need to consider re-shoring
now. Was the original business model simply labour cost driven with logistics costs, inventory levels, cashflow, quality, responsiveness, exchange rates and travel costs not considered or considered to be marginal factors?

Questions you need to also ask yourself should be, are the factors or parameters that have changed since the original sourcing decision was made likely to reverse again in the next few years, or are the fundamentals that had driven the off-shore decision initially still true but a poor supplier was chosen? Will re-
shoring bring production close to the markets of today but be moving further away from the end markets of tomorrow?

Skills and knowledge gaps all too common

With the recent trend in off-shoring and outsourcing, left in its wake are the skills and knowledge gaps that many industries face as jobs have been lost to lower cost overseas suppliers. With this in mind, consideration needs to be given when bringing production back to the UK, that the supplier selected can
meet the needs of your business, has the skill in its workforce and the processes that will allow it to fulfill demand. A robust assessment is needed to ensure the supplier will be able to manage any forthcoming product and knowledge transfer, particularly when the off-shore supplier may be less than co-operative.
A clear transfer methodology must be deployed.

Managing the risks of a supplier transfer

It’s important to agree the risks to a transfer programme with the new supplier and put in place contingency plans to ensure a successful transfer. In any process that involves the change of a key supplier, planning the cut-over and ensuring continuity of supply for end customers is an essential part of managing the risk. This can be achieved by building up inventories to cover the transfer period (key equipment may need to be re-located) or parallel production. Which ever methodology is adopted a risk register should be a key element of the transfer toolbox. Contractual and commercial aspects should also be carefully considered, including reactions of the incumbent supplier when notified of the change. You should consider if new approvals are required for a change in manufacturer, and if so how long will the process take, and how much will it cost?

Consider the long term view

Re-shoring needs strategic thought, it’s very easy to change tactic quickly in reaction to changing events, but the long term view needs to be considered if the move is to be successful. The risks in re-shoring are often as great, if not greater than the risk associated with off-shoring. Businesses should not under-estimate
the time, effort and resource that will be needed to successfully manage a major re-shoring operation.

About the Author: Steven Healings is a Chartered Engineer and member of IET, CILT and CIPS. He has over 20 years experience in supply chain, operations and project management within the high-tech sector. This included responsibility for major cost reduction programs, outsourcing projects and delivering complex
supply chain solutions to blue chip customers. Steven has been with eXception since 2007.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Steven Healings .

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