Reshoring – an established trend or a flash in the pan?

Reshoring, or the return of manufacturing from the Far East to the UK, is an often-discussed trend, but how real is it?

A month ago, Sony UK announced that it had built a million Raspberry Pi computers in South Wales for element14. Is this now the trend or is it a flash in the pan?

We asked members of the electronic component supply network (ecsn) for their view via LinkedIn.

Peter Hannon, managing director of Harting UK, sees this as a growing trend, “There are more and more examples where UK Manufacturing is shown to be world class and cost effective. This is a great achievement and it highlights where investments in automation are critical to make it work. Look at the UK car manufacturing as an example. Significant investments in automation coupled with changes in labour practices have resulted in a strongly growing, net exporting car industry.”

element14 took the strategic decision to bring the Raspberry Pi back to the UK and partner with Sony UK TEC has a number of benefits from bringing the manufacturing centre closer to the head office, reducing transport costs and supporting UK mass scale manufacturing. This thinking is increasingly prevalent, according to Barclay Mckenna, European marketing manager at Omron Electronic Components Europe.

McKenna sees companies increasingly locating manufacturing close to demand, often in more than one location. “Europe currently uses more consumer electronics than it manufactures, so could end up being a net beneficiary of this trend,” said McKenna.

John Bowman, marketing director for semiconductor products at Anglia, thinks that smaller businesses have shown the way here.

“Small-medium volume manufacturers have recognized for some time the value of a short supply chain, and it seems that this thinking is creeping up the supply chain,” said Bowman. “Asian labour costs are rising, leading to increased use of automation, and obviously it costs little more to operate a machine in the UK than it does in the Far East.”

Chris Shipway

Chris Shipway

Although Chris Shipway, country director at Avnet Memec agrees that this is a good demonstration that we can do volume manufacturing in the UK, he is more cautious about the overall picture. “I’m not seeing any great trend for large scale manufacturing projects being brought back on-shore. We are seeing some evidence that small to medium scale manufacturing is on the increase however,” said Shipway.

Adam Fletcher, chairman of the electronic component supply network (ecsn) is also cautious, saying: “Whilst there is some evidence of reshoring taking place between China and Eastern Europe and returning to Mexico from China this is having little impact on the UK market. What we are seeing is greater thought about the impact on Total Acquisition Cost of off-shoring, this is resulting in some projects remaining in the UK / Europe, which is sensible and likely to continue.”

Nigel Watts, group managing director at Ismosys, thinks that the UK needs more of this a truly UK designed, built, sold and shipped product, but points out that it’s not all about China or the Far East. “You see the announcements made by Boeing and Airbus at the Dubai airshow for huge new orders for their latest aircraft. How does the UK capture this?”

Watts concluded: “In 2013 it is time we captured the imagination of the world once again not only by developing great technology but taking that technology and engineering, manufacturing, selling and deploying it. We need to make the world take notice of us again and at the same time inspire the next generation of engineers and technologists.”





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