It has been easy to write the UK off as an economic choice for manufacturing if you base that opinion on a few choice labour overhead comparisons.
In the industrial electronics industry, in which we operate, it’s also easy to imagine we simply can’t achieve the economies of scale here in the UK that exist in the Far East. This kind of thinking fueled the scramble for off-shore manufacturing in the first place.
Understanding that having a local manufacturing resource in the UK gives greater control over the quality of the products, bought some of it back.
Where are we now? Probably somewhere in the middle, but now we’re a lot more educated in our choice.
Are we talking about building hundreds of thousands of units or a few hundred? Are we building niche products for lower volume markets like aerospace or medical? How quickly do we need to get production quantities to market?
All these things influence the geographical choice of where we choose to build.
The key to being successful is understanding there is definitely a balance to be struck between onshore and offshore and offering both options to clients.
This isn’t a game of simply banging the drum for ‘Made in England’. Managing both options and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both is how we can optimise the manufacturing model.
Do we need to match the investment that China, Japan and Germany for example make in automation to retain our competitive position on the world stage? Absolutely.
Onshore and offshore both have their strengths and their challenges. The reality is the playing field is much more level than it used to be – and has no specific nationality anymore.