It’s time to bring production home

28 January 2009

With soaring energy prices and an increased focus on carbon footprints, consumers are increasingly questioning the way that goods are produced and transported between countries. As more companies begin to review their offshoring strategies, Martin Walder, managing director of ABB Robotics UK, explains how manufacturers can bring production back to the UK whilst still competing in the global market.

The message is simple. If you can automate the process of producing a quality product, then it is as effective to base production in the UK as it is to relocate it to a low cost country in Asia or Western Europe. Whilst fifteen years ago moving production to a low-cost country might have resulted in significant cost savings, the same cannot be said for today’s manufacturers. New production technologies are opening up a wealth of new possibilities for manufacturing competitiveness, without even leaving the country.

Offshoring – the ship has sailed
As a result of rising energy costs, stricter environmental rules and the elimination of tax incentives, offshoring has become an increasingly expensive option for production.

For a long time, China was considered one of the most economical markets in the world, resulting in large numbers of companies sending production to Chinese manufacturers. However, rising expectations amongst Chinese workers eager for a higher standard of living, combined with the tightening environmental controls, have resulted in Chinese manufacturers facing their own rising overheads, which is contributing to the slow-demise of China-based production for UK companies.

Thanks to the rising need for environmentally friendly applications, even the process by which goods are produced and transported between countries is closely scrutinised. Consumers are more environmentally and ethically aware than ever, and a poor record in either of these areas can materially affect demand for goods. Not only that but lower cost countries often have lower standards of production quality, posing a health risk to the consumer.

So what is the solution for the UK manufacturer?
Over the past 12 years, the cost of a six-axis industrial robot has fallen by 50 per cent, enabling robots to offer a reduced hourly operating expense of just £5. With a typical payback period of just two years, robots offer a consistent and predictable method of production, which can be vital in helping companies to plan strategies for short and long-term competitiveness.

There are already plenty of examples of UK companies, both large and small, that have enhanced their competitiveness by opting for onshore production using robots, with reported benefits encompassing everything from reduced production costs through to faster turnaround times.

With the UK Government keen to aid a resurgence of the UK manufacturing industry, and economic conditions tighter than ever, now is the time to cancel your plane ticket and instead visit your nearest UK robot supplier to find out how onshoring your production could be the key to a more competitive future.

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