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Reshoring Production: The Role of Cobots and Automation

The long-standing practice of offshoring has for decades allowed manufacturers to reduce their production, labour and logistic costs. These cost savings have given companies the competitive edge to drive business growth. However, significant changes and events in low-costs parts of the world have led many to look at reshoring production.

Global events and rapidly rising labour costs in recent years have highlighted the vulnerabilities and lack of resilience in supply chains. The financial gains of manufacturing overseas are now being eroded and directly impacting businesses at home. The idea of returning production back to a company’s country of origin, known as reshoring (also referred to as onshoring, inshoring, or backshoring) has gained momentum and manufacturers look at ways to remain lean and competitive.

A recent report suggests 72% of businesses are looking at reshoring in the next 12-18 months, with nearly three in four looking to make significant technology investments to reduce long-term costs. With practices shifting, and the UK continuing to suffer from long standing labour shortages, the answer to reshoring production perhaps lies in automation and advanced cobot technologies.

human working alongside cobot

The Drawback of Offshoring 

Offshoring inherently involves complex logistics. Add to this increased shipping times, spiralling duty, freight and material costs, and inventory problems, it is easy to see why many have come to the conclusion that offshoring is no longer viable. 

Manufacturers more than ever need to react quickly to market changes and customers requirements. Unrelenting pressure on supply chains is leading to lengthy and unacceptable lead times that manufacturers can no longer sustain. The complex mix of issues at play are posing a strategic risk, leading businesses to reassess their supply chain in order to improve productivity and reduce manufacturing costs. 

Reshoring production will mitigate from ongoing volatility and instability in global markets. During times of uncertainty, advancing technologies allow manufacturers to streamline their supply chain while driving growth and creating added economic value at speed. 

It is also important to not underestimate the impact a product “Made in Britain” or “Made in the EU” can have on customers, increasing brand loyalty with the recognition of local production. 

The Challenges of Reshoring Production

While reshoring looks to bring manufacturers a range of benefits, it is important to note it can introduce complexities of its own. 

Manual and repetitive production processes are making it increasingly difficult to attract and retain skilled workers, significantly hindering production growth. These severe labour shortages coupled with rising costs remain key concerns across the sector. In a recent report, manufacturers have raised concerns surrounding their reshoring plans, citing the need for more workers in the UK (47%) and more specialist skills to help the reshoring process (45%). Following personnel issues, 38% of businesses are concerned about rising prices and 32% by rising operational costs.

The use of flexible automation solutions can help manufacturers resolve and overcome the potential challenges of reshoring production. The use of cobots is rapidly developing, with their integration supporting reshoring, as well as helping to streamline supply chains and increase productivity across all areas of production.

Successful Reshoring with Cobot Automation

With a large proportion of manufacturers planning to increase their pace of reshoring, cobots are driving efforts and making it feasible to bring operations back home. Harnessing innovation automation solutions allows production to be streamlined, productivity to be increased, and operational costs reduced.

Cobots are an integral part of the future of manufacturing. Their adoption brings with them the flexibility to handle a wide range of tasks and products with ease. Those who choose to reshore and simultaneously invest in automation can offset the higher costs traditionally associated with domestic production. Automation brings a host of benefits to make reshoring a viable option for manufacturers of all sizes. 

Enhanced supply chain control: arguably the number one driver behind reshoring, having a close control over the supply chain mitigates operational issues and disruption to production. The new reality is manufacturers must prepare for the unexpected, and with supply chain variables in their control, they can be more resilient and significantly reduce shortages in the face of global challenges and crises. 

Reduce production costs: as the cost of raw materials and labour continues to rise, cobots control and often lower costs. By increasing productivity, reducing waste and rework, and optimising energy consumption, automation fosters a lean manufacturing approach to maintain profitability even as input costs rise.

Accelerating time to market: the extra lead times for manufacturing and delivery when offshoring can place considerable pressure on even the most efficient business. Reshoring speeds up time to market, providing quicker turnaround times, as well as dealing with issues or ordering additional stock to be resolved quickly and effectively. 

Improved product quality: as customers increasingly demand high-quality, bespoke components, cobots ensure consistency across products so businesses can maintain a firm grip on quality while increasing productivity. 

Greater flexibility: reducing lead times and simplifying the supply chain allows for much greater flexibility in operations. If demand unexpectedly changes, or you want to implement product changes, cobots quickly adapt to shifts in production and excel at high-mix low-volume production.

Automate for Success with Cobots Online

Embracing automation is not an option but a necessity for restoring competitiveness and resilience in the industry. 

Whatever your reasons for reshoring, the Cobots Online team can help you find the right automation solution for your business. We will ensure the chosen cobots are suitable for your production needs and help strengthen the resilience of your supply chain.

Bring production closer to home by contacting Cobots Online to discuss your automation opportunities.

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