Is offshore manufacturing good or bad for Australian SMEs?
A survey of SME Association of Australia members shows 17% cite offshore manufacturing as a key trend for the next 5 years. (It's 2nd biggest, just behind globalisation at 18%.)
It's hardly surprising given research by BCG shows Australian manufacturing cost among the world's highest, but is it good or bad for you? And what are savvy SMEs doing in response?
I think offshore manufacturing is a necessity in many industries.
We as consumers have been conditioned to expect the lowest price for items we buy while demanding the highest wage in the world. The ultimate outcome is that manufacturing suffers. We cannot afford to pay premium wages to our staff while being competitive with countries that pay less than 10% of our minimum wage to employees and have lower overheads and ongoing costs.
The Aussie dollar is not plummeting as per predictions earlier this year and has barely seen any time below 0.9 USD so there is no saving grace to be found there. In fact problems with the EURO actually threaten to push our dollar higher again.
We as business owners need to look at what our customers are demanding, not as a vocal outcry but what is actually happening with the purchasers of our products. If we are losing out to lower cost competition then time has come to make some hard choices and try to salvage some jobs and some degree of our company rather than go down with the sinking ship.
There is an opportunity to get lower cost quality products by offshore manufacturing but it is not a simple case of placing a purchase order and getting perfect products. There are many pitfalls and traps that you can encounter along the way.
GBOS specializes in helping companies make the correct decisions and getting your product established in reliable manufacture.
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Hi Ilga. My company specialises in helping manufacturers adopt new technologies and practices to be more competitive. We've seen successes and failures in off-shoring manufacturing. The successful manufacturers are those that are familiar with the market as they know the intrinsic value of proximity to market and/or of the value of innovation in the supply chain. Manufacturing in low-cost locations just because it is cheap is fraught with danger and risk. Manufacturing in locations that are close to market or offering an innovative supply chain is less so. According to a new BCG report, there has even been a drift away from China as a global manufacturing heavyweight now towards Mexico, which offers low-cost and proximity to the US market. Unfortunately, Australia is the least cost competitive manufacturer across the 25 top manufacturers, but the area for opportunity is consumer electronics and precision medical manufacture.
For all the people that say off shore manufacturing is bad and that it would be better to bring it back, you never actually hear of anyone who would be prepared to ditch their current job and salary for a chance of working on a factory production line.
Manufacturing is not where the money is made. Take any product and look at each component of getting it from the factory to the end consumer. Factory makes a small amount and the much larger slice of the pie goes to the logistics company, the company that advertises the product, the brand owner and the retailer. All theses are effectively service industries and that's where the higher incomes are.
It's only in relatively recent history that small Australian businesses have started venturing overseas themselves to buy their products. Previously they just bought from local wholesalers who offered limited stock in limited colours at sometimes considerably marked up prices.
If you are a small business with limited capacity for a three+ month turnaround of products and quantities are only small, it may still be better for you to buy locally.
But I think any business needs to be constantly looking at their model for supply of products, and looking at the options available, even to just see what are the best options for the business on an individual basis.
It's also not that long ago that buying offshore meant buying large quantities. That is not always the case now and there is more scope to buy in smaller lots, but whether you have the expertise and ability,and whether it will be worthwhile will still depend on individual circumstances.