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Reshoring vs. Offshoring: A Deep Dive into Cost Analysis

October 27, 2023

 by David Collins III

truck outside factory ready to move factory equipment

Currently, many companies are asking themselves: should my company re-shore? Reshoring has its inherent benefits due to rising costs, tariffs, political considerations and China's weakening attractiveness as a manufacturing hub, which it has maintained for over three decades. Even though reshoring is a hot topic, it is essential to pause and understand what a reshoring cost analysis would look like.

In the ever-evolving global business landscape, companies continually seek cost-effective solutions to remain competitive and profitable. One pivotal decision that businesses often face is whether to reshore or offshore their operations. A thorough "cost analysis" is imperative in making this choice. We will first explore the definitions of both reshoring and offshoring. Then, we'll look into the factors that influence the "reshoring cost" and "offshoring cost" and delve into the essential aspects of cost analysis for businesses.


What is Reshoring?

Reshoring refers to the process of bringing a company's manufacturing activities back from overseas to its home country. This is often seen with American companies relocating their manufacturing operations back home from locations like China. Reshoring has many benefits, extending to private equity firms wanting to work with manufacturers. This includes enhanced supply chain control and alignment with consumer preferences. 


5 Factors Affecting the Cost of Reshoring

  1. Labor Costs

    Reshoring typically involves moving production closer to home, often to higher-wage countries. Labor costs in the home country are usually higher than in offshore locations, making it a critical factor in reshoring cost analysis. However, the quality of the local workforce, productivity, and automation can influence the overall labor cost impact.

  2. Transportation and Logistics

    When you reshore, you reduce transportation and logistics expenses. This can be a significant cost-saving factor, especially when dealing with heavy or bulky products.

  3. Quality Control

    Reshoring can improve quality control by allowing for better oversight and faster issue resolution. This may lead to reduced costs associated with defects and recalls.

  4. Regulatory Compliance

    Reshoring often simplifies regulatory compliance, as companies typically better understand local regulations in their home country. This enhanced comprehension aids them in more easily adhering to these regulations. Companies can significantly lower their overall costs by avoiding costly penalties and compliance-related expenses.

  5. Inventory Management

    Closer proximity to the home market can reduce the need for extensive inventory stockpiles. This can lower inventory carrying costs and the risk of obsolete goods. Fast fashion is an excellent example of an industry with significant inventory costs and a high risk of obsolete goods. Onshoring could reduce the risk of obsolete goods at the expense of higher production costs.


What is Offshoring?

Offshoring refers to the practice of moving a company's manufacturing processes to a different country, typically one where operational costs are lower, as opposed to the company's home nation. This is commonly seen with American companies establishing production units in Asian countries.


5 Factors Affecting the Cost of Offshoring

  1. Labor Costs

    Offshoring has traditionally been favored for its lower labor costs. However, businesses must consider wages and factors like labor productivity, training, and potential language barriers. Too many companies are more interested in saving on labor while ignoring all the challenges from poor training and labor productivity

  2. Transportation and Logistics

    While offshoring can be cost-effective in terms of labor, it often entails increased transportation and logistics expenses. Shipping, customs, and lead times can add up significantly.

  3. Quality Control

    Managing quality control from afar can be challenging and costly. Dealing with supply chain disruptions, long lead times, and differences in quality standards can increase expenses.

    MTG/CMC has seen many companies struggle with this challenge. Quality failures occur in manufacturing and are only realized once the products are sold months later. It raises significant costs for the manufacturer’s reputation, recalls, and lost sales.

  4. Currency Fluctuations

    Exchange rate fluctuations can significantly impact offshoring costs. A fluctuating currency can affect the cost of goods and the profitability of offshore operations.

  5. Intellectual Property Protection

    Ensuring intellectual property protection can involve legal and security measures, which can add to the offshoring cost. Intellectual property theft can be costly and result in the compromise of business strategies, loss of unique competitive advantages, and even damage to the company's reputation.


5 Cost Analysis Essentials

When conducting a cost analysis to determine whether to reshore or offshore, businesses should consider the 5 following essential aspects:

  1. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

    Calculate all costs associated with reshoring and offshoring options, including labor, transportation, quality control, regulatory compliance and other factors. Some countries may have complex tax structures, like Mexico and their IVA tax system. Traditional costing methods might overlook 20-40% of these acquisition costs, which TCO brings to light. In summary, TCO is an essential metric for businesses to make informed offshoring vs. reshoring decisions that align with their financial goals.

  2. Risk Assessment

    Assess the risks associated with each option, such as political instability, supply chain disruptions, and economic factors. Identifying and mitigating risks is crucial in cost analysis as manufacturers can develop strategies to minimise them, avoiding potential financial losses.

  3. Strategic Goals

    Consider your company's long-term strategic goals. The decision to reshore or offshore should align with your overall business strategy. An incorrect decision could hamper the company's progress towards its key goals and result in unnecessary struggles and expenses.

  4. Market Dynamics

    Evaluating market demand, customer expectations, and the competitive landscape are fundamental in shaping your reshoring or offshoring decision. Understanding the market demand and competitive landscape will inform you whether your products or services have a sufficient customer base. 

  5. Technology and Automation

    Assess the role of technology and automation in reducing labor costs and improving efficiency. With the potential to revolutionize work practices, productivity, and bottom-line costs, the strategic application of automation could tip the balance in the reshoring versus offshoring debate for many businesses.


Weighing the Costs: Reshoring vs. Offshoring

Rushing to a decision is rarely a good idea. Companies should make a well-informed decision between reshoring and offshoring and require a comprehensive "cost analysis" before moving forward. Businesses must weigh factors that affect both reshoring and offshoring costs, considering labor, logistics, quality control, regulatory compliance, and more. 

By carefully examining these elements, companies can make strategic decisions that align with their goals and promote long-term success in a rapidly changing global marketplace. Cost analysis is the cornerstone of achieving cost-efficient and sustainable business operations.

Do you have any questions about reshoring and offshoring? Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

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Topics: New Factory Setup, Plant Relocation, Shoring

David Collins III

David Collins III

David was a Senior Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, served in Iraq as a Special Operations Civil Affairs soldier, and as a Governance Advisor to the Afghan Government with the Department of State. At CMC, David advises clients on strategy and investments.

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