Insights for COOs: Navigating the Challenges of Re-Shoring.

Isn’t it time to look at bringing your manufacturing home, closer to your customer’s ever evolving needs?

For nearly four decades, the allure of cost-cutting through offshoring has shaped our industry. Shareholders hungering for higher returns have driven this trend, pressuring C-Suite leaders to prioritize the bottom line. Back then, offshore seemed like the obvious path forward.

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offshore manufacturing

But hold on – let’s zoom out. In recent years, a technological revolution has swept through. Enterprising startups seized the opportunity to disrupt established giants with innovative, personalized products. Simultaneously, broader economic forces have triggered a paradigm shift, forcing us to reconsider our strategies.

The need for change has become undeniable. The offshore model, once hailed as a panacea, now reveals its cracks and inefficiencies. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – think about the carbon footprint of shipping goods across the globe.

In this article, I delve into the resurgence of a powerful alternative: re-shoring your Manufacturing.

Discover how technological advances, evolving market dynamics, and a growing environmental consciousness have breathed new life into the concept. Brace yourself for a journey that uncovers why re-shoring isn’t just a trend, but a strategic imperative.

It’s time to rethink, to innovate, and to consider a brighter, more sustainable future for manufacturing.

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The Motivations Behind Re-Shoring

The motivations behind re-shoring

Certainly, re-shoring, or at least the practice of bringing manufacturing or business processes back to your home country, can be influenced by a variety of factors.

You’ll be surprised at the tidal wave that’s driving manufacturing to relocate nearer to your customer:

Supply Chain Resilience and Disruptions:

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains. Re-shoring can help companies reduce the risk of supply chain disruptions by bringing production closer to their primary markets, allowing for better control and quicker response during crises.

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Total Cost of Ownership:

While offshoring might offer lower labor costs, the total cost of ownership includes various factors such as rapidly rising offshore labor costs, shipping challenges, inventory management, quality control, and lead times. Re-shoring can sometimes lead to cost savings when these factors are considered holistically.

Quality Control and Product Standards:

Re-shoring allows you to have tighter control over quality assurance and adherence to product standards. Direct oversight frequently leads to better product quality and consistency, reducing defects and customer complaints. 

Intellectual Property Protection:

In some offshore locations, concerns about intellectual property theft and inadequate legal protections exist.

Re-shoring can help protect sensitive designs, technologies, and trade secrets by keeping production closer to legal jurisdictions that enforce intellectual property rights more effectively.

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Agility & Responsiveness

Agility and Responsiveness:

Closer proximity to markets enables faster response times to changing customer demands and market trends. Re-shoring can facilitate quicker product iterations, customization, and adaptation to local preferences.

Innovation and Collaboration:

Proximity to research centers, suppliers, and customers in the home country can foster innovation and collaboration. You can benefit from knowledge exchange, joint R&D initiatives, and streamlined communication.

Environmental and Sustainability Concerns:

Re-shoring can align with your corporate sustainability goals by reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation. Manufacturing in proximity to the market can enable more environmentally friendly practices.

Geopolitical Stability and Trade Policies:

Political tensions, trade disputes, and changes in trade policies can impact international business operations. Re-shoring can help you navigate these uncertainties and reduce exposure to geopolitical risks.

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best practice

Skilled Labor Availability:

Re-shoring can address concerns related to skill shortages and access to specialized labor. You may find it easier to recruit and retain skilled workers in their home countries.

Customer Preferences:

As customers increasingly value personalized products and quicker delivery, re-shoring allows you to meet these demands more effectively. Local production can lead to faster shipping times and customization options. 

Brand Image and Ethical Considerations:

Some companies prioritize a “Made in the USA / UK / Sweden / Germany etc” label for their products due to perceived quality, ethical, or patriotic reasons. Re-shoring can enhance your brand’s image and resonate with customers who value local production.

Government Policies and Incentives:

Local and National may offer incentives such as tax breaks, grants, or subsidies to encourage companies to bring manufacturing back home. These policies can make re-shoring financially attractive.

Re-shoring decisions are complex and multifaceted, often involving a combination of these factors. You need to carefully evaluate your unique circumstances, industry dynamics, and strategic goals when considering whether re-shoring is the right choice for your manufacturing operations.

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COO: Your role in determining the Business Case

Your role in determining the Business Case

Do you play a crucial role in analyzing the re-shoring of manufacturing operations?

Re-shoring involves complex strategic, operational, and financial considerations, and the COO’s / VP’s involvement is essential for making informed decisions.

Here’s some thoughts around your role in the re-shoring analysis process:

Cost-Benefit Analysis:

First, you’ll be leading the effort to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis comparing re-shoring with the current offshore manufacturing setup.

Consider factors such as your labor costs, transportation costs, inventory carrying costs, quality control expenses, and potential tax incentives or subsidies for domestic production.

Operational Feasibility:

Assess your operational capabilities and infrastructure to determine if re-shoring is feasible from a production and logistics standpoint.

Consider factors like the availability of skilled labor, manufacturing facilities, equipment, and your technological flexibility and readiness. Manufacturing has had to move to Industry 4.0 technologies over recent years, due to frequently a lack of skills in the market. Think different to how you might have those years ago!

Supply Chain Resilience:

Evaluate the potential impact of re-shoring on your more local supply chain’s resilience and ability to respond to disruptions.

Analyze how re-shoring might enhance your ability to manage supply chain risks and uncertainties.

Quality Control and Intellectual Property Protection:

Examine the potential benefits of re-shoring in terms of improved quality control and intellectual property protection.

Consider how being closer to manufacturing facilities can facilitate better oversight and control over product quality and safeguard proprietary processes.

Operational Efficiency and Lean Practices:

Determine how re-shoring might enable the implementation of lean manufacturing principles and process optimization. It’s time to drive home and deliver a more sustainable product and production model.

Explore opportunities for automation, advanced manufacturing technologies, and improved production efficiency.

Labor and Workforce Considerations:

Evaluate the labor market conditions in your home country and assess the availability of skilled workers for the re-shored operations. If you’re in the US, start to consider Mexico as a nearshore option – great talent, same time zone and cost effective.

Analyze your potential labor costs both onshore or nearshore, and the implications of workforce adjustments.

Risk Management:

Identify potential risks and challenges associated with re-shoring, such as production disruptions during the transition and the need for workforce training.

Develop contingency plans to mitigate these risks and ensure a smooth re-shoring process.

Cross-Functional Collaboration:

Work closely with your departments such as finance, supply chain, legal, and human resources to gather relevant data and insights for the analysis.

Foster cross-functional collaboration to ensure a comprehensive assessment of re-shoring’s impact.

Decision-Making and Communication:

Present the findings of the analysis to your executive leadership team, including the potential benefits, challenges, risks, and mitigation strategies.

Collaborate with your CEO and other leaders to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with re-shoring.

Overall, the COO’s / VP’s role in the re-shoring analysis is to provide a holistic view of the operational, financial, and strategic implications of bringing manufacturing operations back home. Your insights and recommendations are instrumental in guiding the company’s re-shoring strategy and ensuring its successful implementation.

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Re-shoring Manufacturing: Who’s seen success?

Re-shoring Manufacturing: Who’s seen success?

The timeline for organizations to see success after re-shoring manufacturing can vary widely depending on numerous factors, including the industry, the specific products being manufactured, the company’s existing capabilities, market conditions, and more.

General Electric (GE): GE Appliances, embarked on a significant re-shoring effort by bringing the production of water heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines back to the United States. This move was driven by factors such as quality control, customer demand for “Made in USA” products, and streamlined supply chain logistics.

Ford Motor Company: has been actively re-shoring some of its manufacturing operations. For instance, it shifted production of the Ford Fusion sedan back to its plant in Michigan from Mexico due to changing market demands and the desire to invest in domestic manufacturing.

Siemens: a multinational conglomerate, has re-shored certain manufacturing operations back to Germany. For instance, the company moved production of gas turbines from the United States to Germany due to the need for greater quality control and expertise.

Reshoring Initiative: a nonprofit organization, provides a wealth of examples of companies that have successfully re-shored manufacturing operations. They offer case studies and data-driven insights that highlight companies across various industries that have brought manufacturing back to the United States.

Adidas: the sportswear and footwear company, re-shored a portion of its manufacturing back to Europe from Asia. The move was aimed at reducing lead times and responding more effectively to rapidly changing fashion trends.

Master Lock: a well-known manufacturer of padlocks and security products, re-shored the production of certain lock components from overseas to its U.S. facilities. This move allowed the company to ensure better quality control and quicker response to market demands.

Made in Britain Campaign: While not a single company, the “Made in Britain” campaign has highlighted multiple UK-based manufacturers that have re-shored their production. This campaign aims to promote products made in the UK and support local manufacturing.

Apple: While not a complete re-shoring effort, Apple has shown a commitment to increasing its domestic manufacturing presence. The company has invested in manufacturing facilities in the United States to produce components like the Mac Pro computer. While Apple’s global supply chain remains complex, these efforts demonstrate a trend towards localized manufacturing for certain products.

Nordic Countries: Several Nordic countries, including Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, have experienced a degree of manufacturing re-shoring. Some businesses have brought production back due to concerns about quality, supply chain disruptions, and the ability to collaborate closely with local suppliers.

Stihl Inc: a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment like chainsaws and trimmers, expanded its manufacturing operations in the United States to produce some of its products. This approach allowed the company to cater to the specific needs of the U.S. market and provide quicker service and support.

Brompton Bicycle: a UK-based folding bicycle manufacturer, re-shored part of its manufacturing from Taiwan to the UK. The company aimed to enhance quality control and better manage the production process in-house.

Harry’s Razors: a direct-to-consumer shaving company, decided to manufacture its razor blades in Germany and brought the production of its handles back to the United States. This approach helped the company maintain high-quality standards and improve customer satisfaction.

The Cambridge Satchel Company: This British company, known for its leather satchel bags, re-shored its manufacturing from overseas back to the UK. The move allowed the company to have more control over production and to meet increasing demand for high-quality, locally made products.

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Strategies for successful re-shoring

Strategies for successful re-shoring

Introducing re-shoring strategies involves carefully planning and executing various steps to overcome challenges related to workforce adjustments, new enterprise applications, technologies, lean manufacturing practices, automation, and negotiating with local suppliers. Here’s a few thoughts to get you on your way:

Assessment and Strategy Development:

  1. Identify Your Reasons for Re-shoring: Understand why you’re considering re-shoring.
  2. Conduct Cost Analysis
  3. Define Objectives: Clearly outline your goals for re-shoring, such as increasing agility, improving quality, reducing lead times, or enhancing customer responsiveness etc
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Workforce Adjustments:

  1. Skills Assessment: Evaluate the skill sets of your current workforce and identify any gaps that need to be filled due to the introduction of new technologies or processes. (Note: if I can help with this, please let me know, as we support many manufacturers with engineers etc)
  2. Training and Development: Provide necessary training programs to upskill or reskill your employees to meet the demands of the re-shored operations.
  3. Change Management: Implement effective change management strategies to help your employees adapt to new roles, processes, and technologies. (Note: Organizational Change Management is a forté of ours)

Enterprise Applications and Technologies:

  1. Technology Assessment: Identify the technological requirements for your re-shoring strategy, such as ERP systems, automation tools, and data analytics platforms. (Note: this is exactly what we do!)
  2. Integration Plan: Develop a plan for seamlessly integrating new enterprise applications and technologies into your existing operations, ensuring minimal disruption. (Note: we deploy a Digital Transformation Roadmap over the years to come)
  3. Testing and Piloting: Conduct thorough testing and pilot programs to validate the effectiveness of new technologies before full-scale implementation. (Note; I love a good MVP to double-check the business model & ROI)
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Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing Practices and Automation:

I hate to keep butting in, but process mapping, industry specific best practices for onshoring or nearshoring is what we do:

  1. Value Stream Mapping: Map your current processes and identify areas for improvement to achieve leaner and more efficient operations.
  2. Process Automation: Integrate automation solutions to streamline production processes, reduce waste, and enhance productivity.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Implement a culture of continuous improvement, encouraging employees to identify and address inefficiencies in real-time.

Negotiating with Local Suppliers:

  1. Supplier Assessment: Identify local suppliers who can meet your quality, cost, and quantity requirements.
  2. Partnership Development: Establish strong relationships with local suppliers based on mutual trust and collaboration. Develop a “One Team” approach. We’re all in this together to build a strong and agile ecosystem to the benefit of the customer and therefore your long-term business.
  3. Negotiation Strategy: Develop a negotiation strategy that focuses on win-win outcomes, addressing both your company’s needs and the suppliers’ capabilities.
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implementation methodology

Implementation and Monitoring:

  1. Phased Implementation: Roll out re-shoring initiatives in phases to manage risks and assess the effectiveness of each step.
  2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): What gets measured, gets done! Define measurable KPIs to track progress and success in areas such as cost savings, quality improvements, lead time reductions, and employee satisfaction.
  3. Regular Review: Continuously review and adapt your re-shoring strategy based on performance data and feedback from employees, customers, and suppliers.


  1. Internal Communication: Keep your employees informed about the re-shoring strategy, its benefits, and how it aligns with the company’s overall goals – it’s all part of Change Management (organizational)
  2. External Communication: Communicate transparently with customers, suppliers, and stakeholders about the changes and improvements resulting from re-shoring.

Risk Management:

  1. Identify Risks: Identify potential risks associated with re-shoring, such as supply chain disruptions, technology integration challenges, or workforce resistance.
  2. Risk Mitigation Plan: Develop strategies to mitigate identified risks and establish contingency plans to address unexpected issues.

In following these steps and tailoring them to your specific industry and organizational context, you can successfully introduce re-shoring strategies and overcome the challenges related to workforce adjustments, new technologies, lean practices, automation, and supplier negotiations.

Remember that re-shoring is a complex process that requires careful planning, execution, and adaptability to ensure long-term success.

But, remember innovation and most importantly execution is how our great nation was built!

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Leveraging Technology and Innovation

Leveraging Technology and Innovation

Technology plays a pivotal role in facilitating the re-shoring of manufacturing operations. It empowers companies to address the challenges and complexities associated with bringing production back home.

Here are some ways technology contributes to the re-shoring process:

Advanced Manufacturing Technologies:

Re-shoring often involves the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies, such as automation, robotics, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and digital manufacturing and operations platforms.

These technologies improve efficiency, reduce labor costs, and enhance production capabilities.

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The Digital Twin
  1. The Digital Twin and Process/Product Simulation: Digital twin technology allows you to create virtual replicas of your manufacturing processes, enabling simulations and optimizations before physical implementation. We can “spin this up” within days/weeks and help design and fine-tune your production processes for maximum efficiency and quality.
  2. IoT and Connectivity: The Internet of Things (IoT) enables smart manufacturing by connecting machines, sensors, and devices across the production floor. Real-time data collection and analysis improve visibility into operations, leading to better decision-making and reduced downtime.
  3. Supply Chain Visibility: Technology solutions like blockchain and supply chain management software enhance transparency and traceability in supply chains. This is crucial for managing complex global supply networks and ensuring compliance with regulations.
  4. Collaborative Tools: Digital collaboration tools facilitate communication and collaboration between teams across different geographical locations. This is particularly important when coordinating between headquarters and newly re-shored manufacturing facilities. This is what I call your Digital Transformation hub, your Single-Source-of-Truth and Command Center. It’s the intersection of your enterprise, where we bring everyone together to produce/manufacture the dream.
  5. Data Analytics and Predictive Maintenance: Data analytics and machine learning help optimize production processes and predict maintenance needs, reducing downtime and improving overall efficiency.
  6. Quality Control and Assurance: Technologies like machine vision systems and AI-powered quality control algorithms enhance product quality by identifying defects and inconsistencies early in the manufacturing process.
  7. Flexible Manufacturing: Technology-driven flexible manufacturing systems allow the fast becoming essential agility and quick reconfiguration of production lines to accommodate changing product requirements, helping companies adapt to evolving customer demands. For me, this is the “Waze” of Manufacturing – agile Advance Planning & Scheduling.
  8. Sustainability Solutions: Re-shoring with a focus on sustainability can benefit from technology-driven solutions to reduce waste, energy consumption, and environmental impact. This includes implementing energy-efficient machinery and monitoring systems.
  9. E-commerce and Customer Engagement: Technology enables companies to connect directly with customers through e-commerce platforms, gather insights, and tailor offerings to local preferences, supporting a customer-centric re-shoring approach.
  10. Remote Monitoring and Management: Real-time monitoring and remote management solutions allow companies to oversee and control production operations from a distance, facilitating oversight of newly re-shored facilities. It’s your Command Center making the difference and delivering your ROI.
  11. Workforce Training and Development: Technology-based training and interactive tools and simulations help onboard and upskill employees in new manufacturing processes, reducing the learning curve during the re-shoring transition.
  12. Cybersecurity Measures: As manufacturing operations become more digital, cybersecurity becomes crucial. Technology helps implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect intellectual property, sensitive data, and operational systems.

Overall, technology accelerates the re-shoring process by enabling efficient, adaptable, and data-driven manufacturing operations.

It helps you overcome challenges related to production, quality control, workforce training, collaboration, and more. By leveraging these technological advancements, you can effectively navigate the complexities of re-shoring and position yourself for long-term success in your home marketplace.

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Collaborating Across Departments

Collaborating Across Departments

Vice Presidents and COOs play a critical role in driving alignment and collaboration within your organization to ensure the success of a re-shoring initiative.

Re-shoring involves multiple departments and stakeholders, and effective leadership and communication are essential to navigate the complexities of this strategic transition. Here are insights on how you / the VP / the COO can foster alignment and collaboration:

  • Set Clear Objectives: Clearly define your objectives of the re-shoring initiative, including the reasons for re-shoring, the desired outcomes, and the timeline. Communicate these objectives throughout your organization to ensure everyone understands the goals.
  • Cross-Functional Team Formation: Establish a cross-functional team that includes representatives from manufacturing, supply chain, finance, R&D, quality control, and other relevant departments. This team should be responsible for planning, executing, and monitoring your re-shoring initiative.
  • Open Communication Channels: Maintain an open and transparent communication channel to ensure that information flows smoothly among your different teams and levels of the organization. Encourage team members to share their insights, concerns, and suggestions.
  • Regular Stakeholder Engagement: Engage with your key stakeholders, including senior management, employees, suppliers, and customers. Address their questions and concerns, and ensure that their perspectives are considered in the re-shoring strategy.
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation: Work with the team to identify potential risks and challenges associated with re-shoring. Develop mitigation strategies and contingency plans to address the risks and minimize their impact.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: Base decisions on data and analytics. Use data to assess the feasibility of re-shoring, evaluate costs, and forecast potential outcomes. This approach enhances credibility and informs strategic choices.
  • Collaborative Planning: Involve all your relevant departments in the planning process. Collaboratively design the production processes, supply chain configurations, and quality control measures for the re-shored operations.
  • Change Management: Recognize that re-shoring can involve significant changes in processes, technology, and workforce roles. Implement a robust change management plan to ensure smooth transitions and employee buy-in.
  • Alignment with Company Values: Ensure that the re-shoring initiative aligns with your company’s mission, values, and long-term strategy. This alignment helps in rallying employees behind the initiative.
  • Performance Metrics: Define your KPIs and metrics that will measure your success. Regularly track and review these metrics to gauge progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • Training and Skill Development: Identify the skills required for your re-shoring operations and provide training to employees as needed. This will ensure that your workforce is well-prepared to handle the new manufacturing processes.
  • Supplier Collaboration: Work closely with your suppliers to align their capabilities with the re-shoring strategy. Collaborate on supply chain optimization, quality control standards, and timelines.
  • Continuous Improvement: Establish a culture of continuous improvement. Regularly review the re-shoring processes, identify bottlenecks, and implement refinements to optimize operations.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate milestones and achievements throughout the re-shoring journey. This boosts morale, reinforces teamwork, and maintains enthusiasm.
  • Adaptability: Be prepared to adapt the re-shoring strategy based on changing market conditions, customer preferences, and emerging technologies.

By taking a holistic and collaborative approach, you can lead your organization through a successful re-shoring initiative. Effective alignment and collaboration foster a sense of shared ownership, create a smoother transition, and position your company for improved competitiveness in your home market.

It’ll be my pleasure to assist in your journey