A few decades back, corporations started to talk about migrating costs to low-cost countries. These discussions were driven by the inherent advantages that locations in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America presented. Today, this is no longer merely a strategic notion but a well-established commercial trend. Efficient migration to low-cost countries has become a necessary, competitive trait.
One of the primary reasons companies decided to migrate to low-cost countries in the first place was precisely to mitigate risk, whether by reducing cost or by decreasing the probability of supply chain or operational disruption. Eventually, this strategy became so popular that companies understood that without implementing structural changes to reduce their cost base, they could perish. Consequently, as the trend evolved into a global practice, it became clear that ignoring low-cost country sourcing within the corporate agenda was a risk itself. Today, the global sourcing paradigm is complex, and in many cases, world class organizations are now even moving out from well-known countries in Asia to “nearshore” locations in Latin America.
However, as ironic as it may be, low-cost country sourcing is so intricate that it carries significant risks if improperly managed. This preamble sets the tone to our main discussion, as risks factors, whether known or strange, will present themselves regardless of the low-cost country strategy.
Common sense dictates that risk mitigation must begin with proactive and diligent research on risk potential before setting a comprehensive strategy for the migration process. Surprisingly enough, many corporations overlook this first step because foreign market research can be both expensive and time consuming. Regardless of how arduous the efforts are, some risk factors will not be identified easily or early enough. Thorough research and preparedness will always prevail as the first risk mitigation strategy. That said, many risks of low-cost country sourcing today are well-known, and best practices will facilitate managing risk from the initial stages of the migration process.
Typically, low-cost countries are surrounded by some level of both reputation and myth. Getting to know the real landscape is paramount when migrating costs. The first premise that comes to mind is that low-cost is associated with low quality. Generally speaking, this is not true, especially when we understand the strong industries in the markets we pursue. The likelihood is that where there’s expertise and a well-established industry, quality will not be an issue. What we need to determine instead is whether the location in scope has the adequate environment to sustain and develop the industry in the long-term. Beyond generating an understanding on local suppliers, labor rates, and raw materials, corporations must consider multiple areas of risk and audit the local market itself.
This is particularly important because any company migrating a manufacturing process or even a service should determine if the local market itself would be receptive to it and support regional demand. This step would mitigate risk by reducing costs and opening new markets, making the location an efficient link within the supply chain and a source of revenue.
However, quality is just one concern that needs to be considered when outsourcing to a local market. In Part II, we will explore some of the other risks that need to be addressed.