Just two very trying anti-trends remain. We’re one post away from fearlessly finishing our formidable burden, but the sour taste in our mouths still remains as we must continue to provide those factually-challenged futurists with counter-examples to the trends of their forerunners who saw this coming a decade ago. (Check the very early SI archives if you don’t believe me. Go ahead. Check. This post will still be here.) We want to abash them for their apathy, but we will leave their hard-earned humiliation for LOLCat, who wants to point out to these Rip van Winkles that when it comes to sleeping through life, No One Out-sleeps a Cat!
So why do these garbage hauling patrons of Quark keep pushing us trends from their flights of fantasy? Besides the fact that some of them obviously spent the best part of last decade hauling garbage, it’s probably because they look around, see the laggard organizations still struggling with the insourcing/outsourcing balance, and assume they can still sell last decade’s leftover snake oil in today’s marketplace. Thus, if most organizations are losing hand over fist in their outsourcing arrangements, maybe it’s time to pull them back, especially if
- energy, and thus transportation, costs are going higher and higher
and since oil, natural gas, and coal reserves ARE limited, and the dwindling supplies that remain are getting harder to extract, cost have nowhere to go but up, up, and away
- labour costs are rising in emerging and emergent markets
and the faster they emerge, the faster labour costs increase
- nearby markets have low transportation costs and high automation can
contain labour costs
since the shorter the distance, the less energy required to cover the distance; plus, intelligent automation decreases the amount of manual labour required to product any product
So what does this mean?
Understand the Total Cost of Outsourcing
Remember, it’s not just landed cost (unit cost and transportation cost), it’s also import/export costs, communication and remote management costs, on-site visits, liability costs, return costs, and other related costs. If many of these costs are rising, then outsourcing is probably not the right idea. If only one or two of these costs are rising then it depends how much, and how fast, and what the alternatives are.
Understand the True Opportunity in Near-sourcing / Insourcing
Near-sourcing will have many of the same costs, but transportation, remote management, and return costs will often be lower. Plus, if you pick/invest in a more advanced plant with newer automation technology, the higher labour costs are probably negated by the lower overhead costs, and the opportunity costs that are often lost waiting for delayed shipments, prototypes to land in your hands for testing, and emergency issue-resolution sessions (across time-zones 8 to 12 hours apart) are often minimized as well. However, a lack of automation can result in significantly higher labour costs, a lack of appropriate trade agreements with respect to the products being purchases can result in higher import or export fees, and energy costs could be higher as well (if renewables don’t enter the equation). The whole cost model has to be evaluated (and compared to the whole cost model associated with outsourcing).
And make a decision based upon true (future) costs
One should never make an insourcing, near-sourcing, or outsourcing decision on today’s costs – make it on expected costs over the next five years. Use the market data that you are collecting for market trend analysis and predictive analytics to figure out what the costs are going to be over the next five years and then choose the optimal production strategy based upon the amortized five-year cost. Consider the hard and soft costs associated with relocating production and/or services, making a change for a very short term gain will not result in any savings being realized. Do the math and make the right choice.