The calls for companies to explore reshoring keep getting louder, led largely by a new sense of nationalism in Europe that was on show during the recent European elections. Many voters are rejecting internationalism in favour of wanting to see more business done close to home.
There has also been a change in the cost of doing business in Europe. In fact, the FT reports that the UK is now the cheapest manufacturing location in all of Western Europe.
But in all the reports about reshoring becoming something of a trend, the focus is always on manufacturing, not the IT or IT service market. Intellectual services appear to be purchased from the best possible location and the talk of reshoring this year has not changed this.
The way IT services are purchased is certainly changing. The concept of an app store being taken from the consumer market and applied to enterprise systems is becoming a reality and cloud-based computing power on demand is becoming normal.
These differences in the way that IT projects are planned and delivered will ensure that customers continue buying from the best global location for their own needs. With most technology projects today the emphasis is on the required skills – if you can’t find them nearby then it’s only natural to look overseas and hi-tech services operate on a global platform.
So it is true that Panasonic is thinking about moving manufacturing back to Japan, and Otis moved their elevator production from Mexico back to the USA, but in IT development it looks like the future will remain global – bits and bytes can be delivered online unlike cars, DVD players, or elevators.
Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech that highlighted reshoring as a key objective of his government. In his speech Cameron said:
“In recent years there has been a practice of offshoring where companies move production facilities to low cost countries. We’ve all seen it. We all know it’s true. And it will continue.
But there is now an opportunity for the reverse: there is now an opportunity for some of those jobs to come back.”
Cameron focused mainly on the manufacturing sector. He cited examples such as the Horby model company bring production back from India to the UK and Raspberry Pi computers moving production to Wales.
What he said makes sense for these companies. By reducing the complexity in a manufacturing supply chain there is the opportunity for these companies to react faster to the market than if their products needed to be ordered many months before delivery.
Cameron went on to acknowledge that this is not a simple argument. He is not describing an ‘us’ v ‘them’ world:
“…I’m not saying there is a finite number of jobs in the world and that our success depends on some kind of tug of war to win them back at the expense of the East.”
But Cameron’s concept of reshoring is very focused on companies and processes that require a physical product delivery. He talked about call centre jobs moving closer to home, but the change in call centre strategy over the past decade has been well documented – people prefer to have their calls answered closer to home.
For many other professional services there is effectively now a global market. Graphic designers, advertising, accounting, and IT professionals are now operating within a global community of expertise and with instant delivery of products via the Internet there is no supply chain difficulty.
So it doesn’t seem like the UK government focus on reshoring will affect those companies or individuals supplying technology expertise. These services are usually sold based on the expertise required, not simply on a low price alone – allowing a global search for the best possible skills wherever they may be found.