Should you offshore electronics manufacturing and PCB assembly or find a UK specialist?

Should you offshore electronics manufacturing and PCB assembly or find a UK specialist?

When you’re developing a new product or expanding production, it’s reasonable to ask whether you should offshore your electronics manufacturing and seek out PCB assembly services abroad, or find a UK specialist to partner with.

Manufacturing is often cheaper when carried out in Asia, for example. But does the cost saving you see on paper make as much sense in the real world as it does in a spreadsheet? 

As a UK contract electronics manufacturer, we’re not exactly impartial, of course, but let’s stack up the pros and cons of offshoring your electronics and reshoring to a British manufacturer

The advantages of offshoring electronics manufacturing

As far as we can make out – and we know the market pretty intimately – there are two advantages to offshoring.

1. Lower cost. Production costs can be cheaper than here in the UK.

2. Higher production volume in some cases. Some larger factories on far-flung shores work very much on a high-volume, low-margin basis, allowing for more rapid production of larger quantities of assembled PCBs, for example.

Sounds pretty positive so far. And yet… Let’s take a look at the benefits of electronics manufacturing in the UK.

The advantages of electronics manufacturing in the UK

1. UK sterling transactions. When you buy British, there’s no currency conversion, currency fluctuation or fees to consider; regularly paying international fees adds layers of admin cost as well as value lost in currency exchange.

2. With a UK manufacturer, visiting the facilities should be straightforward to arrange and gives you two advantages – checking on working conditions for ethical reasons, and seeing for yourself the manufacturing process in action.

3. Relationship-building and enhanced communication. Working with companies abroad brings partial barriers to smoother ways of working. Differences in time zones can slow down communications or require out-of-hours input. Language differences can lead to multiple communications to achieve the same result with a good degree of confidence, while mistranslations and subtle nuances in English usage can lead to misunderstandings. The ease of picking up a phone to a UK supplier and the close proximity for meetings makes it easier to build closer relationships. Closer relationships tend to favour even better outcomes.

4. Greater flexibility with payments. Each business has its own requirements for receiving payment, of course, but it’s far more common when ordering from abroad to have to pay a significant portion of the bill in advance – and sometimes all of it.

5. Working with domestic manufacturers may mean more flexibility about being able to order smaller volumes.

6. A greater range of services. Again, this won’t be true of every UK electronics manufacturer, but it’s easier to identify a partner with whom you can work from ideation and prototyping through to volume production of quality-tested assemblies.

7. More environmentally friendly production – from manufacture to shipping. It’s easier to be sure that waste during manufacturing is reduced here in the UK, with strict rules around disposal. The amount and type of packaging is very visible, there may be fewer, shorter movements in the supply chain, and the delivery of your final, assembled products is likely to have a reduced carbon footprint over a delivery of assembled products arriving in a container for onward distribution. Choosing a full-service PCB assembly specialist or electronics manufacturing company in the UK often means that warehousing and distribution can be handled as part of the same service – which is more economical as well as better for the planet.

8. Buying British-made – in terms of quality and smaller carbon footprint – can be a major selling point for your buyers.

9. The UK’s employment laws and regulations set a higher standard for workers than in some overseas territories. Besides which, it’s far easier to ascertain the working conditions for UK-based workers and to alert authorities to wrong-doing by UK companies.

With the best electronics manufacturers in the UK, we think you’ll find that reshoring offers far better value in terms of quality, service and sustainability, and that that’s the difference you’ll ultimately see on your bottom line.

For a bespoke quote on your PCB assembly, prototype production or a complete end-to-end contract manufacturing service, contact our team today.

See how we can help with your next PCB project

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