Protecting supply lines with reshoring

3 mins read

Hope Miller, Group Business Support Manager at industrial services specialist, AIS Vanguard, discusses the considerations for reshoring manufacturing operations back to the UK

The global pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for all aspects of manufacturing; with sales suffering in some sectors, while others have been under pressure to keep up with demand and still more have adapted to remain viable in a changing world. Whatever their fortunes, all manufacturers have gained a new awareness of how vulnerable supply chains can be when the unexpected happens.

As we look forward to 2021, with the impacts of COVID-19 still causing disruption and uncertainty, UK manufacturers are also bracing themselves for the end of the Brexit transition period and the potential effects of a no deal Brexit.

With both foreseen and unforeseen events combining to create a unique set of circumstances that has significantly altered the manufacturing landscape, an increasing number of companies is responding with decisive changes aimed at giving them increased control, predictability and cost management. For many, that means reshoring production facilities to the UK, which involves meticulous operational planning and implementation, alongside a sound commercial strategy.

Leveraging Operational Benefits

Bringing a manufacturing operation back to the UK is a complex undertaking that requires a significant investment. If a company’s UK business does not have sufficient space available, premises will need to be found, along with staff and local suppliers.

Reshoring is not like setting up a manufacturing operation from scratch, however; existing machinery and equipment assets can be brought back to the UK from any location and installed to create a replica of the original overseas plant or reconfigured on a new floorplate to a revised layout. There may even be opportunities to combine the project with process improvements and a lean management strategy, or a rationalisation programme, building on the advantages of reshoring.

Early Engagement

At AIS Vanguard, we work with manufacturers from the very earliest stages of a reshoring project to help them plan their move around their commercial objectives and operational priorities. These may include maintaining production at their overseas plant for as long as possible to reduce exposure to drops in output, or could involve rationalising their process and their assets in response to reduced demand, perhaps generating cash flow by realising the value in redundant assets. By getting involved at this early stage, our team of experts can advise on the technical and logistical elements of operational and commercial planning to avoid unplanned downtime, costs and delays.

Early engagement with an industrial services partner is also important from a safety and viability perspective. A bespoke method statement and risk assessment need to be developed that consider all aspects of the project, including any demolition or ingress and egress arrangements at the overseas plant or the UK facility, along with decommissioning, transportation and installation. At AIS Vanguard, this forms part of our project management and CDM responsibility and is the basis for a critical path that establishes a clear schedule of project milestones and resourcing.

Detailed Planning

The method statement and risk assessment must consider the safe and phased disconnection and decommissioning of machinery, aligned to a lifting and transportation schedule that ensures the right lifting equipment is deployed, along with the right skills. Once the machinery has been removed from the overseas plant, it needs to be transported to the UK base, into storage awaiting disposal or to a new owner’s premises and this not only requires the right vehicles and personnel, but also the right paperwork in the local languages of all transit countries. There may also be local compliance considerations, so any reshoring project should be carried out with an industrial services partner that has international experience and resources.

Once the assets arrive at the UK site, the same diligent approach to planning, health and safety and operational continuity applies. Machinery must be offloaded safely, aligned to an installation schedule and an agreed layout. For a new manufacturing environment, this may mean preparing ingress and service connections in advance, for relocation of equipment into an existing operational facility, service diversions may be required to aid business continuity while machinery is installed and commissioned.

Joined-up Approach

Combining lifting and logistics, safety and mechanical and electrical services in a single contract within the responsibility of a single project manager is the most effective way to ensure a fully co-ordinated reshoring operation. In this way, effective communication and collaboration supports a reshoring programme that can respond quickly to any additional operational or risk factors.