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Are you interested in reshoring your electronics manufacture but need to keep manufacturing costs in check?

Recently we have seen several companies move their electronics manufacture back to the UK. As we covered in our previous article, some products lend themselves to UK manufacture. But some techniques that are often applied abroad do not work in the UK due to labour cost.

One example is the good-old soldered wire. In China, for example, it is quite common to solder a flexible wire directly to a PCB and is usually carried out by hand. Manual operations like this are obviously possible in the UK but are often not cost effective. Adding a simple wire to PCB connector could reduce the assembly cost because the connector is machine assembled, rather than hand assembled, and the reduction in labour time offsets the additional parts cost

In “low-cost” countries, the Bill of Materials (BoM) is scrutinised during manufacture cost-down and, where possible, is cost reduced. This is often achieved by removing parts such as wire to board connectors and replacing them with direct soldered connections. For UK manufacture, a different approach must be taken.

One method that Cubik has used successfully is to add separate, costed lines to the BoM for machine time and labour time (often called touch time), per process step. By organising the BoM by cost and reducing the most expensive lines we are forced to review the manual processes which will likely lead to a reduction in touch-time. Adding connectors into the BoM can then be considered based on cost.

In addition, a design iteration focussed on optimising the product design for UK manufacture should not be ruled out. Design fees can be expensive, and you may also need some additional compliance testing, but this cost could be offset against the unit price benefit. There may also be an opportunity to fix any other issues at the same time.

So, to reduce costs in the UK:

  • Include machine time and touch time in the BoM so that this is considered during cost-down.
  • Consider your supply chain. Can you get a lower part cost from a distributor and benefit from their buying power?
  • Work with your manufacture partner. Can they see ways to reduce production costs?
  • Consider a design update to optimise for UK manufacture.

Whilst there are sometimes benefits to sending electronic products abroad to be manufactured, evolving methodologies in the UK, together with the key advantages of keeping your product close to home, means that UK manufacture is a viable alternative.