On-shoring, Robotics & Industry 4.0
For manufacturers across the globe 2019 proved to be a challenging year, fueled by uncertainty within the market.
In particular, the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China, where the imposition of tariffs has significantly impacted trade flows, in addition to the ambiguity surrounding the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, have weighed heavily on the manufacturing sector. While many issues surrounding these matters remain unresolved, the signing of a partial trade deal between the US and China, along with Britain officially exiting the EU, both of which occurred in January 2020, made for a positive start to 2020.
Then the global Covid-19 pandemic hit and we saw the unprecedent peacetime restrictions that governments imposed in order to reduce the expected death toll.
The wartime analogy is apt for the manufacturing sector. Where in the wartime, manufacturing facilities re-purposed to produce armaments, now they are re-purposing to support healthcare providers. For example, Seaward, a previous client, has been supporting the new NHS Nightingale Hospitals with testing equipment for ventilators, hospital beds and related medical pumping devices.
Covid-19 is bringing new opportunities for some manufacturers.
Also like wartime, Covid-19 is pushing the pace of evolution in industry, such as the implementation of robotics to enable production within the strictures of social distancing guidelines, while also providing enhance productivity.
The trend for increased efficiency we already see as a force for consolidation in the US precision machining sector is likely to be widespread across multiple industry sectors and to accelerate. We expect to see a trend to on-shing or near-shoring for supply chains whose disruption reflected the global over-reliance on Chinese based manufacturing. We expect that suppliers will try to limit the increased costs of local production by enhanced efficiencies through implementation of Industry 4.0. The costs of this may drive a wave of consolidation as large well capitalized buyers increase their market share.
We believe the enhanced rate of change and innovation brought about by Covid-19 is likely to see a wave of investment in automation and on-shoring.