Onshoring has been a trend in electronics manufacturing in the west for some time. A common perception is that labour costs are still high in Europe, and that a high level of automation is the key to being competitive. We are all influenced by images that often accompany TV reports into the national manufacturing sector, which so often depict impressively robotised equipment executing pre-programmed tasks with relentless efficiency.
The ultimate in automation is lights-out manufacturing, which conjures an attractive vision of a future requiring zero human intervention and giving freedom to manage the gritty business of making things from a more pleasant location – like a cafe or golf course! Of course, investing in the right automation is crucial to remaining competitive. But it’s a fact that building electronics requires a huge amount of human input both before and after the high-speed surface-mount lines have played their part. Actually, this is true in any manufacturing location worldwide, whether labour costs are high or otherwise.