How to design out your supply chain issues.

Supply chain issues? 3 ways to help by design.

Supply chain problems have been all over the news since Brexit and the pandemic. Challenges lurk everywhere but some of them can be mitigated through good design.

Delays

With lead times for tooling In China currently being about half of what they are here in the UK it is frequently tempting to get the tools made abroad. You might save six weeks getting to the first samples, but you might then lose way more than that. Those tool tweaks and improvements always take a bit longer thousands of miles apart no matter how good your communications are. Mostly you cannot beat sitting down face to face with the toolmaker here in the UK to get it sorted. When the tool is signed off you either have to move the tools or move the components they make. With all the logistical challenges we now have it may not be long before you lose more than the six weeks you initially saved and then some.

Cost

Another key factor for manufacturing outside the UK is the cost of labour. In China the labour cost is about 25 to 40% of what it is here, likewise in India. Material on the other hand tends to cost a similar amount no matter where you buy it so one way to reduce costs is to reduce the labour content by good design.

One of the best ways to reduce labour is to reduce the number of parts. Often this can be done at the same time as improving the product performance. And then of course there are all the options offered by smart tooling where components can be assembled as they are ejected from the tool, or even manufactured in an assembled state.

Environment

‘Going local’, whether it’s your neighbourhood farm shop or your business supply chain reduces the impact on the environment. With global shipping producing at 940 million tonnes of CO2 every year it’s not insignificant. Just because the ships are out in the middle of the ocean where we can’t see them doesn’t mean they are not having an impact.

Onshoring products is complex, and these are just a few of the issues, but a little good design can go a long way in helping smooth things out.