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C.H. Robinson – Thinking about nearshoring? Here’s what you need to consider for your supply chain post-pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted how easily global supply chains can be impacted by economic, environmental, and geopolitical forces. Now, many in the automotive industry are looking to strengthen their supply chain resiliency and better manage costs by moving their manufacturing operations closer to customers.

 

As automakers consider nearshoring opportunities, it’s important to keep in mind: the automotive supply chain looks very different than it did pre-pandemic, and there are key strategies to consider when nearshoring and trying to rebound production while saving costs. Pre-pandemic logistics strategies are no longer as effective as the industry faces pressure to recoup increased operating costs from the past three years.

 

Key Changes

 

Throughout the pandemic, the automotive industry saw significant inventory and shipping challenges. Among top automakers, it wasn’t uncommon to exceed logistics budgets by up to 200% due to high fuel costs, shipping rates and dwell times. Now, automakers are faced with economic uncertainty and are conflicted about keeping excess inventory when demand is so uncertain.

 

To remove some of this global volatility from their supply chains, many manufacturers have nearshored to Mexico. In fact, throughout 2022, Mexico experienced 12% FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) growth across 13 states due to nearshoring efforts, the largest growth in the last 7 years. And the highest jumps were in states where automotive manufacturing is historically strong, including Monterrey which produces more than 20% of all auto parts in Mexico. The National Association of Auto Transport in Mexico expects to grow 20% in the next 4 years due to nearshoring efforts.

 

However, nearshoring doesn’t automatically protect from supply chain disruption and increased costs. Every region comes with unique shipping factors. Here are some things automakers must consider when assessing if nearshoring is right for their operations:

 

The shipping environment of your new location. Every market comes with its own unique challenges for shippers to consider. When determining a location to shift operations, it’s important to understand the new factors that would impact the supply chain.

 

For example, physical security is a bigger concern in some regions than others. To mitigate the risk of losing cargo due to theft, diversifying routes and border crossing locations can prevent repeat theft and delayed shipments. Without completing a full assessment of the shipping infrastructure, things like this can be missed and leave shipping operations less efficient or more vulnerable to risks than before the move.

 

Customs and tariffs changes. Customs can make any international move complex, but it’s important to understand the costs and trade procedures that come with shipping from a new location. Moving from China to Mexico, for instance, can come with tax incentives but only if certain requirements are met.

 

To reap the rewards of USMCA, the free trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the U.S., companies need to meet a burden of proof that manufacturing processes are making significant product changes before they are shipped across the border. And because trade policy can change often, it’s important to establish a trusted, knowledgeable partner for customs and compliance before making the move to ensure cost savings is possible.

 

Cost. It’s easy to assume that moving manufacturing operations closer to a product’s final destination would lower shipping costs, but that isn’t always the case. Because of the complex global shipping environment and the state of supply chain infrastructure in any country, ground transportation can be equally as expensive as shipping containers across the ocean. This spring, the cost of a truck from Mexico to the U.S. may be more expensive than a container shipped from China to the same location.

 

One of the most significant cost savings opportunities from nearshoring can be from decreased demurrage and detention charges. During significant dwell times at the ports, automakers spend thousands of dollars from delays in ocean shipping, often up to 30-40 days. If that same shipment was arriving via truck from Mexico, it may only take 3-5 days and mitigate the risk of delay. However, the cost of storage also needs to be considered since transit times have been shortened significantly.

 

Assessing the cost variations that come with relocating operations is important to understand the overall impact of nearshoring. For many automakers, reduced risk of delay is worth a lot of money. Understanding the overall cost of nearshoring requires a holistic look at the entire supply chain so the decision can be made with all variables considered.

 

Flexibility is still crucial

 

The past few years have shown automakers the heightened importance of having a supply chain that can adapt to changing situations.

 

Regardless of manufacturing location, no one can predict the future, and to remain resilient, automotive supply chains need to be built with flexibility in mind. For example, making sure all carriers aren’t based in just one region can help protect shippers against congestion and geopolitical risks in that part of the world. They can also leverage varying modes and routes to ensure they can keep freight moving amidst disruption.

 

Working with a supply chain partner can help with understanding the varying risks, costs, and opportunities that come with nearshoring. As automakers consider nearshoring, it’s important to remember that flexibility is necessary for every resilient supply chain and changing locations alone can’t protect them from potential disruptions.

 

Mike Short is President, Global Forwarding at C.H. Robinson and Lynda Andersen is Director, Automotive North America at C.H. Robinson.

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