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In the last couple of decades, the valve manufacturing industry was focused on identifying low-cost manufacturing destinations as ‘Outsourcing’ had huge pricing benefits. Despite the pricing benefits, low quality and late delivery were serious concerns to the manufacturers and end users. Has the situation changed in recent years? Are valve manufacturers more focused on increasing their competency internally than earlier? Is the concept of ‘Insourcing’ or ‘Reshoring’ of valve manufacturing considered a solution to the issues faced by outsourcing of valve manufacturing?Let us understand how the valve industry operates before analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing of the valve manufacturing process. In low-cost countries, there are two types of companies: US/European companies having their operation in developing countries as well as local companies based only out of the low-cost countries. In the former, activities such as designing, research and development, and testing happen in US/Europe, whereas the labor-intensive production processes such as manufacturing of rough castings for valves and valve parts take place in the low-cost manufacturing regions. This enables the manufacturers to maintain the quality and also have the advantage of low pricing. These companies manufacture products (special or customized valves) or parts (flanges, fittings, etc.) which are large in size or critical in applications. The second set of manufacturers produce standard products (standard valves, flanges, and fittings) in larger volumes and export to developed countries such as the US and Europe through various market channels. Demands for the low-cost manufacturers are usually generated either by direct buyers (process equipment manufacturers and engineering services companies) or indirect buyers (agents and distributors).Quality has been a serious concern for purchasers ever since the concept of outsourcing was introduced in valve manufacturing. Huge investments are made by valve manufacturers to improve the production and process. Along with investments, many standards are created and implemented to ensure quality and to increase repeatability of products manufactured in low-cost manufacturing countries. Specifications and guidelines are provided for vendor qualification, weld procedures, inspection and testing, and compliance certificates.Valve manufacturers are still debating on quality concerns and pricing benefits of ‘Outsourcing’ of valve manufacturing. Valve experts and manufacturers consider automation to reduce the labor cost difference and increase the scale of operations. They are trying to analyze the cost of outsourcing and resourcing to understand the benefits of each process completely. Although the concept of outsourcing may not end, it may reduce as valve manufacturers are trying to understand the total cost of ownership of outsourcing and insourcing by considering all the cost and risk factors involved in the process. This definitely increases the investments in automation of their facilities or helps to identify alliances within their supply or customer base. Technology, skill, capacity, and time are factors required by valve manufacturers to increase their competency and to insource their manufacturing.
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