Is it Time for Onshoring?

Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD



November is the month of Guy Fawkes, war remembrance and normally electronica. In the US this year, it is Thanksgiving and elections. I’m writing this a week before the election, and as you read this, the result will already be known. The ramifications from the US election will be felt around the world, both directly for the power industry and in our daily lives.

There is a huge difference in the platforms of the two candidates, but one thing the both have in common is the desire to decrease the country’s reliance on China, especially for manufacturing. This is a mood that is also becoming more prevalent across Europe. The outsourcing of manufacturing to China has been happening for decades, and during that time, China has become the manufacturing base of the world. It has a huge state-of-the-art manufacturing industry and a highly-efficient supply chain. If manufacturing is to be brought back from China, then countries will have their work cut out to put the necessary infrastructure and supply chain in place. Either that, or western consumers will have to get used to paying much more for goods.

Ironically, most of the pressure to bring manufacturing jobs back is driven by a desire for higher quality jobs, while the best chance that western countries have to manufacture at home and still remain competitive in a global economy is by being as efficient as possible, and that will include replacing those jobs with robots. Another huge aspect in the drive for efficiency is reducing operational expenditure by cutting power usage and making the production process as reliable as possible. Our special report this month looks at manufacturing, and more specifically the robotics, drives and controls that form the heart of industry.

The first article in the special report is from ABB and it looks at how digital switchgear can offer a better long term investment for manufacturers. A huge benefit of digital switchgear is its potential to provide information about the processes in the plant that ensures that machines are working properly and helping spot anomalies earlier in the process. Our second article is from Mouser. It too looks at maximising the productivity of industrial plants, but from a different angle. Many workplaces are short on space, and equipment needs to be smaller to maximise the space available. These machines may be smaller, but they still have to cope with the same environmental problems as larger equipment. The article looks at a solution to power those small machines, without impacting on their robustness. Our final special report article comes from Analog Devices. This article is a bit different from the others. It looks at control of robotics and the demands placed on the communication systems that provide control commands to the robot’s servos.

As well as the special report, we have a wide variety of articles and discussions inside to provide some material of interest to everyone. I hope you enjoy.

Best Regards,

Ally Winning,

European Editor, PSD