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Research - 15.09.2023 - 14:00 

Swiss Manufacturing Survey: Swiss companies are returning home

The Swiss manufacturing industry is experiencing a trend of reshoring production facilities to Switzerland. These and other insights were provided by the 2023 Swiss Manufacturing Survey conducted by the Institute of Technology Management at the University of St. Gallen (ITEM-HSG). In addition to reshoring, Swiss companies have also taken other measures to enhance their resilience.
man welds at the factory

According to the current survey conducted between April and June 2023, more than 10% of internationally active Swiss companies have recently relocated a portion of their production facilities to Switzerland. Another 10% plan to do the same in the future. The reasons cited by surveyed companies for withdrawing from foreign locations primarily include inadequate delivery times, supply chain difficulties, poor product quality, and unexpectedly high labour and logistics costs at foreign sites. The trend of bringing production facilities back is evident among both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies, across various industries. "However, it can be observed that especially those companies returning to Switzerland are those whose customers place more value on innovation, product-related services, and flexibility, and are less price-sensitive," says Prof. Dr. Thomas Friedli, who is responsible for the study at ITEM-HSG. The reshoring companies among those surveyed also report that, compared to the time before reshoring, they now have higher production costs but are more sustainable and customer-oriented.

Concerns about cybercrime and resource shortages

In addition to higher labour costs in Switzerland, the affected companies also see the shortage of skilled workers, especially in manufacturing and assembly, as the most significant drawback of the Swiss production location. This perception aligns with the views of all surveyed companies. It is also noteworthy that energy costs have been mentioned as an increasingly relevant obstacle to production in Switzerland in recent years. All surveyed companies consider cybercrime and shortages of natural resources to be the biggest risks in the next ten years.

Increased inventory levels

In addition to reshoring, Swiss companies have implemented other measures to enhance resilience. The most commonly mentioned measure was expanding inventory levels (by over 60% of companies), followed by strengthening relationships with suppliers (nearly 60%) and promoting problem-solving skills among employees (about 45%).

Swiss production still has a future

The current study shows that manufacturing capacity in Switzerland is more likely to expand than decline, says Fabian Specht, a research assistant at ITEM-HSG who participated in the study. The Swiss exporting industry has managed to focus on customer segments where it is competitive with traditional Swiss strengths such as quality and reliability. However, the high wage levels in Switzerland are still partially offset by foreign locations with complementary capabilities.

379 companies surveyed

The Swiss Manufacturing Survey is a survey of the manufacturing sector in Switzerland conducted annually by ITEM-HSG since 2017. This year, 379 companies from 21 industries participated, including 305 SMEs and 74 large enterprises.

You can find the General Report of the Swiss Manufacturing Survey 2023 for download here.

Image: Adobe Stock / Konstantin Z

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