Make vs Buy:

5 Things Manufacturers Overlook When Deciding Between In-House Production and Outsourcing

Make or buy? This three-word phrase gives the illusion of a simple question with a simple answer. Any manufacturer who has had to make such a decision knows it’s anything but.

However, reaching the best answer is critical to survival and profit. In times of economic and supply chain disruptions that border on chaos, “improving manufacturing performance can be one of the quickest paths to increasing gross margin and releasing cash”1

Unfortunately, outdated assumptions continue to prevent manufacturers from making optimal choices. Rate your “make or buy I.Q.” with the five questions below.

  1. Make vs. buy options should be considered immediately after finalizing a product’s design
  2. In-house manufacturing is always cheaper
  3. Make or buy decisions boil down to whichever has the lower price tag
  4. Outsourcing means giving up control
  5. Outsourcing elevates the risk of damaging your company’s reputation

How did you score? Read on to find out.

true false

Make vs. buy options should be considered immediately after finalizing a product’s design false

Make or buy is not a single decision, but a series of choices that begin at the highest levels of strategic planning. Already, approximately three out of four companies see use outsourcing to drive business value. PWC’s Strategy& research on the subject warns: “Companies that take the myopic route will find that they’re continually implementing make-or-buy decisions that are reactive, or at best a short-term fix, and adopting operational solutions that exist apart from strategic planning or insight.”

In other words, no time is too soon to start discussing make or buy options. There is only too late.


In-house manufacturing is always cheaper false

When it comes to the buy option, your supplier provides a neat breakdown of how much you can expect to pay. Calculating the “make” price is much tougher and nearly always underestimated.

Designing, developing, manufacturing, testing… every step requires technology, facilities, expertise, and coordination. You bear the cost of anything that must be procured, whether it’s hiring people, setting up facilities, storing inventory or buying equipment.

Some manufacturers still forget to add existing resources to the total cost. Machines must be maintained, and salaries must be paid. Assigning work to your team to a new project may mean taking them off another.

Finally, there are the hidden costs which are notoriously difficult to calculate. How much are you really saving if the cheaper option subtracts from operational efficiency, product quality, timely delivery, security, compliance or any other factor that negatively affects sales?

Make or buy decisions boil down to whichever has the lowest price tag false

Naturally cost is a primary consideration, but far from the only one. As we have seen, the make or buy decision stretches beyond the operational into the strategic. As such, the list of objectives has evolved to meet broad organizational goals. A recent survey found that in addition to driving business value, driving a digital agenda ranks among the leading reasons companies consider outsourcing.


Source: 2021 Deloitte Global Shared Services and Outsourcing Survey

Outsourcing means giving up control false

How well would your company run with a single employee? Even if this individual were to have every set of skills, bank of procedural knowledge and qualifications required for each role in each department, there would not be enough hours in a day to cover everything your team does on a daily basis.

With the right contract manufacturing (CM) partner, outsourcing is little different from extending your in-house team. That gives you more control, not less. Not control over people – they are already able and driven to deliver – but over your options.

Outsourcing to an established and experienced CM gives you access to more ideas, technologies, methods, materials, machinery, and workers. Best of all, all these resources are scalable so you can adjust volume and timelines to meet your demands.

Now that is control.


Outsourcing elevates the risk of damaging your company’s reputation false

Or rather, this should never be the case. If it is, you are working with the wrong partner.  The right CM has their own reputation to uphold, and that in itself is heavily dependent on how much customers such as yourself trust them to:

  • Match or exceed expectations for product quality and reliability
  • Take all measures to maintain confidentiality and protect your intellectual property (IP)
  • Preserve your brand and reputation by adhering to environmentally and socially responsible practices

In short, with the right CM, outsourcing is no riskier than handing over work to your own team.

Don’t Settle for a Low Score

So, how did you do? If you got all the answers right: Congratulations! You have the I.Q. of a Make or Buy genius.

If you answered TRUE to any of the questions: Congratulations! You now possess better, more accurate information than you did before taking the test.

Make the most informed decision by truly understanding the value a CM partner brings to the table.

Bottom line: Make or Buy?

While the right answer will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from product to product, the ‘buy’ option is indisputably popular.  In the US, 68% of companies rely on third parties to handle parts of their services.

What is certain is that you can only make the best decision for your company when you have all the information…. And a CM you can trust.

Want to discuss your “buy” options? Contact Providence Enterprise today.

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About Providence Enterprise

Providence Enterprise is a Hong Kong medical device contract manufacturer of Class I and II medical devices with manufacturing in China & Vietnam. We specialize in electro-mechanical assemblies and high-volume disposables. We are FDA registered and ISO 13485, ISO 14971, ISO 14001, ISO 27001 certified. Our capabilities include fabricating tooling for silicone rubber and injection molded plastics, clean room injection molding, electronics, clean room assembly, and sterilization.