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Text: Joost Bijlsma
Picture: Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw
Reshoring tool could boost employment
Can research create jobs? Perhaps not directly, but researchers can certainly help companies decide where their business activities can be conducted most efficiently. This might mean bringing jobs back to the Netherlands, as the ‘Reshoring tool’ demonstrates.
‘Reshoring’ is a business management term which may be unfamiliar to some. It is defined as, ‘the practice of transferring a business operation that was moved overseas back to the country in which it was originally located.’ In other words, it is the opposite of ‘offshoring’. Recent years have seen mass offshoring of production and other operational processes to the low-wage countries. The tide has now turned as companies see opportunities for growth at home. Reshoring can be interesting for the private sector and certainly for policy-makers who are keen to reduce unemployment.
Many companies see the potential advantages of reshoring but remain hesitant. A research team led by Ton Wilthagen, professor of labor market studies, can help them make the decision. In association with the City of Tilburg and Midpoint Brabant, Wilthagen developed a Reshoring tool. It includes a set of 125 questions which are based on the outcomes of in-depth research. They relate to various aspects of the company’s operations and current situation. The tool will show whether reshoring is a cost-efficient and socially responsible option under the circumstances. Its development involved considerable input from private sector parties and the tool can be used by companies of all sizes.
Developing a tool for a broad target group is one thing, bringing the finished product to their attention is another. The team therefore asked business developer Maurice D’haene of Tilburg University to produce a business plan. He suggested that the tool could best be monetized by means of a licensing arrangement. The next step was to identify potential buyers. “Reshoring is a complex management decision which demands a significant investment in time and resources, usually with no immediate return. We therefore decided to offer the tool free of charge to companies, in combination with coaching.” D’haene then decided to approach public sector authorities to gauge interest in purchasing licenses. “There are departments devoted to promoting employment opportunity, and there are staff whose job it is to advise companies on the various aspects of reshoring business operations, such as permit applications and financing.”
D’haene was right: the public sector authorities were indeed interested in the Reshoring Tool. The City of Tilburg has been using it for some time, setting an example which has since been followed by Emmen, Dordrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam.
The Reshoring Tool has produced tangible results: six companies have decided to bring their business operations back to the Netherlands. They include the Smartwares Group, a Tilburg company which deals in household appliances, alarm systems, security cameras and smoke detectors. Last year, Smartwares reshored its repairs and refurbishment operations from Poland. This work is now performed by a team of eight new employees in Tilburg, recruited under a social reintegration program. Reshoring has cut Smartwares’ costs and the company now has greater control over quality and turnaround time.
Revenues reinvested in research
For Maurice D’haene, results like this make it all worthwhile. “My colleagues and I derive great satisfaction from seeing the practical results of our efforts.” Satisfaction aside, there is also a financial aspect. The licensing revenue is being reinvested in research to support new labor market tools. “We are not talking millions, but it’s a start!”
The Reshoring tool was developed by Tilburg University in association with Brabant Midpoint and Regio Hart van Brabant. The partners also have a joint website. Companies considering reshoring their activities can find further information at www.re-shoring.nl.