Please wait while the search results are loading...

Outsourcing & Offshoring Business Trends Analysis, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

¹ Video Tip
For our brief video introduction to the Outsourcing and Offshoring industry, see
Outsourcing will be an approximately $524.4 billion global industry in 2015, with significant emphasis on three broad areas: 1) logistics, sourcing and distribution services; 2) information technology services, including the creation of software and the management of computer centers; and 3) business process outsourcing (BPO) areas such as call centers, financial transaction processing and human resources management.
Offshoring, as opposed to outsourcing, covers such a wide variety of nations, products and practices that it is difficult to put a number on the size of the market. A significant share of offshoring revenue is created by contract manufacturing of electronics, laptop computers, tablet computers, cellular telephones and items such as iPods. Another major sector in offshoring is contract manufacturing of shoes, apparel and accessories. Contract electronics manufacturing was estimated at $381 billion for 2014 by analysts at IHS. These analysts estimate that contract electronics manufacturing revenues were in decline from 2010 through 2014. This market has changed dramatically over the past few years, as consumers more and more tend to use their smartphones as multipurpose devices, such as cameras, game players and music players.
Offshore cost savings have become less advantageous, as wages and operating costs have been rising rapidly in the business and manufacturing centers of China and India. Leading offshore services providers, such as IT consulting giant Wipro, have been opening offices and making acquisitions in America and Europe—the locales of some of their leading customers—as these international firms become more global and mature in nature.
Products manufactured offshore for corporations that are headquartered in the U.S., Canada, Japan and other developed nations are very often intended for sale in offshore markets—a clear indication of globalization at work. For example, Apple’s extremely popular smartphones are manufactured by offshore contract electronics firms in Asia. While Apple’s products are sold predominantly in North America and Europe, a growing portion of their sales are in Asia itself, where the products are made. There are definite advantages to conducting manufacturing close to the rapidly growing business and consumer markets of Asia.
In order to consider the “outsourcing” and “offshoring” industry, it is best to define these terms up front, since the words are often used in conjunction and are sometimes used incorrectly:
Outsourcing can be defined as the hiring of an outside company to perform a task that would otherwise be performed internally by a company, organization or government agency—generally with the goal of lowering costs and/or streamlining workflow. Outsourcing contracts are often several years in length. Companies that hire outsourced service providers often do so because they prefer to focus on their core strengths while sending more routine tasks outside for others to perform. Other companies replace existing employees with outsourced services in hopes of lowering total costs.
Typical outsourced services include the operation of human resources departments, telephone call centers, distribution centers, research needs, computer services, software design and the design and/or engineering of components or end-products. For example, in addition to selling products such as books via its massive online store, Amazon also offers outsourced services. It provides warehousing and shipping services to businesses, large and small, that want to rely on Amazon for handling and shipping their merchandise to end users. Amazon also provides outsourced computer cloud services to firms that do not want to own and operate their own computer servers.
Offshoring refers to the tendency among many firms to send both knowledge-based and manufacturing work to third-party firms in other nations. Often, the intent is to take advantage of lower wages and operating costs in such nations as China, India, Mexico, Hungary, the Philippines and Romania. The choice of a nation for offshore work may be influenced by factors such as the language and education of the local workforce or the quality of transportation systems and other local infrastructure. For example, China and India are graduating high numbers of technicians, engineers and scientists from their universities—thus enabling these nations to attract massive engineering, research and development contracts.
In addition, some nations are noted for large numbers of workers skilled in the English language, such as the Philippines and India. In many cases, offshoring utilizes less-skilled labor working for low wages in plants that manufacture such items as shoes, apparel and generic computer components. In other cases, offshore manufacturing contracts go to firms in nations that have developed very advanced technology and industrial bases with highly-skilled and educated workers. For example, final manufacturing of laptop computers and other electronics is frequently offshored to very high quality firms in Taiwan and South Korea. In China, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. has more than 1 million employees who do contract electronics manufacturing.
Captive offshoring is a term used to describe a company-owned offshore operation. For example, IBM and Microsoft each own and operate significant captive research and development centers in China and elsewhere. The goals of captive offshoring include greater company control through direct ownership, along with lower operating costs and the ability to utilize highly educated local workforces.
Insourcing refers to situations where an outsourced services provider moves into, and sets up shop in, a client company’s facility. For example, it is common for major companies to sign agreements with IBM Global Services, HP and other outsourcing firms whereby these companies take over and operate a client’s internal computer department. Here’s a non-technology insourcing example: ARAMARK Corporation builds and operates snack bars, employee cafeterias and executive dining rooms within a client company’s facilities.
The Future of Outsourcing and Offshoring:  China, India and similar mature offshore work centers will remain moderate-cost providers of services and manufacturing for the foreseeable future. At the same time, as their economies grow, their business structures and middle classes will grow, and they will offer lucrative markets for intellectual property, goods and services sold by firms based in the U.S., Europe, Japan and elsewhere. In some cases, such goods will be imported. In others, they will be created locally at facilities owned by foreign firms. (For example, Kraft has significant manufacturing plants and thousands of employees within China, where it makes processed food products that have been adapted to suit the needs of Chinese consumers.) Meanwhile, developing nations face immense challenges, including the need to build infrastructure such as dependable electricity networks, roads and highways; extend their education systems; control pollution; enhance access to basic health care services; and provide greater opportunities to residents in rural and remote areas.
Many Chinese cities are experiencing significant difficulties with pollution and road traffic. The most popular Indian business centers, such as Bangalore and Gurgaon, are experiencing daunting shortages of infrastructure of all types, including electricity, while competition for workers is driving wages higher and higher. Despite the recent construction of new highways in India, traffic delays and inefficiencies are an immense burden. The offshoring boom does not touch all residents in India or China, despite impressive growth in the middle classes. Income inequality is a significant problem. For example, the Asian Development Bank estimated, in 2012, that 1.7 billion people in Asia and the Pacific region lived on $2 U.S. (on a PPP or purchasing power adjusted basis) daily or less, a vast number of them earning small amounts from low-tech agriculture. Clearly, there is room for substantial investment in education, transportation and development of rural industries.
China, since its far-reaching business and economic reforms were launched in 1978, has been a bigger beneficiary of foreign investment than has India. This is one reason why China’s economic growth has been so impressive. China’s exports grew ten-fold to $1 trillion annually in the years from 1978 through 2006, later soaring to $4.3 trillion by 2014. At the same time, personal income has made great strides in China. World Bank figures show that more than 600 million people in China have risen above poverty since 1981. By 2014, Chinese firms in many cities were facing worker shortages, while strikes, government regulations and worker unrest had forced employers to boost wages significantly.
The biggest advances in developing nations are yet to come. Hundreds of millions of people will enter the middle class in emerging economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America between now and 2030, rising above poverty for the first time.
One offshoring trend that has continued to be strong is the hiring of thousands of high-quality engineers and researchers to work in the offshore offices (particularly in India and China) of major tech firms. IBM first opened a research lab in India in 1998. By 2010, IBM’s headcount in India had grown to more than 80,000, and by 2012, it reached 112,000. As of mid-2015, IBM also had major research centers in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Fully developed nations such as the U.S. have been shifting to knowledge-based economies for decades, as automation takes over domestic factory floors (displacing factory workers) and much of the rest of manufacturing shifts overseas. The challenge for developed nations such as the U.S. and Japan is to maintain their leads in such areas as intellectual property, investment in R&D and higher education. There is fierce competition among nations to foster advanced education, develop well-trained and motivated workforces, boost productivity and create high incentives for entrepreneurship and investment. Nations that succeed in this regard will invent the new technologies, services, consumer goods and business processes that can be sold to businesses and consumers in other nations. Offshoring and outsourcing will continue to play a pivotal role in the fields of research, manufacturing and business services.

A Representative List of Organizations that Have Used our Research and Products:


I’m amazed at how much information is available and the various ways to access it. This will be a major resource for our serious job seekers.

Career Services, Penn State University

Plunkett Research Online provides a great ‘one stop shop’ for us to quickly come up to speed on major industries. It provides us with an overall analysis of the market, key statistics, and overviews of the major players in the industry in an online service that is fast, easy to navigate, and reliable.

Wendy Stotts, Manager, Carlson Companies

I really appreciate the depth you were able to get to so quickly (for our project). The team has looked through the material and are very happy with the data you pulled together.

Hilton Worldwide, Marketing Manager

We are especially trying to push Plunkett since all of our students have to do so much industry research and your interface is so easy to use.

Library Services, St. John’s College

We are especially trying to push Plunkett’s since all of our students have to do so much industry research and your interface is so easy to use.

Gary White, Business Materials Selector, Penn State University

Your tool is very comprehensive and immensely useful. The vertical marketing tool is very helpful, for it assists us in that venue, as well as targeting customers’ competition for new sales…The comprehensive material is absolutely fabulous. I am very impressed, I have to say!

Tammy Dalton, National Account Manager, MCI

The more I get into the database, the happier I am that we’ll have it–REALLY happy!!! Between the quality and affordability of your product, its appeal to and value for our users, and the inestimably ethical and loyalty-guaranteeing conduct of your business, I will always have more than sufficient praises to sing for Plunkett Research.

Michael Oppenheim, Collections & Reference Services, UCLA

Plunkett Research Online is an excellent resource…the database contains a wealth of useful data on sectors and companies, which is easy to search and well presented. Help and advice on how to conduct, export and save searches is available at all stages.

Penny Crossland, Editor, VIP Magazine
Real Time Web Analytics