Scott’s Miracle-Gro has a plant in Temecula, CA that produces seed spreaders. Management is deciding if it should keep the Temecula plant open or if it should outsource manufacturing either to mainland China or offshore China. Before Miracle-Gro became Scott’s Miracle-Gro, they outsourced to contract manufacturers for production. Scotts manufactured their spreaders since it acquired Republic Tool and Manufacturing. Scott’s Miracle-Gro manufacturing facilities have a plant in Temecula, CA. The Temecula plant improved productivity, efficiencies, and also different innovations including a new assembly process for their hand spreader.
Also, they invented an in-mold labeling process that produced a label that did not fade, scratch, or peel off. Despite what the Temecula plant had done, management was looking to see if they could save money by outsourcing the full operation. The plant manager wanted to keep the Temecula plant open and felt that if the production was moved to China that there would be quality problems along with high shipping costs, and extra administrative costs could erase any economic benefit from outsourcing to China. Another alternative to outsourcing to China was building a Scotts-owned facility plant in China.
This option would help keep the proprietary processes in the hands of Scott’s Miracle-G ro. However, the disadvantages associated with moving to China stated above (poorer quality, high shipping costs), would still be a negative. The problem is what should Scott’s Miracle-Gro do. We did a NPV analysis focusing on the 4 Cost drivers for the Temecula plants which are raw materials, labor costs, electricity costs, and overhead costs and compared them to what it would cost in China. The NPV for the Temecula plant is $94,826,678 (screenshot of spreadsheet in appendix).
However, important the potential cost savings (in labor and energy costs) might be, it is also necessary to look at other factors. Some of the other factors would include the production quality, control over their own products, proprietary rights, longer lead times, having to carry safety stock, and their image to stakeholders and employees. Also, management needs to look at problems that might arise if China’s government changes laws, problems in cases of ports closing, and the training and productivity of new employees. Next, we will analyze the 4 cost drivers more in depth.
Cost Drivers There were four main cost drivers examined in this case: Raw Materials, Labor, Electricity (Energy), and Overhead. Scott’s must evaluate these cost drivers to determine whether outsourcing the manufacturing of their spreader will improve the company’s profitability and/or operational efficiency. Although, in some instances the decision to outsource can be very clear based on the numbers alone, there are also other not so quantitative risks such as loss of control, loss of inventory flexibility, and loss of one’s competitive advantage. Raw Materials
Plastic resin is the main component in the manufacturing of the spreader bucket, and the costs are comparable whether it’s purchased in China or in the US. However, the Temecula plant did invest in a re-grind process which saves them an additional $100,000 per year. However, this savings has little impact on the overall operating expenses at the Temecula plant. Labor Costs Labor rates are one of the main driving forces in whether or not a company should make or buy a product or service. For s Scotts labor costs associated with manufacturing the spreader in the US is initially $6M vs. 350K in China, see attached appendix , which is 17X more costly to produce the spreader at the Temecula plant. Even if the plant can improve their operational efficiency in the out years and reduce labor costs it would still be difficult to compete with China during this 10 year period. Electricity (Energy) Costs Energy costs are still cheaper in China, by more than half the cost. However, the majority of energy which China uses is from coal plants and not environmentally friendly, more and more companies and US consumers are becoming sensitive to the issue of reducing one’s carbon footprint.
Outsourcing based on energy costs is typically not the sole driver. However, if energy cost between China and the US become more competitive, such as in the case of the US using natural gas (i. e. fracking) to supply electricity to their plants the argument to bring manufacturing back to the US may become more compelling. Overhead The cost of overhead or Governance at the Temecula Plant is approximately $5M annually vs. China $500K (excluding $1M in year one for start-up costs) these are costs associated with Scott’s management to monitor, track and visit China to oversee operations. Sensitivity Analysis
Due to the uncertainty in the future economic trends, there are three uncertain factors playing important roles in the decision making. They are labor cost in China, electricity price in China and exchange rate between Yuan and Dollars. The NPV model is sensitive to the how those three factors change over the next decade. A careful analysis on the sensitivity is necessary in order to make sound business decisions. 1. Labor Cost According to the case we know that labor costs in china may have a big increase in the next 10 years, from 40% totally to 10% annual increase to even 40% annual increase.
If the labor cost will increase 40% in the next 10 years, that means it’ll increase 3. 4% annually, so the NPV of costs will be $73,751,039. If the labor cost will increase 10% annually in the next 10 years, the NPV of costs will be $74,998,037. If the labor cost will increase 40% annually in the next 10 years, the NPV of costs will be $91,424,835. We can see from previous analysis, NPV of Temecula is $94,826,678. So if labor cost will increase differently, we’ll get different NVP. But no matter how big increase it’ll be, our decision will still be outsourcing to china. 2. Electricity Price The current electricity cost in China is 0. 65USD per kilo-watt hour. It is estimated to increase by 20% over the next 10 years. Assuming the electricity cost increase at a certain rate each year, we get the annual increase rate 1. 8% (1. 8% =(1+20%)^(1/10)-1). This estimated rate is probably lower than the actually annual increase because of increasing pressure on environmental records and fuel costs. Thus how much does electricity cost may increase is important and the NPV model output is sensitive to it. However, since the electricity cost in China is so low when converted into USDs, the growth rate doesn’t influence the NPV that much.
For example, experimenting with 5% annual growth, since 5% is significantly larger than 1. 8%, we get NPV = 74,968,548 USDs, whereas 74,376,968 USDs with 1. 8% annual growth. The difference would be 591,580 USDs, which isn’t that significant when putting it in a bigger scope. Also, 5% is an unlikely assumption given the fact that the Chinese is heavily investing in infrastructure to generate more energy. Thus, we think NPV model is not very sensitive to the electricity price. 3. Exchange Rate According to the case, we know that the market expectation was the yuan would appreciate by 20% in next five years.
Since this datum is just an expectation, which means it is inaccurate and uncertain, so that we need to analyze the sensitivity of it. We assume that the annual increase in value of Yuan is 3. 6%, we can get the NPV of costs is $74,376,968. However, if we decrease the rate, say 2%, the NPV of costs turns to be $69,099,021, which means the cost decreases; on the other hand, if we change the rate to 6%, the NPV of costs increases to $81,500,203. So we can conclude that the lower the annual increase in value of Yuan, the lower the NPV of costs. Conclusion
As we stated in the beginning we feel Scotts Miracle Gro should outsource the manufacturing of their to spreaders to China, this is based on the data and sensitivity analysis the group conducted. In addition, one of the questions that we had to examine was whether or not the technology to have “in-mold labeling” was a competitive advantage, and should it be a considered a core capability. Although, Scotts Miracle Gro manufactures spreaders, the brand name is about the quality of seed and fertilizers for the do-it-yourself lawn and garden consumer, and not the spreader.
The consumers primarily purchases those products which enhance the look of the garden and lawn, selling spreaders which can disburse their product is ancillary, Scotts wants consumers to buy their seed and fertilizers every season (repeat customer) where as the purchase of a spreader is a one-time purchase every 10 years or more. Therefore, if Scotts can outsource the production of approximately 3 million spreaders to China at a significant cost savings then the company should do so. Cost savings realized should be re-invested into research and development so Scott’s can maintain their competitive edge is this home and garden market.