China Sourcing Alternatives: Thailand

Written by: Daniel Ben-Ezra, Pro QC Country Manager 

Many companies are looking for alternatives to China these days with regards to their supply chain. Most often the driver is costs. We’re seeing an increasing number of clients contemplating a shift, or already being in the process of implementing one towards other Asian nations with regards to their manufacturing base. This post is the first of a series discussing alternative options to China, and starts with Thailand.

Despite not being a low-cost production base, Thailand is seen as a viable option by many companies to set up a manufacturing unit or to source from. This stems from its reliable business environment, well-developed logistics infrastructure, vast natural resources and existing functional industrial base. The government of Thailand is also taking active steps towards improving the country’s position by pushing investments in technical equipment, allocation of SEZs along its borders, and developing cluster structures.

As share of GDP, major product categories produced in Thailand include food items, metal and construction materials, rubber, plastics, electrical appliances, cars and related components, jewelry and handicrafts. Coupled with its natural resources and easy connectivity with other ASEAN countries (notably Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam), Thailand makes a strong case for itself as alternative to China for specific product categories.

A downside to manufacturing in Thailand is that its labour pool is relatively expensive and unemployment stands at low rates. In order to tackle this, the Thai government has come up with the strategic decision of allocating 10 SEZs (Special Economic Zones) in the years coming. Planned along the borders, companies locating themselves within these zones would be able to enjoy low-cost, easily-commuting workers from areas such as Tak and Kanchanaburi (bordering Myanmar); Sa Kaeo and Trat (Cambodia), Mukadahan, Chiang Rai, Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom (Laos); and Songkhla and Narathiwat (Malaysa). Other incentives to attract FDI include infrastructure creation, fast processing of licensing and permission applications and creating one-stop service centres with customs checkpoints. Additional incentives are planned for companies active in specific sectors, which include tax reductions, low or zero import duties for parts & materials exported afterwards, low interest loans and more.

Similar to China’s Made in 2025 initiative, Thailand 4.0 is a key element in the government’s mid to long term strategic development plan. It aims to create the foundation for production of high value added products and services, and focuses extensively on technology and innovation. Despite hefty competition from China specifically in that regard, manufacturers are moving into Thailand also for risk diversification and access to the ASEAN market.

Pro QC’s team of quality engineers are based in Bangkok and surrounding areas, from where we are able to provide nationwide coverage. For those companies looking to explore possibilities in Thailand with regards to their supply chain, we offer a variety of solutions. The careful screening of vendors is naturally a highly critical process that will influence subsequent developments. Popular services in this regard include our Supplier Verification and Quality Process Audits. Sample reports can be downloaded here.

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