From Patriotic to Practical
American manufacturing is a difficult subject to write about. It's a complex issue with many moral and philosophical components, and these ethical issues are meaningful and important things for any American to consider. For business owners who work intimately with manufacturers however, it's also important to be knowledgable of the practical advantages that stateside production offers. Because while your moral responsibilities as an American purchaser—whatever you personally decide they may be—are very real and very important, there are also small, practical truths of American manufacturing that every buyer should be aware of.
LESS SPACE EQUALS FASTER PACE
Edward Sokolofski, president of Chicago-based American Greenwood, a supplier company that sells both American-made products and imports, explained that American manufacturing can offer a much faster turnaround on item production, especially on custom orders. "American-made, obviously we can do custom a lot faster," he said. Sokolofski noted that this time saved can be a difference of days and weeks stateside versus weeks and months overseas. Kippie Helzel, MAS, vice president, sales for Erie, Pennsylvania-based Custom Plastic Specialties/CPS, another supplier who provides both American and imported products, agreed that better turnaround times is a perk of U.S. manufacturing.
Though there's nothing necessarily unsafe about overseas manufacturing, stateside production can make quality control and monitoring product safety much easier. "While we are very careful and detailed in monitoring the product safety and material guidelines with our factories in China and insist on appropriate third-party testing, there is no doubt that we have a much better and tighter control over the material and manufacturing standards of our manufacturing division in the U.S.," explained Helzel. Jeff Cannon, vice president of Morris Magnets, Monroe, Wash., a company that sells American goods only, agreed and elaborated on the greater manufacturing control of American production. "I have more control over my vendors," said Cannon. "We test everything, and I also trust that the materials that are being made here have also been tested before they come to me," he added. Cannon explained that there is a value in knowing that materials are always coming from the same factories with the same chemical components, something he said is not always guaranteed overseas.
Cannon continued, stating that his ability to trust in Morris Magnet's product safety is something that transfers to the company's buyers, who then can also feel secure about what they're buying. "It's an advantage to us, especially with a lot of the large companies that we work with," he said. "They test our products, they know it's good every time, so they come back to us because they know they're not going to have a problem. They know they're not going to have an issue with us, versus some of the stuff they order overseas," he explained.
ON THE MATTER OF MONEY
One of the most common objections to USA-made products is the higher costs. While a higher price tag on American goods is sometimes the case, it's not an across-the-board truth. As Sokolofski pointed out, some American items are already equivalent in cost to their overseas counterparts. "It all depends on the labor content," he said. "If the labor content is less, and you figure in the cost of additional freight and so forth, depending on the product you can be just as cost-effective as you can overseas."
Aside from labor costs, other factors in China may be shifting that may further level the cost field. "One of the biggest differences between the costs of U.S. made versus import is the cost of molds, which are significantly lower overseas," said Helzel. "As pressure continues to grow on wages in China, and raw material costs, fuel, etc. continue to increase, the prices may start to be more comparable to the U.S., but that is still a ways off."
There are a great number of reasons to buy American, ranging from weighty political and moral concerns to the basic business practicalities of running a physical product-based business. Setting aside the bigger and more philosophically complex issues wrapped up in American manufacturing, there are certain hard benefits of the process worth knowing, advantages like fast turnaround times, increased quality control and the possibility of instilling added safety confidence in your buyers.