Made in the USA–Part 2

By May 7, 2006Taking It for Granted

Blog-Icon-MI.jpg A few days ago we blogged about the Washington Times series on manufacturing. After seeing this series in April, I wonder why other major dailies don’t see the value of this kind of article. The Wall Street Journal had a similar series a few years ago, so I guess we are lucky when once in a while the media giants rediscover manufacturing. Otherwise they seem to take it for granted.

Jeff Sparshoot writes in the second installment of his series about companies that are flexible and keeping their production in the United States. That makes it a contrast from his first article where he discussed a few industries like television manufacturing that have nearly gone offshore. So this second article is a welcome addition to the public’s understanding about manufacturing. No doubt nine out of ten people on the street think that his first article painted the whole picture of today’s manufacturing, and that’s a far cry from the truth.

So take a look at installment two. Read about Zippo lighters which is moving production back here from China. Yes, back here. That’s not a typo. And the lessons the machine tool industry learned about staying ahead of the curve. He interviews Wayne Fortun, president of Hutchinson Technology outside of Minneapolis that is the last US manufacturer of suspension assemblies for computer hard drives. I have a few of those assemblies on my desk from when I visited the plant a few years ago. High tech all the way, right on the prairie. Mr. Fortun says they have competed “through absolute relentless pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement”, including advanced engineering and automation. And get this: Hutchinson has added 1400 employees just in the past year!

Finally, I got this excellent comment from Peter Renton, who manufactures Lightning Labels: “Some manufacturing is thriving. I am the founder of a small label printer and we are growing at 50% a year right now. The old mass production type of manufacturing is what has suffered most in this country; but custom manufacturing, where every job produced is different, is in better shape. When every job is custom, you have to be in constant communication with your customers, and I think most people here are more comfortable dealing with a US company in these situations. Also, when fast production speed is necessary as in printing, US manufacturers have an advantage over their overseas competitors.” Ain’t the blog great?!