WSJ: Mississippi Ranges, Indiana Joints

By October 27, 2006General

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette continues reprinting the excellent Wall Street Journal series by Timothy Aeppel on U.S. manufacturing, profiling successful companies like:

Viking Range of Greenwood, Miss.

Finding it cheaper to produce in Mexico and beyond, many appliance makers have pulled the plug on U.S. factories in recent years. Then there’s Viking Range Corp.

Since 1989, Viking has opened three plants here, churning out its iconic gas ranges as well as a growing line of matching refrigerators, wine coolers and outdoor grills. A fourth Viking factory is set to open in February to make dishwashers.

Viking is one of those rare U.S. brands that have evolved into a cult object. Like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Martin guitars, these brands have an aura of exclusivity that entitles their producers to charge premium prices — which helps keep their relatively high-cost U.S. manufacturing base viable.

Orthopedics makers of Warsaw, Ind., including Zimmer Holdings and Deo Volente Orthopaedics.

When Don Running and his two partners decided to start up a company specializing in orthopedic plates and screws to mend broken wrists two years ago, it was a given that they would set up shop here.

Silicon Valley has computers. Detroit has cars. But in orthopedic devices, the undisputed world capital is Warsaw, a city of 12,500 with a silver-domed 19th-century courthouse and pickups angled into the curb on Main Street.

Three of the world’s five largest makers of artificial joints and related surgical tools have their headquarters here amid the lakes and fields of northeastern Indiana. The local industry has grown so much that it’s now a regional force, with orthopedics companies popping up in nearby farm towns and the suburbs of Fort Wayne, about 50 miles to the east.

Some of the best profiles of manufacturing companies we’ve seen in major newspapers. Good job, Mr. Aeppel.

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  • Richard Becker says:

    One reason that manufacturing is returning to the U.S. is quality control has become a problem. Another reason is loss of proprietary designs due to lack of control.

    Another major reason manufacturing has been going overseas is the lack of an educated and skilled direct labor workforce as existed prior to the mid ’60s in the U.S. A time when the focus of the schools was on creating an educated direct labor workforce,and exposing students to college and vocational options on an equal basis, and enable them to make their own choice of post-secondary option. As a result, students were academically prepared to acquire requisite skills and core machining knowledge applied in the direct labor workplace.

    Returning to the education concept of the past will result in an educated direct labor workforce and keep more manufacturing in the U.S.