Last night, I was watching the news and saw a segment on US job growth and domestic manufacturing that brought me back to a conversation I had earlier in the day. I was speaking with one of our new dealers about our hidden deck fasteners and the new line of DeckWise™ products. He made a comment about how impressed his customers were with the quality and the end results with their projects. Then he asked me what country did we do our manufacturing in and how did we manage quality control. I kind of paused for a minute then laughingly I told him “we farmed the work out to the country of Florida.” He got quiet for a second almost as if he was trying to think of a country named Florida; but then he asked “why the United States?”
I have to admit that it kind of baffled me why someone would ask why we make our products in the US; but his follow up clarified the reason he asked. You see throughout his 60 years of life, this dealer has personally seen the shift from U.S. manufacturing go to China and other parts of the world. He has also been in this industry for a while; so he is familiar with competing products that are made overseas. The reason he asked me why was actually his sarcastic way of being impressed. After we got past the why question the conversation shifted to more of an interrogation. He was really curious just how much of the manufacturing we did in house and how we could compete with products manufactured off shore.
It actually gave me a deep sense of pride in my company and the products we manufacture as I told him that we do it all in house. You can walk through our 70,000 square foot facility and see every aspect of our manufacturing process. We have a team of in house engineers, product development specialists, quality control directors and an army of the finest workers the country of Florida has to offer. Even though I have seen every aspect of the manufacturing process a thousand times it’s still amazing to walk through our plant and see it happen all under one roof.
As to the question of how do we compete, well the answer is simple. Prior to coming to Ipe Clip®, the company I worked for did 80% of its manufacturing overseas and I can tell you first hand, it was a rough battle. Sure the initial products that companies receive and initial production runs are of decent quality. However, the over all quality often declines as the overseas manufacturers move less experienced operators into the work. In addition to this you are often dealing with an unmotivated and poorly paid workforce. A workforce that will not be conducive to producing the best quality work. Then, as time passes, the initial savings begin to erode, in some cases to the point where the savings have morphed into additional costs! The delivery and quality issues add to your costs as well as a number of other factors. Also, as seen in China, wages will inevitably start to rise as the demand for labor increases and the labors demand for consumer items rises also. We even see workers in places like China striking for more money.
The bottom line is we, as a company, are trying to fix what has been broken in the US mind set for years. We not only want to manufacture U.S .made products, we also want to lead the manufacturing system back one fastener and one worker at a time.
The ideas for our products come from years of working knowledge in the construction industry and the close relationships we have with our dealers and distributors. With those ideas, the Ipe Clip® Team will continue to grow and manufacture products in the U.S. I personally look forward to having many more conversations as I did with this customer. Sure we are just one company out of the millions in the US; but hopefully our conviction and pride will serve as a role model for others.
National Sales Manager