Why Bring Manufacturing Back to U.S.?

July 26, 2012
Ray Sjolseth, president of Seesmart Technologies, Inc. points to lead times as major reason.

Seemart Technologies, Inc., designs, engineers and manufactures LED lighting products. Recently the company announced a new line of exterior LED lighting products as an “American-made line” explaining that these products were insourced back to the U.S.

IndustryWeek talked to Sjolesth to find out the reasons behind the move.

Q: If you had to choose the number one reason for bringing this line back to the U.S. from China what would that be?

A:  Our biggest challenge is to make sure that we are able to deliver the products to the customers in the time frame that they need. Our distributors, dealers and end users don’t want to wait the six to eight weeks it takes to get the products from China to the U.S.  As the LED market is basically an impulse buy, products need to be available within a three to four week time range.

Q: Are there other concerns surrounding overseas production?

A: Due to the quicker turnaround time expected we are currently having to air freight the product which is a large expense. Also, as a small company we work on a  just-in-time basis and don’t have inventory waiting around. Everything we make we sell so it’s much easier to supply from a home base in this situation.

With production in the U.S. we have better control over the manufacturing process and are able to keep a closer eye on quality. With local vendors we can manage our cash flow better and grow our business more quickly by having the ability to scale up production at a faster pace to meet increased demand. 

Q: Is “Made in America” label helping your business?

A: Yes. One of the contracts we had specifically required that the product be “Made in America.” We need to be able to satisfy those customers.

Q: What percentage of your products are manufactured in the U.S.?

A: At this point it’s 20% but we hope to have it to 75% by the end of next year. We currently have a factory in California and plan to open one in Chicago later this year.

Q:  Any advice for other companies looking to bring production back to the U.S.?

A:  Companies should have a well thought out plan with meticulous documentation. This is especially true if you are relying on a contract manufacturer. You need to make sure you know everything that is happening within that contract manufacturer’s operation to make a smoother transition.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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