Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Companies Work to Burnish their Image as American Manufacturers

The economics of production have shifted ever so slightly in favor of U.S. manufacturing and a growing number of companies are touting their domestic manufacturing credentials.

It made headlines when Apple announced plans to make a product in the U.S., but considering the scale of their manufacturing effort, this nibble seems more symbolic than anything else…

One of my favorite “made in USA” ad campaigns was Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign. Fellow Michigan-based company Carhartt has now teamed up with Chrysler to promote “Imported from Detroit” clothing. Several years ago, Carhartt launched a “Made in USA” line (designed in Michigan, but made at factories in Kentucky and Tennessee) for shoppers who were frustrated with the growing imported content in Carhartt offerings. (Check out the "Imported from Detroit" video on the Carhartt site).

Carhartt was not the first company to feel the wrath of consumers when globalization “realities” ran up against customer brand loyalty based in part on the brand’s “made in USA” credentials. Think Craftsman, whose gradual shift away from US-made hand tools has fueled a mini-storm on the Internet.

New Balance, which has been somewhat of a hero among the “Buy American” crowd as the one remaining large-scale producer of US-made running shoes, has recently expanded to 18 the number of styles that are made at its U.S. factories. Their website uses prominent logos to indicate which styles are “made in USA” (which they define as 70 percent or greater U.S. content) or “assembled in USA” (if less than 70 percent). New Balance also has launched a new ad campaign, “America is for the Makers” that emphasizes the company’s 75-year tradition of New England manufacturing.

A recent investment article from Charles Schwab & Co. listed companies that reportedly are shifting some additional manufacturing to the U.S., in what is often called “insourcing” or “re-shoring." As the article notes, however, increases in exports include exports of energy sources, like U.S. coal, and shale oil and natural gas (including production by the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”)—but that’s a topic for another day.