Some big names in media have crossed our threshold in the past few weeks, and we are extremely glad they did. We have had visits and interviews with The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business News, Computer World as well as various industry publications.
All of this attention comes at a time when American manufacturing is experiencing a renaissance, and more consumers are choosing to buy products made in the United States. The Rodon Group and our sister company K’NEX Brands have invested in new technology and automation to ensure that we remain competitive on the world stage.
In the 1980’s much of the plastic injection molding being done in the U.S. began migrating to
China. Zhejiang province became the Chinese epicenter of the injection molding industry. The cost structure in China was very appealing to OEMs. Labor was cheap, tooling was less expensive and there were few product safety regulations.
Fast forward 30 years and the plastic injection molding business has changed a great deal. China’s labor costs have risen along with shipping costs. The lack of product safety regulations and intellectual property infringement forced some companies into bankruptcy. Communications issues and manufacturing delays finally spurred many American businesses into action. They started to look for a plastic injection molding resource closer to home and The Rodon Group fit the bill.
We knew we could compete. Here is an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal article written by James R. Hagerty that explains the transition:
“Over the past few years, K'NEX has brought most of the production of its plastic building toys back to its factory in Hatfield from subcontractors in China. To make that possible, the company has redesigned some of the toys and even handed over to kids a bit of the assembly formerly performed by hand in China.
"In the long term, it's much better for us to manufacture here," says Joel Glickman, chairman of K'NEX and its manufacturing affiliate, Rodon Group. The two companies have combined sales of more than $100 million, making them small players compared with American rivals Hasbro Inc. HAS +0.58% and Mattel Inc., MAT +0.73% neither of which has announced plans to shift production to the U.S."
By moving production closer to U.S. retailers, K'NEX said it can react faster to the fickle shifts in toy demand and deliver hot-selling items to stores faster. It also has greater control over quality and materials, often a crucial safety issue for toys. And as wages and transport costs rise in China, the advantages of producing there for the U.S. market are waning."
The article goes on to say, “K'NEX is getting kudos for its made-in-U.S.A. efforts. President Obama paid a visit to the Hatfield plant in November. Total employment at K'NEX and Rodon has grown to about 200 people from 150 four years ago. Wages at the nonunion plant range from about $12 an hour for the least-skilled machine operators to more than twice that for some of the toy designers, machine menders and makers of molds for plastic parts. K'NEX recently bought a $30,000 Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics Inc., Boston. For now, Baxter is performing simple packaging tasks. Eventually, Mr. Araten hopes that more sophisticated versions of the robot will help K'Nex move more assembly work back to the U.S.”
American manufacturing is indeed experiencing a renaissance. U.S. businesses are looking for stateside manufacturing partners. Consumers are looking for Made in America labels. Manufacturing companies are innovating and automating to maintain their competitive edge.
We may never see the return of glory days of American factories return, however, we will all profit from the re-emergence of our manufacturing economy. The more we make and sell, the better off all Americans are in the long run.