In my last column, we discussed how a shift in consumer behavior and the adoption of new technology are transforming the traditional supply chain. We learned that some manufacturers are making the complex move to cut out the middleman and ship their products direct to consumers (D2C) for increased profits and greater control over brand, price and customer data. Now, we will examine how one manufacturer steered a century-old business, grappling with economic woes, to success by betting big on reshoring, a “made-in-America” branding strategy, and a D2C business model.

Sherrill Manufacturing became the only flatware manufacturer in the U.S. when it purchased and restarted portions of the Oneida Ltd. flatware factory, founded in 1880 in Sherrill, NY. After a rocky start going head to head on price with cheap Chinese imports, Sherrill jumped on the reshoring wave and moved all of its manufacturing back to the U.S. from Mexico. With a plan to capitalize on the positive branding of “made-in-America,” Sherrill began selling its high quality flatware under the name Liberty Tabletop.

But that was only one part of the company’s strategy. Sherrill’s owners believed that the best way to compete with cheap imports was to adopt a D2C business model. The winning combination of American-made branding and cutting out the intermediaries allowed Sherrill to compete with offshore flatware giants. “We don’t have to give away 70 to 80 percent of our profit to others in the supply chain, and we can delight customers direct and give them a better product,” says Sherrill’s CEO Greg Owens.

Today Sherrill has tens of thousands of customers and 50 employees.

In recognition of the company’s success bringing manufacturing back to the United States, Sherrill received the 2019 National Metalworking Reshoring Award. Given by the Reshoring Initiative, the Precision Metalforming Association, the Association for Manufacturing Technology and the National Tooling and Machining Association, the award honors a company that has effectively reshored products, parts or tooling made primarily by metal forming, fabricating, casting, machining or additive manufacturing.

Sherrill was chosen as the winner because its success demonstrates that it is feasible to reshore completely lost product categories, including everyday products such as flatware. When Oneida ceased operations, all U.S. flatware production had been lost, primarily to Asia. When Sherrill took over the Oneida flatware factory, it wanted to offer flatware produced in a socially responsible way at a competitive price. To that end, they adopted a D2C business model, launched innovative products under the Liberty Tabletop brand, and are now growing consistently.

“We are very pleased that after many years of hard work our efforts to re-establish the flatware industry in the United States are finally paying off. This is a big win for our employees, who stuck with us through thick and thin, as well as for our customers who are those loyal folks who search for and insist on [products] made in America,” says Owens. “I was honored to accept this award for…the dedicated silversmiths at Sherrill, and in recognition of our customers, who have supported the comeback of flatware manufacturing in the USA.”

For manufacturers considering a shift to D2C sales, we suggest sourcing or manufacturing locally for faster delivery, quality assurance and customization. Use the Reshoring Initiative’s free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator to see if reshoring makes sense for your company.