Every so often, I come across an industry where the majority of manufacturers still assemble their products in the United States. It’s always a refreshing breath of fresh air. It also reaffirms what ASSEMBLY has been preaching for many years – despite reports to the contrary in the mainstream media, there’s still a tremendous amount of world-class manufacturing that occurs every day in the USA.
That fact was reaffirmed recently while I was working on an article for our June issue that focuses on the food service equipment industry. The majority of companies that make commercial dishwashers, fryers, ovens, refrigerators and other items operate domestic assembly plants.
For instance, consider Middleby Corp. (Elgin, IL), which is one of the largest players in the $20 billion food service equipment industry. It operates 11 domestic assembly plants. In addition to a large plant in Elgin, the company maintains operations in Bow, NH; Brea, CA; Buford, GA; Burlington, VT; Concord, NH; Fuquay-Varina, NC; Lodi, WI; Menominee, MI; Mundelein, IL; Smithville, TN; and Verdi, NV.
Dave Brewer, a former engineer who now serves as chief operating officer for Middleby’s commercial cooking group, proudly told me that the U.S. food service industry exports a large percentage of its annual output. In fact, when I recently visited one of the company’s plants that makes conveyorized pizza ovens, assemblers were building machines for use in Brazil, China, India, South Africa and other countries. Each oven sported a “Made in USA” sticker.
I have had similar all-American experiences in the past while working on articles on fire trucks (June 2000) and the door and window industry (June 2004).
For instance, the fire apparatus market is dominated by companies that still stamp “Made in USA” on their products, such as American LaFrance LLC (Ladson, SC); E-One Inc. (Ocala, FL), Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc. (Holden, LA); Pierce Manufacturing Inc. (Appleton, WI); Seagrave Fire Apparatus LLC (Clintonville, WI); Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. (Snyder, NE); Spartan Motors Inc. (Charlotte, MI); and Sutphen Corp. (Dublin, OH).
Unlike many other industries, offshore production and outsourcing has not had a major impact on door and window manufacturers either. Until the recession hit, more than 50 million residential windows were assembled in the United States every year.
Large fenestration firms such as Andersen Corp. (Bayport, MN); Atrium Co. (Dallas); Jeld-Wen Inc. (Klamath Falls, OR); and Pella Corp. (Pella, IA) only account for less than 25 percent of total sales in the highly fragmented door and window industry. Hundreds of smaller firms scattered around the country remain viable by focusing on targeted product segments, markets or regions.
Still Made in the USA
By Austin Weber
Austin has been senior editor for ASSEMBLY Magazine since September 1999. He has more than 21 years of b-to-b publishing experience and has written about a wide variety of manufacturing and engineering topics. Austin is a graduate of the University of Michigan.