According to data published by the United Nations Statistics Division, by 2019 China accounted for 28.7 percent of global manufacturing — more than 10% ahead of the U.S. Manufacturing products in the states comes with a set of challenges, but it also offers benefits for consumers and the U.S. economy.
Especially after shipping challenges elevated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current freight shortage, decreasing lead times is a top concern for manufacturers.
“Our product manufacturing and fulfillment schedule is not dependent on overseas shipment and the economic and political winds that affect manufacturing that depend on imports, therefore our fulfillment and delivery to our customers is more reliable,” says an ACCOR Technology spokesperson. “Being a U.S. manufacturer gives us the needed flexibility and confidence to make service to our customers our number one priority.”
Sloan Valve Co. agrees, pointing out that timely renovations call for even more emphasis on short lead times. “Time is of the essence with so many commercial facilities quickly working to upgrade their restrooms to touch-free operation due to the increased awareness around health and wellness in a post-COVID environment. That makes speed to market more important than ever before as the public begins to reenter commercial restrooms this summer. Sloan’s emphasis on U.S. manufacturing helps to meet these demands, without having to wait for products to be delivered from overseas.”
In addition to the convenience factor of products being located in the states, superior customer service is a huge benefit to customers.
“Manufacturing in the United States provides our customers with expertise in engineering design and support, along with localized customer service and technical support,” says a Bemis spokesperson.
Charlotte Pipe also points to technical support as a benefit of U.S. manufactured products. “Should a customer need technical support or have a problem with our products, we are just a phone call — or even a short trip – away to get it resolved. In contrast, try reaching the manufacturer of imported pipe or fittings in China to get a product problem resolved can be challenging.”
Distributors have been facing major supply chain disruption, both from the pandemic and other factors. Alan Jones, director product management, global residential/HVAC Americas at Xylem, notes the company was well-positioned during COVID-19 to help its distributors. “When there is a crisis we are well positioned for the most rapid response from our domestic locations. With local design and development resources as well, we can ensure that our portfolio is evolving to meet local needs and is well integrated with local manufacturing.”
U.S. manufacturers also point out the ability to strictly oversee the inspection process is beneficial to end-users.
Manufacturing here in the U.S. ensures our products meet the high-quality manufacturing standards we appreciate here in America. When you buy American made products, you know that they have met the rigorous inspections and use quality materials in the manufacturing process,” an Anaco-Husky spokesperson says. “When buying import couplings, you run the risk that they were not manufactured to the standard or meet the material requirements which is risky when dealing with a drain, waste and vent plumbing system.”
Sioux Chief, manufactured out of Kansas City, Missouri, adds that inventory management can be easier for American-made product lines. “We not only control how the products are made, but we also have complete vision of each and every part that goes out the door, insuring the highest quality in the industry for our customers. Our Production Scheduling constantly reacts to sales spikes of any given product, eliminating long lead times and limiting backorders to our customers.”
When speaking on the challenges U.S. manufacturing presents, lack of labor is the top-concern across the board.
Eric Wicker, senior director of manufacturing, Viega notes the company is focusing efforts on collaborating with local community colleges. “The skilled workforce is probably the biggest challenge right now — finding the right people with the right skillset to fill the positions needed for future growth,” he says. “We have put a lot of effort into an onsite apprenticeship program (at our plant in McPherson, Kansas) in partnership with a local community college to develop the talent we need for the future.”
InSinkErator says that increased demand is putting extra strain on the lack of labor. “Because of the increased use of food waste disposers, and the increased number of kitchen remodels, we’ve seen record-level demand. Getting enough employees hired into our factory to build our disposers, and to do so safely, has been an ongoing struggle. We’re offering a variety of incentives to grow our factory team to meet that demand.”
Prier adds that addressing the labor shortage is a continuous effort. “Finding talent who embrace our core values. Continuous outreach and communications to attract the best associates we desire for the various roles we need to fill. Ongoing industry regulations. We are involved with trade organizations and we stay abreast of what is on the horizon.”
AB&I Foundry, manufactured on California, points out that the state’s regulations present more challenges than some others. “The greatest challenge as a California manufacturer is NIMBY, not in my backyard. It’s tough to be a manufacturer here in California where there are significant challenges with ever-changing regulations with the local air district, state and federal agencies. However, AB&I has been resilient and continues to innovate and adapt.”
Fisher says that focusing on company culture to promote employee retention is key. “Getting good labor is a challenge. Fortunately, our average tenure at our plant is over 15 years. New employees who come to work for us immediately feel like they are a part of the Fisher Family and thus retention is easier.”
Chicago Faucets adds another challenge to the table — sourcing raw materials. “Every U.S.-based manufacturer is faced with the challenge of sourcing raw materials and even some components that are not available domestically. Chicago Faucets is no exception, but we’ve minimized the impact to our customers by anticipating demand for our products and making sure we have sufficient supplies of key components on hand.
Marvin Rubac, president of Fort Worth, Texas-based distributor Mark's Plumbing Parts, says the country needs a strong manufacturing sector. "Looking back over the past year when shortages of PPE occurred, we could all see the need to have strong U.S. manufacturing when the rest of the world seemed to be suddenly more distant than ever. PPE was very difficult to get and what was coming from off shore was not always quality."
Rubac adds that installers tend to have a high degree of confidence in domestically made products. "We work with many different vertical markets that believe they are doing their part for the U.S. economy when they buy USA made products," he says. "Many skilled tradespeople have a high degree of confidence in domestically made products. They know that when they install the product they are not going to have call backs, saving themselves time and money. By offering USA made products we are providing what our customers are demanding."
Viega ProPress for copper includes more fitting configurations approved for more applications than any other brand, Viega points out. Connections can be made wet or dry in 7 seconds or less in sizes ranging from 1/2" to 4". By using press technology instead of soldering, there is no flame or fire watch necessary.
Cast iron soil piping has been used in storm and sanitary drain, waste and vent (DWV) plumbing systems for hundreds of years. Cast iron is a highly reliable product with many significant qualities making it ideas for commercial construction. A cast iron piping system is also a safe building material as it is non-combustible, has excellent crush and deflection resistance, provides superior sound suppression in waste water applications and it is a green solution as it is manufactured using 100% post-consumer scrap metal which reduces demand on area landfills, the company notes.
Charlotte Pipe's newest offering is Edge HP Iron pipe and fittings — a specially coated cast iron designed for aggressive DWV applications. While Charlotte Pipe’s standard cast iron systems easily meet the needs of the vast majority of DWV installations, in certain aggressive environments, such as hospitals, casinos, commercial kitchens or soda fountains, the piping system may need enhanced protection. Charlotte Pipe Edge HP Iron is specifically designed for these aggressive applications and installations.
The Woodford model 67 series commercial wall hydrants won’t freeze and drain automatically, even with a hose attached, the company notes. They are high-flow and maintenance-free and have fewer parts than other wall hydrants, plus are easily repaired, Woodford adds. They feature an ASSE 1052-approved, field-testable double-check backflow preventer and vacuum breaker.
Chicago Faucet's latest Made-in-USA faucet is the EVR Series, a programmable touchless faucet that’s a real breakthrough for public restrooms. EVR installs in minutes, and distributors love the wide range of options for power and mixing that are available in the compact EVR control box, the company notes.
The ICEBREAKER Freeze-Proof Wall Hydrant is one of Arrowhead Brass' newest products made in the U.S. With its patented vent, the ICEBREAKER prevents burst copper tubes inside the wall by releasing high pressure outside of the wall. If a hose is left connected, water freezing up into the hydrant will burst the vent and prevent damage inside the wall. The ICEBREAKER and many other products by Arrowhead Brass are proudly built in the U.S.
Building upon the highly sought-after TrueTemp hot and cold outdoor faucet, PRIER launched the CoolTemp (P-114). With a distinguishable design, the CoolTemp offers an ergonomic, rubber-grip handle for easy operation. It is available in an oil-rubbed bronze or satin nickel finish to match other home decor, the company notes. The hose bib is freeze proof, with a self-draining, anti-siphon vacuum breaker and backflow check valve. As with most products offered by PRIER, the new CoolTemp is ASSE 1019-C approved.
Sioux Chief preformed copper fittings are proudly made in Peculiar, Missouri. Sioux Chief has been manufacturing innovative products like preformed copper for rough plumbing contractors since 1957. Made from 100% pure copper tube, preformed copper fittings reduce the number of joints needed, helping to reduce labor and potential leak points.
Bemis offers a comprehensive listing of toilet seats with DuraGuard Antimicrobial and STA-TITE targeted for commercial applications. DuraGuard is an antimicrobial property that is built into the toilet seat to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Some seats in this line feature a cover, which reduces the amount of water droplets, known as plume, expelled during flushing. The STA-TITE Seat Fastening System anchors the toilet seat to the bowl, eliminating the need for retightening after installation, Bemis notes.
InSinkerator’s Pro 750 garbage disposal features SoundSeal technology for advanced noise reduction and stage MultiGrind Technology that demolishes tougher food scraps like bones and fibrous fruits and vegetables, the company notes. The Pro 750 is also equipped with alloy stainless steel grind components, 3/4 HP Dura-Drive induction motor and a LeakGuard liner for years of dependable service, InSinkErator adds.
Fisher’s Ultra spray valve is suitable for removing food residue from food service items before cleaning them in commercial dishwashing or ware washing equipment. With its built-in spray handle clip and 1.15-gpm fan spray outlet, the brass valve includes Fisher’s Ultra Spray PLUS Valve Guaranteed for one million cycles, Fisher says.
The SOLIS BT Flushometer is engineered in Sloan’s West Newton, Massachusetts, facility and assembly in Franklin Park, Illinois. The exposed sensor flushometer is manufactured for both water closets and urinals. In addition to its touch-free benefits, certain models qualify for LEED V4 water efficiency credit and are WaterSense listed. Bluetooth connectivity and advanced technology make managing usage and tracking easy, Sloan notes.
The Series e-1510 base mounted end suction pumps feature stainless steel impellers and an expanded efficiency island for efficient pumping across the widest range of operational conditions reducing electricity consumption and improving overall system performance. The combination of Technologic variable speed drives with the e-1510 end suction pumps creates a highly energy efficient pump and drive package. The ITSC offers a sensorless option utilizing the latest generation hardware platform with advanced pumping software and proven algorithms. The IT options provides the reliability of a wired sensor solution.
The ACCOR 4ALL BOX is a unique, patented icemaker and washing machine box offering that incorporates PUSHON Technology along with a state-of-the-art non-corrosive polymer construction, ACCOR notes. The unique feature of the 4ALL BOX is that the pipe-to-box connection is sealed to prevent any in-wall leaks. In addition, the valve in the box has a swivel design that prevents overtightening. This product, which includes our patented water hammer arrester, carries a 10-year warranty and is made in the U.S.A.