Maybe Wal-Mart is serious about making things made in the USA.
Wal-Mart’s Request Moves Toothbrush Production to Michigan from China
KENTWOOD, MI — Those toothbrush heads you buy at Wal-Mart will now be American-made.
Ranir, the largest maker of store brand toothbrushes and oral care products, is shifting production in China to its Michigan headquarters at the request of the retail giant.
The company will now make an additional 400,000 power toothbrush heads a month in its Kentwood facility at 4701 E. Paris Ave SE.
Making the switch required Ranir to invest $3 million to add 7,500 square feet of new high-tech equipment. It is also hiring 19 employees, a stat that Wal-Mart is tracking.
Ranir’s efforts are helping the world’s biggest retailer meet a new long term goal.
“We committed to spending another $250 billion on products made in the United States over 10 years, and in the long run we think that can create 250,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States,” Wal-Mart executive Joe Quinn told MLive and The Grand Rapids Press.
Quinn, the senior director of public affairs and government relations for Walmart U.S., flew in from the retailer’s Bentonville, Ark. headquarters to visit Ranir on Tuesday, June 16, for an expansion ribbon-cutting ceremony at the West Michigan facility. The expansion celebration included a tour of the high-tech factory.
The new hires are significant for the company, said Ranir CEO Christine Henisee.
“It sounds like a small amount, but the more we see this, the more we secure the entire 500-plus site that it is here and not get tempted to say let’s move it to Mexico or China,” Henisee said.
Wal-Mart, which has been criticized for playing a role in driving manufacturing overseas to low-wage countries by demanding suppliers cut costs, is about two and half years into its ‘Made in the USA’ initiative.
Quinn said he couldn’t share the progress Walmart has made toward its goal either in spending or adding U.S. jobs.
While Quinn says Walmart is sincere in its goal to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. that doesn’t mean the retailer is willing to give up being a low-price leader in the retail sector.
Ranir won the contract because it was able to use new technology to meet Wal-Mart’s price and quality requirements for the products while simplifying the supply chain and the speed to market. The contract could lead to more direct jobs at Ranir as well as draw more suppliers to the area.
“The reality of Wal-Mart is that you walk through a Walmart and you see tens of thousands of items,” Quinn said. “Behind every single item you see there is a massive supply chain like this and there is inevitably a company like this that is thinking about what the electric toothbrush of the future should look like and what is the technology and how you can bring it back from Asia.”
As part of its push to bring off-shore manufacturing back to the U.S., Wal-Mart is highlighting the need for a trained workforce.
“Certainly in a state like Michigan that has a huge heritage of manufacturing, people understand that,” Quinn said.
Wal-Mart spends $2.9 billion annually on buying products from Michigan companies, said Quinn, sourcing Dun and Bradstreet, a business database.
Henisee, who has been invited by the retailer to speak at a summit in Bentonville next month about bringing manufacturing back from China, agrees that is a major issue. Finding engineers and candidates with technical training has been challenging, she said.
It is great to see good news coming from Wal-Mart who plays both sides of the fence. Let us not put Wal-Mart into the “saint” category just yet. We shall see what future plans Wal-Mart has before making any judgements. Thanks to the Alliance for American Manufacturing for pointing out this story.