Makers’ Row wants to make it easier for businesses to produce their goods in the United States. The New York City-based startup has launched an online database that seeks to provide “unparalleled access” to industry-specific factories and suppliers across the country. Its first offering, which targets apparel and accessory manufacturers, couldn’t have come at a better time. From automobiles to Apple computers, a “made in the U.S.A.” renaissance is sweeping the nation for the first time in decades. We caught up with founders Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez to learn about the impetus for their project, their plans to demystify domestic manufacturing, and the company’s mission to get long-shuttered assembly lines humming once more.
PREVIOUSLY ON ECOUTERRE: 14 American Designers Tell Us What “Made in the U.S.A.” Means to Them
Let’s talk about the financial liability of manufacturing outside the United States.
Manufacturing internationally has always been a gamble for American businesses. The production-price difference of goods overseas had been so profitable that businesses were willing to tolerate the inherent obstacles of shipping manufacturing overseas. Big businesses would hire contracted translators, foreign production inspectors, and even send employees overseas for months at a time during the production seasons to oversee the quality of goods made, but none of these cautionary practices could totally eliminate the fraud or production problems that occur.
China is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls today, compared with 36 percent in 2000.
Over the past 15 to 20 years, we’ve heard of reports of lead found in toys, but there are many more instances that trail back to cheap outsourced production as the main culprit. China is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls today, compared with 36 percent in 2000. These types of scenarios are a lose-lose for both American businesses and consumers.
Why are more companies turning towards domestic manufacturing?
Businesses are seeing the advantages of keeping manufacturing local and its effect on innovation. The demand for American-made is also increasing, and the cost of American manufacturing is becoming more competitive.
The cost of American manufacturing is becoming more competitive.
Our team either visits factories or speaks with factory owners every week to discuss how the service is affecting their business and client traffic. We’ve been seeing a sizable increase in the amount of clients bringing in new production orders that might have, at one point, been shipped overseas.
Factory owners say that the new clients value the faster turnaround time and quality control advantages of domestic manufacturing. These advantages to domestic manufacturing are compounded by the fact that the price of labor in China has been escalating dramatically within recent years.
Considering the issues with fit, size, color, or quality that frequently arise, does it really save money to manufacture outside the United States?
When the hidden costs are taken into account, [manufacturing overseas] may end up costing much more overall: shipping, import tax, excess inventory costs due to high minimums, and production errors. Labor isnt the only variable that should be taken into account when calculating costs. Not only does [producing domestically] end up saving money, it also reduces the cost. Plus, with lower minimums, businesses end up reducing the risk associated with creating a new product.
CHECKS AND CHECKLISTS
Do you have something in place that rates ethical and environmental compliance of each factory?
Within Makers’ Row you will be able to find organic and eco-friendly manufacturers, and we hope to promote more local manufacturing, where we can reduce the carbon footprint of many product-based businesses. Additionally, since the U.S. has higher environmental standards than many of the overseas manufacturing facilities, we’re happy to provide a resource where businesses can focus on finding American factories, contractors, and materials for their production.
We’ve incorporated a factory ratings and reviews section that will allow the design community to share their experiences.
In terms of the homework we do on each factory, we try to grow our community of factories at a steady pace that allows us to go through each profile to email, or call each factory to verify [that] they are who they say they are. We’ve also recently incorporated a factory ratings and reviews section that will allow the design community to share their experiences with factories they do business with.
We’ll be allowing factories to share more details and verification regarding their facilities in our database very soon.
What are some other industries you hope to tap into in the future?
Makers’ Row will definitely be expanding into new industries in the very near future but would rather not ruin the surprise for our users. We’re listening to our design community’s feedback in order to help us select the industries we include, so please vote and let us know what you would like to see next!
Will it ultimately depend on consumer choice when it comes to increasing more U.S. manufacturing?
Consumers and companies both share responsibility to the state of American manufacturing. The solution to outsourcing is in the united efforts of consumers demanding American-made goods and businesses choosing domestic manufacturing over international.
Today, we are seeing that both sides are taking part in re-shoring product manufacturing. We are creating Makers’ Row to support this manufacturing resurgence by providing more domestic production solutions for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.