I sat down and talked to our President, Chuck Biehn, about our reshoring efforts and what he is seeing on a global scale. Chuck’s father started CB Manufacturing & Sales in 1965 and he has now been working at the family-owned company for 37 years.
“We are real believers in reshoring and have bet a lot of money on the future of manufacturing in the USA” ~ Chuck Biehn
Chuck, what is “reshoring”?
Millions of jobs have disappeared over the last couple of decades as American companies found that many of the items they manufacture could be made much less expensively in other countries, especially China. Today, a combination of higher costs in China and other low cost countries, combined with a desire to reduce delivery time and improve quality is allowing many products to be brought back and be manufactured again in the USA. This is typically called “reshoring” and is the opposite of “offshoring”.
Has CB been a big part of offshoring in the past?
Distribution of machine knives is something we know a lot about as CB Mfg was actually started as a machine knife reseller back in 1965, only getting into manufacturing our own knives in about 1971. We actually started importing knives in about 1972, before we even had a copier or telex machine, let alone a fax machine; imagine the pace of business when you had to mail letters back and forth—it took many months to complete a transaction! Although our manufactured products dominated our business, we quickly became experienced importers, setting up partnerships all over the world. Between myself and our staff, we have probably made over 100 overseas trips since 1981, as we don’t just “buy”, we really investigate our overseas factories and create partnerships that enable us to get our ultimate customers the best quality and value we can.
What do you see changing in the machine knife industry regarding reshoring?
Although the economics are such that there will be some quality knives that can best be manufactured overseas, today America is more competitive than ever. Delivery is a key issue. Customers have reduced their inventories to a point where they cannot wait months to receive custom made knives and they are willing to pay a bit more to get their knives made in this country. Many times, this is the best business decision on our customers’ part and we all like to be patriotic and create American jobs when possible
What is specifically happening at CB Mfg that is allowing more reshoring of knives?
First, over the last few years we have really worked on Lean Manufacturing, cutting waste throughout our company and setting up cells surrounding the value streams that we offer our customers. Second, we have made an investment of close to a million dollars in the last year or so, buying 3 major machines and using new technology to make our machine knives better and faster. These two steps have allowed us to be more competitive making products in-house that we used to import, something we are quite proud of today.
Anything else to add about reshoring in America?
We are real believers in reshoring and have bet a lot of money on the future of manufacturing in the USA. As a major buyer of heat treating services, decades ago we started a heat treating services company on our campus. This heat treating company not only processes our knives, but also does commercial heat treating in about a 100 mile region. A few months back, we acquired a competitive heat treating company northeast of Dayton, OH as we believe this industrial sector is going to grow due to reshoring. This move more than doubled our heat treating capacity as we plan to be in the forefront of the new industrial revolution in our historically metalworking manufacturing region. The future looks very bright for this new company and all our businesses!