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Forget Utopia, Rethink Reshoring

Category: Business Sep 18, 2019


For most Americans, Oneida is synonymous with flatware. It is ubiquitous in restaurants and home kitchens across the country. But did you know that the company started as a commune? A religious utopia funded by flatware (and animal traps).

The business was separated from the commune more than a century ago and endured many of the same ups and downs as other domestic manufacturers. In 2005, Sherrill Manufacturing acquired substantially all of the flatware manufacturing assets of Oneida Limited®. The company emerged as the country’s only domestic flatware manufacturer after the 2008 Great Recession.

Liberty Tabletop Flatware made by Sherrill Manufacturing in Sherrill, N.Y., 2019 Reshoring Award recipient.

Sherrill Manufacturing recently earned the 2019 National Metalworking Reshoring Award. The company’s success demonstrates that it is feasible to bring completely lost manufacturing product categories back to U.S. shores, according to Harry Moser, president of the Reshoring Initiative.

“When Oneida closed, people felt left out—left behind,” said Greg Owens, co-founder and CEO of Sherrill Manufacturing. “We are delighted to be recognized. We are saving an industry in the U.S., and that is pretty special. Our workers get high fives around town.”

A Long and Imperfect History
A true story of American fortitude, Sherrill Manufacturing started out as an exclusive contract manufacturer of certain high-end patterns for Oneida, also providing plating, packaging, and warehousing services. When Oneida shifted production overseas to reduce costs, Sherrill Manufacturing experienced a dramatic decrease in revenue.

What Does Reshoring Look Like?

Reshoring can take on many forms, depending on the type of business you are in. Some examples include:

  1. OEMs – Firms find domestic sources for parts or tools previously purchased offshore—or produce the products themselves.
  2. Job shops – Shops produce parts or tools previously purchased offshore. Shops may also produce tools or components used in assembly for a customer that used to have products assembled offshore.
  3. Technology suppliers and distributors – Companies provide machines or accessories that were previously purchased offshore. They may also provide machines that allow customers to become competitive enough to focus on reshoring.

The company reinvented itself. They revamped equipment, acquired loans, and obtained a grant. In 2008, they successfully transitioned from a one-customer OEM model to a multiple-customer OEM model. Unfortunately, it was 2008, and the Great Recession was in full swing.

Again, the company revised their business strategy. By temporarily downsizing the employee base, filing for bankruptcy and reorganizing once again, Sherrill survived. The company emerged from Chapter 11 in late 2013. They are now the country’s only domestic flatware manufacturer, having launched their own brand, Liberty Tabletop. An e-commerce business, Liberty Tabletop’s flatware offerings are sold only online, eliminating the retail mark up.

Today, Sherrill employs 56 people, including 50 in operations. Their workforce includes a variety of skilled workers ranging from mechanics and electricians to equipment operators. “We are working to build a sustainable company that we can turn over to the next generation. We are a family business built on ethics, and we are proud to be making quality products in America,” Owens said.

Utopias don’t work because they require perfection: perfect citizens, perfect government, and perfect conditions. Sherrill Manufacturing and their new Liberty Tabletop brand prove that U.S. manufacturers can succeed and grow in an imperfect world using the perfect mix of hard work and ingenuity.

Reshoring in the Real World
There is no manufacturing utopia, but there are endless opportunities with reshoring.

Why stop with spoons? Every day products can be made in the United States. Whether it is a small part, a large tool, or a complete category, businesses are realizing that producing goods in America is advantageous.

There are a few simple things every manufacturer can do to encourage reshoring and create new business opportunities. The Reshoring Initiative provides powerful tools to make these efforts even easier.

Sherrill Co-founder and CEO Greg Owens accepts the 2019 Reshoring Award from Harry Moser, Founder and President of the Reshoring Initiative.
  1. Do the (actual) math. “Traditional business decisions were based only on cost,” Moser explained. “The thought was if it’s cheaper in China, I’ll buy from China, but that is not a complete or accurate picture.”
    Moser suggests using the Reshoring Initiative’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Estimator. This free tool helps companies account for 30 relevant cost factors—including overhead, balance sheet, and risks—to determine the true total cost of ownership. Using this information, companies can better evaluate sourcing, identify alternatives, and even make a case when selling against offshore competitors.
  2. Do the research and find new prospects. Manufacturers can find businesses that import what they produce domestically using the Reshoring Initiative’s Import Substitution Program (ISP). This innovative program allows manufacturers to target businesses that are buying products internationally and make a case for domestic production. Coupled with the TCO estimator, this is a formidable sales tool. Technology suppliers/distributors can use ISP to identify new prospects.
  3. Do the promotion. Reshoring garners lots of media attention, which can translate into business growth. The Reshoring Award presents an excellent opportunity for publicity. The next deadline for the competition is May 31, 2020.

Start thinking about how you can promote or engage in reshoring today. Additional information and applications are available online.

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