Reshoring the American Manufacturing Supply Chain in the Covid Era

A 2020 success story of overcoming sudden supply chain risk

Mequon, WI – If 2020 were described by the manufacturing community adjectives like unpredictable, unprecedented, and forgettable would come to mind.  For years supply chain experts have warned about the risks of offshored supply in the event of global disruption.  While its easy to overlook the obvious risk in favor of higher margins and earnings beats, one American manufacturer of industry leading construction hand tools Johnson Level & Tool took a proactive approach.

In preparation for extensive growth, Director of Global Operations Adam Ruback focused on eliminating hidden costs associated with overseas supply.  Supply chain control and shortened inventory cycle time strategies were well underway prior to Covid-19’s dramatic disruption.  “Not only have we seen our reshoring decisions pay financial dividends, the upside in our brand, quality, and employee pride are clearly evident but those benefits are less obvious on the P&L”

To accomplish its aggressive reshoring initiatives, Johnson Level & Tool has partnered with industry leaders in the extrusion, tool & die, as well as surface finishing supply segments.  “One non-negotiable was product performance and quality.  At a minimum it had to look, feel, and perform the same if not better, Ruback said.”  While this may sound straightforward and obvious, achievement still meant considering cost, environmental constraints, and the optimization of processes for domestic production.  Partnering with suppliers who understand product development along with uncompromising brand integrity meant expedited timelines, rapid prototyping, and customized solutions.

“For now, the aggressive strategy has paid substantial dividends that weren’t immediately evident on paper.  It’s been a big hit.”  Ruback’s advice to those contemplating an aggressive reshoring strategy is to take a phased approach.  “If Covid has demanded anything from American manufacturing it’s that you must have a domestic backup at a minimum.”  From there reshoring the simplest of programs to get started helps identify, if not strengthen, partnerships with domestic suppliers.  The same partnerships needed to be step for step with in order to pursue a full reshoring initiative.

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