Everybody loves "Made in the U.S.A." Politicians like Donald Trump campaign on it, promising to bring back jobs to America. Buyers see it as a sign of quality, especially in tools. But you probably know the other side of the story, too. It costs more to make things in America, and lots of shoppers don't put their money where their mouth is, opting for the cheaper product when it's time to part with their hard-earned cash.
U.S. tool companies realized the value of producing or assembling tools and products in America. A tool's reputation carries a lot of weight, and once that reputation is tarnished it's tough to reverse, regardless of where it's made. That's why more and more power tool companies are walking a tight line with their manufacturing these days, creating some parts domestically but also sourcing from abroad and assembling their products in America.
Made in U.S.A.
For companies that make hand tools, the story is a little simpler. , , and have been producing hand tools in the U.S. for years. "Made in the USA" is integral to their story and they are deeply ingrained in their communities. For power tools, though, it's a little trickier.
Lithium-ion batteries are a great example, says Nick DeSimone, vice president of operations for DeWalt. They are primarily made overseas by plants which have been producing them at a high level for decades, something that hasn't been replicated in the U.S. There just aren't many viable sources for electrical components.
DeWalt is among those that make many of their power tools in the U.S. using U.S. made components as well as globally sourced materials. This is a great way to keep costs in line and American workers employed. The trick is telling buyers that DeWalt's global tools are manufactured and tested to the same high quality specifications as their made in the U.S. produced tools, something DeSimone swears by.
Stanley Black & Decker, DeWalt's parent company, is dealing with the same issue with Craftsman tools, having recently made waves by acquiring the classic tool brand from Sears. Craftsman is one of the most iconic American companies in any industry, but its reputation for producing quality power tools has taken a hit in recent years. In a step towards reversing this, Stanley Black & Decker says it will focus on U.S. manufacturing for Craftsman using domestic and global materials, just as DeWalt does. There's hope this will signal a turnaround for a beloved American brand.
Milwaukee Tool which is foreign-owned but remains headquartered in Milwaukee, has invested $47 million into U.S. operations in the last 5 years and is continuing to grow their domestic production at their three manufacturing facilities located in Greenwood, MS, Jackson, MS, and Mukwonago, WI . According to Milwaukee Tool President, Steve Richman, domestic tool production is not a new initiative as they have been manufacturing products domestically for over 90 years and their U.S. production provides critical components for their global manufacturing footprint. Their Sawzall and Hole Dozer plant in Greenwood, MS alone is has quickly blossomed to almost 400,000 square feet in size and has brought 670 jobs to a region that has an .
Germany's quality power tool makers are grappling with the same problem. and rank at or near the top of every builder's wish lists, but they also outsource much of their production to other parts of Europe or Asia. These are considered premium brands, and have done a tremendous job maintaining quality control despite offshoring some of their production. Since they don't compete on price, reputation is everything to them.
is German-owned and the number one outdoor power equipment manufacturer in the world. They have been committed to U.S. production for years and have their largest production facility in the world here in Virginia Beach, VA. Most of their products are German designed, but they produce 256 products right here in the U.S.
Tool companies trying to maintain their "Made in the USA" face competition from discount brands and retailers too, of course. Many continue to expand despite offering few products made in America. Savvy shoppers it seems, understand what tools they should pay a premium for and which tools they can cheap out on.
The bottom line is that high-quality tools can be made and assembled from countries around the world. Many of the companies that choose to manufacture in the U.S. believe in a strong American workforce and in the value added by placing the American flag on a product. Whether American shoppers reward them for that is an ongoing question.