A little under a year and a half ago, I noticed that Dewalt had started to promote a new “Tools of the Brave” campaign that patted themselves on the back for producing some products in the USA. I was extremely skeptical.
A couple of months before that, I posted my thoughts and feelings about Motorola’s assembled-in-the-USA campaign for their Moto-X phone. In that case, even if Motorola sold 20 million phones, the cost premium for assembling the phones in the USA instead of overseas would have still been less than 10% of their total Moto-X marketing budget.
So there I was, thinking that this was some kind of a flashy marketing stunt.
Built in the USA with Global Materials? What does that even mean? Is that the same as Assembled in the USA? Or maybe the products were just finished or packaged here.
I’ve known about some of Dewalt’s Made in the USA with Global Materials products. Things like some tape measures and certain other hand tools are manufactured here, but not wholly from USA-sourced raw materials or parts. They’re also made with Global Materials.
When you have a cordless tool, such as a drill or impact driver, that’s built in the USA – what exactly is done here?
I had a hard-to-shake feeling that this was all just some marketing BS.
And then I visited their Charlotte, North Carolina factory.
In case you weren’t aware, Dewalt paid for my flight and hotel accommodations, as is typical with media events.
My time at the factory was split between checking out some of Dewalt’s recent and upcoming product offerings, touring the facility with the plant manager, and “building” my very own 20V Max 3-speed brushless hammer drill.
The NC plant is not really what I pictured a cordless tool factory would look like. It was also a lot smaller than I envisioned.
Oh, and that #20 NASCAR car is not a permanent factory fixture.
The Charlotte, NC facility is one of 7 – yes SEVEN – Dewalt manufacturing centers. Products that are made at these locations include hand tools, power tools, power tool accessories, and sub-components for other tools.
Back in September of 2013, the Charlotte facility was mostly empty and unused distribution space. Now, there’s a motor production line and one more coming in 2 months. Adding tool production to this facility created more than 350+ new jobs.
I knew that Stanley Black & Decker already had a USA manufacturing base that produces tools for some of their brands. But 7 Dewalt plants? That surprised me.
Dewalt seems to be proud of the jobs they created here. Proud of the greater efficiency that allows them to better serve the needs of their customers. Proud that they’re able and willing to push forward with even more USA-built products. And they should be.
That’s not to say that there aren’t marketing motivations for Dewalt to bring some manufacturing back to the United States. In a press release about an upcoming expansion of a plant in Indiana, it says:
Given a choice between a product made in the United States and an identical one made abroad, 78 percent of Americans would rather buy the American product, according to a 2013 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
Well, yeah. If there are two products, with the only difference being that one is made here and the other overseas, give me the USA-made one.
So yes, selling more tools is probably a factor here, but it’s not the only factor. And perhaps not the most important factor.
I asked about the costs involved in building these tools in the USA vs. overseas, and was told that the cost to retailers and end-users are going to be the same. To me, that means that either Dewalt is eating the extra costs, or that maybe they managed to improve distribution efficiency and lower other costs enough to nearly balance things out.
I’ve got lot of photos and notes to go over, as well as some thinking to do. There’s much more I want to share about the couple of hours I spent at Dewalt’s facility. Oh, and plenty of cool new products to tell you about too! So check back soon!
This Built in the USA movement that Dewalt has embraced – it’s not temporary, and it’s not a veiled marketing stunt. Seeing one of Dewalt’s factories firsthand and finding it to be the real deal has left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
I can’t say how many of the “approximately 14 million products” that Dewalt builds in the USA are actual tools and how many are power tool accessories. You can try to guess how that number breaks down into things like reciprocating blades and cordless power tools.
And the Global Materials aspect is going to be different for every tool. For one tool it might refer to the motor’s laminated armature core, for another it might refer to the brushless motor controller. For some others, it could be recycled steel (that’s how the global materials part of a tape measure was explained to me few years ago).
All I know is that Built in the USA with Global Materials is a great start in the right direction. No, it’s not quite the same as Made in the USA, but I’ll take that over Made in China any day.
I should also point out that the facility I visited was mostly an assembly plant. It’s also still a distribution center. I mentioned that there’s one motor production line, and another’s coming soon. But a great majority of the components come from elsewhere, including other USA-based facilities. Don’t jump to conclusion and assume that every component comes from outside the USA, because they don’t. That was my mistake too, until just a day ago.
I’m not as YAY, Dewalt! as I used to be. But give me some pom-poms, one yellow and black, the other red, white, and blue. I’ve got some good reasons to cheer for Dewalt today.