Do you constantly hear United States’ manufacturers are laying off American workers and sending jobs overseas? I hear about it a lot. But, not all manufacturers are rushing to China for cheaper labor. Some are coming back. A local company called Taphandles is opening two United States factories.
In 1999, Taphandles’ President Paul Fichter began making tap handles for home brewers. The company quickly transitioned to meet the needs of commercial breweries after Paul crafted a whale handle for the Alaskan Brewery. “They started with a small order of 100 tap handles. As soon as that handle hit the market they called for more,” Paul said. Today, Taphandles helps breweries brand their beer with personalized tap handles, signs, displays, and glassware.
For Paul, manufacturing in China was the logical choice. He was able to start his company without any capital investment. And, in just a few e-mails, he connected with a factory in China which already had the equipment he needed for a very attractive price.
Why then is Paul opening two additional facilities here? Paul said:
I see a trend towards highly customized products with short lead times. Customers don’t want to wait a couple weeks for their product to come from China. That’s something in which Chinese factories can’t compete with us. They have at least a 2-week penalty on time. In the United States we can be very responsive and customized, so long as we have the skills to do it cost effectively.
Taphandles’ new facilities are in Chicago, Illinois and Woodinville, Washington. The Chicago factory prints glassware. Here in Woodinville, they make customized beer signs and displays. Both United States facilities are highly automated and technology driven, requiring a higher skilled employee.
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