ABC News Tours Hillary, Bernie Campaigns’ Unionwear Shop

| Posted by unionwear

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

ABC News takes a deep dive into Newark, NJ-based Unionwear, a union shop producing all those Hillary, Bernie, and Anti-Trump logo products.


Josh: What’s up guys? I’m sure you’ve seen this before. We all have. This hat is actually currently made in downtown Los Angeles, but ground zero for campaign merchandise here in Newark, New Jersey at Unionwear. It’s not just Donald Trump’s campaign who has hired advertising companies. It’s Hillary, it’s Bernie Sanders, it’s Jeb Bush, it’s Mick Huckabee. Take a look at this table guys. There is New Jersey’s own Chris Christie. So these campaigns, they hire advertising firms that then use this company, Unionwear, to make all of these hats. Even some candidates who are no longer in the race. There’s Jeb Bush for 2016. So we’re seeing a little bit of it all. There’s also handbags here. I want to take you back there. Another funny thing, this place has been involved since Al Gore run. Ever since 1992, they have been making merchandise like hats and bags for the conventions. These employees are all engaged as well. I want to bring in the president, Mitch Cahn. Mitch, hop on in right now, live on ABC Digital. Talk about how your business has been impacted by the 2016 election?

Mitch Cahn: We’ve had to make more hats than ever. There have been so many candidates this year. We probably made baseball hats for nearly every candidate in the race. We’ll be doing work for the conventions. We’ll be doing work for parties in all 50 states.

Josh: What is it about your business, Unionwear here in Newark that it is so appealing, connected to these presidential campaigns on both sides?

Mitch Cahn: Well, for one thing, every single product we make is made in the USA. Every product is also union made as unions are a very big voting bloc in the election. We’ve made a name for ourselves by making presidential merchandise over the last 25 years.

Josh: Why don’t you show us some of those hats? Want to bring that Hillary hat?

Mitch Cahn: Sure. Here is a Hillary hat that we’re making. We are also presently making hats for Bernie Sanders and making hats – we’ve made hats for Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and Chris Christie during this election cycle.

Josh: Got it. Ben and Amna, while I have Mitch here and we’re standing here in Unionwear, you guys have any questions for us before we take you on a little tour and show you how these hats are made and introduce you to some of the employees as well?

Ben: Yeah. It’s actually funny because when like a team loses the Super Bowl, I always wonder where their hats go because they all of sudden bring out the winner hats. Oh, you won the Super Bowl. It says winner. What is the most obscure hat that he has? Like is there a hat from like 15 years ago that a candidate ran, and he just keeps the hat because it’s got to be very cool nostalgia.

Josh: Yeah Mitch as we know, not every candidate is successful. You’ve been in the business for a while. What is the most rare hat that you have? Have you kept any of them as collectors items?

Mitch Cahn: I keep some fun ones. I have a Kucinich hat. I have hats from John Edwards. I have hats from Joe Lieberman. I’ve got a lot of hats from senate candidates as well that are in our showroom.

Josh: While Mitch is talking and definitely chiming in with another question, got to love this Scott Walker army hunting hat.

Amna: Oh, look at that.

Ben: Wow, that’s duck hunting right there.

Josh: I will not put it on for you guys.

Amna: Josh, why don’t you take us on a little tour of the facility? Let’s see where these things are made.

Josh: Definitely. Mitch, let’s do a little tour. Why don’t we start with the Drumpf hats and what’s being made at this station right here?

Mitch Cahn: Sure. We start over here where we cut fabric into little triangles. In this area right here, we take the triangles, we call them panels and we sew them together to make the crown of the baseball hat. You can see the back of a baseball cap right there. This will end up being a Trump parody hat. It’s kind of a parody hat of the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. Once the fronts and the backs of the hats are completed, we take them over to our embroidery area.

Ben: Josh, when you have a moment, can you ask him who orders these Trump parody hats.

Mitch Cahn: This is where we take the front of the hat and we do this before the hat is made. We’ll sew down a logo on the hat. So Melba, tell us exactly what you’re doing at this stage?

Melba: We’re running a sample of the Bernie Sanders logo.

Josh: Do you mind if I hold that real quick?

Melba: Yeah, sure.

Josh: So guys, the pattern goes on this USB, which goes inside this machine. Melba here at the embroidery station, she makes those. Mitch, we had a follow-up question on those Trump hats. Actually funny story guys. I’m not sure if you’re fans of John Oliver’s show, but John Oliver is kind of the reason why those hats are doing so well. Tell us about those Make Donald Drumpf. Hats?

Ben: Make Donald Drumpf again.

Mitch Cahn: Yeah. John Oliver is selling a hat on hbo.com that says ‘Make Donald Drumpf again’, which is a parody of the ‘Make America Great again’ hat.

Josh: Drumpf is of course—

Mitch Cahn: The family name of Trump. Apparently, it’s an extremely popular baseball cap.

Josh: Tell us what popular means. How many have you sold? Why are you continuing having to make these hats?

Mitch Cahn: We are – well, HBO is selling the hat. We’re making all sorts of parody baseball caps here, including that hat. Maybe around 30,000-40,000 parody Trump hats just this month. Almost as much as some of the other candidates’ hats.

Josh: As we continue to tour, another kind of funny interesting thing. Of course, Unionwear, this is a union company, and many people would think that the Republican Party not always particularly fond of unions. They do make the hats made here, because this is a company that can get them out fast, and they specialize in this type of campaign gear. But for Republican candidates, they will not put the Unionwear label on the hats. So it will not say the word ‘union’ anywhere on those hats. For Democrats of course, they do say union made.

Mitch Cahn: I’m sure there’s one around here somewhere. We just got them out.

Ben: Josh, is any candidate off-limits or is it all fair game for the parody hats? Will he do any candidate?

Josh: Mitch, are any candidate off-limits or you will do any particular candidate or company that comes to you with business.

Mitch Cahn: Yeah, we will do work for all candidates unless it’s someone that I as the president/owner of the business completely disagree with their positions. I don’t want to help somebody get elected who I absolutely do not want to see be President of the United States.

Ben: Who is he voting for then?

Josh: So far, that has not happened in this campaign.

Mitch Cahn: No.

Ben: Ask him who he is voting for?

Josh: Do you mind telling us who you’re voting for?

Mitch Cahn: No, I’m not going to say who I’m voting for. But I appreciate all the candidates giving us work here and supporting domestic manufacturing. It’s very important.

Josh: While we still have you guys, why don’t we show them some of the handbags that you guys make. I know Ben has been in the market for, in particular, this Hillary handbag. I think you’ll like it, Ben.

Ben: Absolutely. I need this, a man bag — wow, this bag is huge. It’s got all kinds of secret compartments.

Josh: It is huge. Made in America right here in Newark, New Jersey.

Ben: I’d be worried to wear Make America Drumpf hat–

Mitch Cahn: We make tote bags, backpacks, garment bags, all sorts of luggage, handbags. Here’s some samples. Some of the tote bags we’re making for the Hillary Clinton campaign right here.

Josh: So Mitch, just walk us through the process. An advertising company reaches out to you and says we want a handbag or a tote bag to sell, wear and how – talk us through how that works.

Mitch Cahn: They usually come out here first and vet us to make sure that we are completely made in America, and we’re not going to embarrass them. Then they’ll send us designs. We’ll prototype the designs, sent it to them for approval. Then just start making the merchandise, it will end up on the website of the candidate. Probably end up in the convention centers and at official campaign events.

Amna: So I guess a question for Mitch is the merchandise any indication of how a candidate is doing. I notice he does both Hillary and Bernie hats. Does one outsell the other?

Josh: Mitch, a question from our anchor, Amna in New York. What’s doing better, the Bernie merchandise or the Hillary merchandise?

Mitch Cahn: It’s really hard to say. They are actually selling about equally.

Josh: What is equally? Can you give us any sort of ballpark?

Mitch Cahn: We will do several thousand dozen hats per month or so for each of the candidates.

Josh: Off of your question Amna, when a candidate’s campaign kind of starts to tank, of course, they’re going to put in less orders. So sometimes, this might be the first place here in Unionwear where they know. We in the media, we’re reporting on it, but they kind of know – they didn’t put in that order. Mitch, tell us about maybe a story from the past when that’s happened.

Mitch Cahn: I usually find out about a candidate leaving the race from the news, but it has been exciting. A few times I’ve known about the vice-presidential candidate before the convention. We had to sign confidentiality agreements. In a way that sports champions are crowned with baseball hats, they have merchandise ready for those vice presidential candidates.

Josh: Which candidate was that?

Mitch Cahn: I think that was when it was Lieberman.

Josh: Lieberman running with Al Gore. So talk about how that process went. Did the campaign call you and say –this is the design we want but do they have security here.

Mitch Cahn: Yeah, the ad agency. They didn’t have security here. They called at the last possible minute and said we’re going to need these for the convention. We’re going to tell you who it is at the last second. You have to sign this that you won’t tell anybody. I probably knew for about 15 seconds before the news already hit the internet.

Josh: So guys, when it comes to our Veep sweepstakes kind of guessing who the vice-presidential candidate is, now I know that my assignment will be living in a tent outside Unionwear in Newark, New Jersey waiting to see what orders they get.

Amna: I think that might be smart. Hey, one last question for Mitch, Josh. Can anyone place orders because I’m thinking if we want to try to get some hats made for maybe a Ben Aaron run in 2020.

Ben: Oh, you’re in trouble.

Amna: We may try to get those orders in now.

Ben: You don’t want to know my family name.

Josh: Yeah, Mitch, can you walk us through the process of – I know we’re not candidates. We’re not with the campaign, but can anyone order merchandise from you. How do they go about doing that? How does the visual of the logo and that come. Do they give it to you? How does that happen?

Mitch Cahn: Sure–we have tens of thousands of products on unionwear.com. You can select your products there and upload designs. Someone
will call you back with a price quote. It’s a relatively painless, quick process. During election season, it usually takes about three-four weeks for orders to be delivered.

Josh: Got to tell you guys, a lot of the rallies that I’ve been to, there are people outside those rallies especially Donald Trump rallies with tables of merchandise. That merchandise is actually made in China a lot of the times or overseas. They are, I guess you could say, counterfeit merchandise not made here, because the candidates made in America, such a big issue and important to them, they don’t want their gear made anywhere else. So if you see a table outside, most likely that’s not made in America. How will our viewers be able to find made in America campaign gear, Mitch?

Mitch Cahn: Usually just be going to the candidate’s websites. They all have web stores. The political parties also have web stores. Official web stores like demstore.com or gopshop.com where you can find the official merchandise.

Josh: Well, that’s the scene here in Unionwear at Unionwear, Newark, New Jersey. Back to you guys.

Mitch: Thanks.

Ben: Josh, thank you so much. We appreciate it. We’ll be expecting a strange random hat to be delivered at some point to this desk. We really appreciate it, man. I’ll be in big trouble. Make Colonomos great again. My real name is Colonomos.

Amna: Is that it?

Ben: It will be a bad thing. It wouldn’t even fit on the hat.

Amna: That’s going to take the whole width of the hat.

Ben: Yeah, it will go all the way around the hat.


Guess Whose Caps Are Outselling Donald Trump

| Posted by unionwear

Parody Trump Hats Outsell Originals

At a nondescript factory near Branch Brook Park in Newark, workers have an easy way of gauging the popularity of any given presidential candidate.

As the only unionized American manufacturer of baseball caps, Unionwear has made logo-embroidered hats for candidates of all stripes.
If a candidate is doing well, his or her campaign might put in a large order for hats, said Mitch Cahn, president of Unionwear. Not so well? The campaign might cut back to putting in small orders on a week-by-week basis.

And just which hat has been popular? That would be “Drumpf,” the ancestral name of Donald Trump’s family, derisively parodied by British comedian John Oliver on HBO, which placed a large order for the hats.

“They put it on their website as a joke and sold way more than they expected,” Cahn said.

This small sector of Unionwear’s business has cropped up every four years since Al Gore’s campaign debuted candidate-themed apparel, Cahn said.

“There was really no way before the internet for these campaigns to sell their merchandise,” he said. “It’s not like they could have traveling stores everywhere they campaigned.”

That kind of campaign merchandizing raises money and turns voters into walking billboards – as well as building a connection with voters.
While the candidates differ on many things, they at some point have all ordered Unionwear hats, from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz to Trump, briefly.

And their detractors have ordered parody hats as well. Other Trump-related parody hats include “Make Donald Debate Again” and “Make America Gay Again,” Cahn said.

Unionwear stumbled into this customer category almost by default. Cahn had made a name for the business selling hats to high-end retailers like Nordstrom and The Gap. However, by the late 90s, almost all garment manufacturing had fled the United States for Asia.
The company held on until, lo and behold, they started to get orders simply because they were one of the few American, unionized manufacturers left standing after the brutal purge, Cahn said. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, they changed their name from New Jersey Headwear Corp. to Unionwear.

Anyone can order hats, whether it’s the official campaign, a political action committee, a union supporting a particular candidate, or state political parties.

Hence the hats Unionwear has made for the non-existent campaigns of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Cahn said he’s noticed a difference between the orders for Democratic candidates versus Republican ones: The Democrats want to include the “union-made” label, while the Republicans prefer that be left off.

All, however, realize their campaign regalia must be made in America.

Early in the campaign cycle, Trump’s now-famous “Make America Great Again” baseball cap came under scrutiny when some said the item was made in China. It wasn’t; the cap in question was a knock-off sold online commercially, not by any official party or Trump-connected organization.

Trump used Unionwear for about a month last fall, then switched to a California factory, Cahn said. All told, they provided the campaign with more than 20,000 caps.

Although political attire isn’t a huge slice of Cahn’s business, the spotlight a presidential election puts on American manufacturing drives new business, he said.

“Every presidential campaign cycle there’s a news story that a candidate had an item that was made in Bangladesh,” Cahn said. “Then companies say to themselves, ‘Hey, We should probably look into getting something domestically.'”

Kathleen O’Brien may be reached at kobrien@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBrienLedger. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


NJ News12 Explains Why Most Campaign Hats Are Made in NJ

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Reporter: And with all the political buzz generated during this election season, one local company is helping those presidential candidates make a statement, one baseball cap at a time. Nadia Ramdass explains.

Nadia Ramdass: Clinton, Cruz, Sanders and Trump; while these political heavyweights may differ on their political views, there’s one thing they all have in common. When they want Made-in-America gear, they turn to this factory in the Garden State.

Mitch Cahn: Anyone whose looking for hats made in America is coming here.

Nadia Ramdass: Unionwear tells us they are the only unionized American manufacturer of baseball caps. The Newark-based manufacturers’ companies include the military, progressive companies and political candidates. Unionwear has made promotional campaign hats, bags and other items for many Democratic and Republican presidential candidates for the last 16 years.

Mitch Cahn: By getting a product made in America, candidates sending a message that domestic manufacturing is important enough to their campaign that they’re going to make it an issue on their campaign.

Nadia Ramdass: The folks here at Unionwear can also gauge the degree of success for political candidate based on the volume of purchase orders over time.

Mitch Cahn: If somebody’s selling tens of thousands of baseball hats and somebody is selling no baseball hats, that would be a sign of one candidate’s being supported more than the other candidate most likely.

Nadia Ramdass: Cahn and his workforce expect to produce over one million hats by the end of the presidential election season; an opportunity he’s proud to have.

Mitch Cahn: I think it’s great that we are considered a symbol of made in America. Newark in particular is one of the strongest manufacturing cities in the country.

Nadia Ramdass: Nadia Ramdass News12, New Jersey.


Leader Bag’s Domestic Manufacturing Challenges

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Leader Bag's Domestic Manufacturing Challenges

How did Leader Bag Co come to be?

Leader Bag Co was born from a love of beautiful design, and the desire to create a family-centered product that is truly missing from the marketplace.

When Meghan Nesher was pregnant with her son, Julien, she went shopping for a diaper bag that would work for both she and her husband. Coming up empty-handed, she opted for a Brooklyn Industries messenger bag; great for function, not so much for fashion. After a few months of use, she switched to the Fjällräven backpack; stylish and more comfortable, but not super functional. It was around this time that Meghan and her sister-in-law Liz Elliott, also a new mom, had their lightbulb moment: Why isn’t there a diaper bag that is beautifully crafted, simply designed and practical for both mom and dad?

Leader Bag Co :: Baby Business

Meghan, Liz and third sister-in-law Jess Nesher formed and funded Leader Bag Co as a family business in 2013. Since inception, we’ve enlisted the help of technical designer and manufacturing guru Jay O’Neill to bring our idea to life, and the uber-talented Lotta Nieminen to create our brand aesthetic.

Your brand is still only a year old, but what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

As a team of four, we all bring different strengths to the table, but at the same time, we all have strong opinions about pretty much every aspect of the business. We value playing to each other’s unique talents, but it’s not always easy with lots of cooks in the kitchen. We are constantly perfecting our team’s balance.

Manufacturing in the US – we were totally warned over and over that this was going to be difficult. All of us are perfectionists, and we’re all demanding, and I don’t think Unionwear knew we’d be so high-maintenance. Lucky for us, they have tons of pride in their work and are always striving to exceed expectations – which they did and continue to do.

Best thing you’ve learned?

Mistakes are opportunities, either to learn from or to create something new.

Your signature diaper backpack, the Julien, is a slick answer to a universal need; what kind of R&D did you pursue in the early stages?

Since we were all new moms, we did a lot of research for ourselves in the diaper bag market. We spent time looking at bags we didn’t like – even bought a few to compare. At the same time, we collected non-diaper bags we liked too, mostly based on modern aesthetics and strong craftsmanship.

We made lists of all the gear we stuffed into our baby bags and measured everything to make sure we designed the right size storage. We talked through where we would take the bag and what features we might need; for example, a hook to hang it in a bathroom stall while you change baby at a restaurant.

We collected tons of images on shared Pinterest boards – including inspiration for the brand, the bag and the lifestyle we wanted to promote.

Jay led us through multiple rounds of bag sketches – all different flavors and styles – until we settled on one we liked. He took the sketches to technical drawings, collected materials and had samples made. We went through at least three rounds of samples with Unionwear before we got our pack just right.

We put our samples on everyone’s backs, asked for feedback and took photos. We were careful to remove any design elements that seemed “girlie”, and made sure the shoulder straps were long enough to fit a really tall dad.

What features make the Julien awesome for carrying baby essentials?

The fact that it’s a backpack is key. We are all about leaving both hands free for tending to baby and being fully involved in family activities. Style-wise, the backpack is better for dad too – he’ll feel much more comfortable than if he were asked to carry a one-shoulder bag.

Ultimately, the Julien is awesome because of its storage and organization. We loved the idea of doing a drop-in “pouch” that can house some basics like a change mat, a few diapers, diaper cream and wipes. This way, you can just reach in and grab it for a quick change while you’re out.

We also made sure there were tons of compartments for all the essential gear. Outside, there are four decent-sized pockets for easy access, plus a clasp for hanging your keys. We also added stroller straps and hooks so you can easily hang it on your stroller when you don’t want to carry. Inside, there are four baby bottle (or water bottle) pockets, a sleeve for the change kit (or even a computer or iPad), a zipper pocket, and a few other larger pocket compartments. It’s wipe-clean and very utilitarian, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the outside.

When you’re running on no sleep and wearing the parental uniform of tracksuit pants and an old t-shirt, why is a luxe bag like the Julien important?

Being a parent isn’t always an elegant, effortless job. Especially when you’re a new parent running on empty and feeling overwhelmed.

The Julien immediately elevates your look: leather and canvas with rose gold details, all mixed with fine Made in the USA craftsmanship. And it’s effortless – it looks great with everything, is comfortable and keeps you organized so you can focus on what’s important: being present for your kid. There is absolutely nothing more chic.

Who else is making rad baby-related carry? Who inspires you to be better?

No one, in our opinion, is making a great diaper bag we’d want to carry! We do like Fawn and Cub’s change mat, and Ida Ising’s change mat/bag design.

Accessory and clothing companies outside of the diaper bag industry inspire us to be better, and companies that are producing their goods in the USA: Clare Vivier, Emerson Fry, Mansur Gavriel, Marine Layer, imogene + willie, etc.

What’s next for Leader?

There is a ton of room for us in the baby market right now. We see a lack of simple but beautiful and useful design, especially in kid accessories – which creates a whole lot of space for Leader to play.

What do you personally carry daily? And why?

Our Leader bags, of course!


Slate: What Do Bush and Clinton Have in Common? Unionwear

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TRANSCRIPT: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Jeb Bush all have something in common: the White House, yes, but also , this baseball cap factory in Newark, NJ, and more specifically, this guy:

“What they do is incredibly dexterous, I can’t do once what they do all day, which is take that thread and just throw it through a little hole.”

In 1992 at the age of 25 Mitch Cahn quit his job on Wall Street and bought a bankrupt hat factory in Jersey City at an auction sale. The idea was to make baseball hats for the fashion market including brands like the Gap. It was a trend at the time, but there was a hiccup. By 1994, American manufacturing was fleeing to cheaper manufacturing overseas and undercutting Mitch’s prices.

Mitch needed a new plan, so he turned to groups with vested interests in manufacturing goods in the US, and at the top of that list was political campaigns which is where this story gets interesting.

Cue James Carville: “Bush is buying up to $10 million in printing in Brazil. The president don’t buy American for his campaign.”

Making campaign gear offshore created the potential for a political scandal.

Cahn: “We are making hats for almost all the candidates, we are doing work for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, If someone is having a hat made here, then they are making a decision to use American Labor.”

Campaigns aren’t the only clients who rely on Mitch’s US based factory.

There are socially complaint companies and non-profits who want to avoid any possible connotation that their products could be made in a sweat shop. The US Military. Promotional gear for labor unions and other companies looking to cobrand with the USA Made label. And the fashion industry.

But political campaigns are where Mitch has really dominated the market. Now located in Newark, his factory has been pumping out millions of hats from behind these doors, manufacturing for every Democratic primary candidate since 2000, as well as John McCain, George W. Bush, and Jeb Bush.

The bad optics of a made in China label aren’t the only thing driving political business to Mitch.

“The market is moving to small batch customization”, said Cahn. “Consumers are expecting to get products that they order in 2 or 3 weeks and you can’t wait 60 or 90 days for goods to come in on a ship. Your generally have to order a much larger quantity of goods when you bring things in from China, than you can domestically, and there is no way you can get things turned around a week or two.”

Which is key in the ever changing landscape of politics. Campaigns rarely have the luxury of folks ordering a set amount of products months in advance. They rely on quick turnarounds and flexible order sizes while replenishing their online stores. A bonus for the campaigns, especially those seeking much needed endorsement from a big union: Mitch also uses organized labor.

Once mostly the norm amongst textile manufacturers, Mitch’s pro union stance is a rarity these days, which is something he is proud of.

“Any difference in wages is made up of any increased productivity by our workers who are generally more content in their job. This was a union shop since the day we opened.
I believe over half of our people have been here for at least over 15 years.”

As manufacturing costs remain relatively flat in the US while rising dramatically in places like China, Mitch’s pro labor stance could become more prevalent. It is possible other manufacturers will follow Mitch’s lead and we’ll see more textile work come back to the USA. For now Mitch’s made in Newark factory is still producing the vast majority of the hats you see in the presidential campaign trail. But the most popular hat he has ever produced, you might have a guess if you have been tuned into the 2016 campaign season.

“Probably the hat we make the most here is the hat that says Make American Great Again which was made popular by Donald Trump and we are making that for the company selling the Made in USA version of that hat.”

Trump unsurprisingly uses a non union factory in California to produce the authentic version, but with all the polarization these days. It’s nice to know so many other politicians on both sides of the aisle can agree on thing. Newark is a great place to make hats.


ASI Radio: Election Year Bonanza for USA Made Products

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This podcast can be heard on ASI Radio Strategy Sessions

Andy:  Welcome to the Strategy Session Podcast, where ASI’s editors provide tips and tactics to help promotional product professionals improve their businesses.  In every episode we go one-on-one with a business strategy expert to gather winning insights.  The conversations are sure to be insightful and entertaining.  This week on the strategy session podcast, I welcome David Bronson from Unionwear, which specializes in Made in the USA items. How are you today, David?

David:  I’m doing well, sir, how are you?

Election Year Bonanza: Selling USA Made PromosAndy:  Great.  So, we’re going to talk about Made in the USA items and the increased interest in that.  So, are you seeing more buyers looking to purchase items that are made domestically?

David:  Oh yes, we have seen a surge, not just in interest but in actual orders.  We’re helping dozens of new markets and industries co-brand with the most valuable brand in the world—Made in the USA. When we look at what’s driving sales, it’s not patriotism, it’s more strong convictions about issues that domestic manufacturing solves. Social compliance, for example.  When someone buys an American-made product, he or she knows the workers who made the actual product are regulated by the same labor, safety and environmental regulations that the buyer benefits from. A lot of companies market their own products as Made in the USA, and they want premiums that are also Made in the USA so they send a consistent message.

Andy:  So, as far as what’s driving the trend, you just talked about social compliance.  Is that something that’s different today from maybe five years ago?  Are people more interested in the issue of social compliance than they were before?

David:  Yes. And it’s not just social compliance. We’re the only union cap company in the country, so they know that our workers have been vetted, if you will.  The prices of imports have risen steadily by 20 to 25 percent for almost the past five years, while domestic pricing has remained flat.  So while Made in the USA is not yet as competitive with imports, the premium paid for Made in the USA keeps decreasing. A lot more customers are willing to pay a premium for social compliance and consistent messaging.

Andy:  What else is driving the trend?  What other factors are leading the surge in Made in the USA orders?

David:  Distributors ask me questions about the total cost of ownership.  Importing products has a lot of hidden cost—there are high minimums, pre-payments, inventory, duties, taxes, shipping from overseas, sampling, travel, even in-factory inspections.  We ask distributors to look at their client base to see if they have any clients that could appreciate co-branding with a Made in the USA label.  We’ve seen a lot of renewed interest in baseball caps because of the Presidential campaigns—the baseball caps such as the ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” cap.  And we all know who that is…

Andy:  Right.

David:  It’s a top item for political campaigns.  Bags are popular, too, because they don’t require as much labor relative to materials as other products. But really, when you think about the hat, they can still wear that visibly in jacket weather.  Candidates and supporters can wear that even though they’re wearing a suit at a rally or any kind of event, and it’s highly visible, because it’s on their head.  We’re getting a lot of that increased business.

Andy:  All right, how can distributors capitalize on this surge in interest in Made in the USA products?

David:  I think distributors need to look at who they know or who they’re doing business with that might really care about Made in the USA. We keep hearing that there could be eight billion dollars spent on political campaigns over the next year. That’s the largest number that we’ve ever seen in this country.  The battle is on, and it’s really been heating up, and for promotional items, they have to buy Made in the USA.

The traditional markets that we’ve had are Made in the USA for political or legal reasons. The Department of Defense buys these items for recruiting. Labor unions and government agencies…

Andy:  Sure.  Outside of government entities or political campaigns, what other buyers are most interested in items that are made in America?  What markets should distributors try to target with these types of products?

David:  The people that really are promoting themselves as Made in the USA or socially responsible include manufacturers like Lincoln, tech companies like Google, green companies like Whole Foods, non-profits like American Legion. We’ve grown what we call the small batch customization market the past year, where distributors want something turned around quickly, without large quantities or timing. Someone like Google has a need for it, and we have found a way to meet that need. They needed to be at a certain price, and we tweaked it a little bit.

One of the things at which we’re really strong is re-engineering products so that the Made in the USA label can work and be competitive.  It’s our niche. It’s the one misconception that everyone has: “Oh, everything’s less expensive in China.” It doesn’t have to be.  We can change a handle on a bag, take out a pocket or make it an inch different. We know  how to make it work with our production department.

The distributors really get it, and they want something custom that is Made in the USA. We can say, what’s your budget?   If they tell me they can spend $2500 for this giveaway or $40,000 for a bag that’s going to be at a place like Whole Foods, whatever it may be, we work backwards.  We ask for the budget so we know what fabric to use; we know how much time it’s going to take, and we put that into the equation and come up with a costing, then share it with the distributor.  Really, we’re an extension of their sales and marketing team, working with them from the ground up and building a product to hit their budget.

Andy:  So what was Google looking for?  Why were they so interested in purchasing Made in the USA items?

David:  Google has a big push for it, which we love to see. A couple of the distributors that work with them, one in particular, just said they want to have as much made in the USA as they can for a program that they’re running.  Sometimes people who want Made in the USA don’t always live up to billing on it, because they may get some sticker shock on some items.

Andy:  Right.

David:  But then we have certain items where we say, “Wait a second! If we’re within 5 to 15 percent of the cost, why wouldn’t you buy Made in the USA?”  Think about the global impact, the carbon footprint when we’re making it here.  We’re not shipping it from a port overseas, bringing it all the way over here and then cutting, embroidering, or finishing.  Maybe the customer doesn’t have a Made in the USA or union requirement, but they just want something that’s totally custom. We’re doing dye-sublimation now, and we embroider flat panel; we can do things in embroidery so wide, so high, that a hoop can’t handle it. We’re growing with the times for those distributors that really care about something creative.

A lot of the people who care about Made in the USA like to say, “Wait a second, you actually do this here?” Yes, we’ve been here for 23 years.  We’re right outside of Manhattan by about 12 miles. It’s pretty cool!

Andy:  Very good.  Let me bring the conversation back to price. You touched on it a little bit.  Price does tend to be the big objection when it comes to purchasing Made in the USA items.  So, I’m gathering that this isn’t the objection that it once was, but how should distributors overcome that objection if they’re still receiving it in the market?

David:  It really is on a project-by-project basis. As I mentioned earlier, we re-engineer products to fit a budget so that Made in the USA can be competitive.  There’s a misconception that, because wages are lower in China, the price is always lower.  Imports actually have a much higher overhead than domestic goods. They have the inspections; suppliers have to deal with the language issues.  We redesign a product so it’s much less labor-intensive than the same product coming from overseas. Eyelets on a hat, for instance… Adding them is time-intensive and increases the cost.  Eliminate the eyelets, and you’ve saved 60 cents a hat. And if it’s a mesh-back hat, what are the eyelets needed for?

Goods made in China are usually designed with extra labor to save on materials. We do the opposite here. We want to save on labor and make it a better, leaner way. Our clients seem to be willing to spend just a little bit more for that Made in the USA label, especially when they see the quality of the product.

Andy:  But ultimately you’re seeing the price differential coming together a little bit; the difference is not as stark as it once was?

David:  Yes, it’s been about a 20 to 25 percent increase in the price of products being imported over the last five years, but domestic pricing has remained the same.

Andy:  All right, I want to go back to the Presidential election a little bit.  Obviously that’s big in the news right now and will be for the next year.  Do you foresee that the impact of that marketing power trickling down to the local elections that will take place over the next year, as well?

David:  That is one of the things that we’re revving up for, Andy, especially when we talk about the baseball caps. That’s where the marketing funds are being spent on this election. Candidates like Donald Trump have already shown in filing that they’ve spent more money on hats and shirts than on any other line items.

A number of candidates have been publicly called out for selling products that were imported. They’re self-correcting, and we’re seeing a lot of that increase.  Some of our competitors aren’t making Made in the USA anymore because the costs have gone up. We’ve stayed the same, and when you look at the baseball cap as just one item, it is the ideal item, because sizing isn’t an issue, either.  Wherever you go, you can wear it. It’s all about getting the candidate’s name out there and creating a bond between the wearer of the hat and the candidate. And what’s better than a hat?  You’re not going to see a t-shirt if they have a jacket over it. That’s still a popular item, but we’re hitting winter now.  The hat is like a walking billboard.

Andy:  So, I’m guessing that you’re kind of doing back-flips every time that Donald Trump shows up in his hat, huh?

David:  People say, “Why do you have this hat?” and “Why do you have that hat?” We try to explain to them that we’re a Made in the USA factory; we’re not taking any political stance.  We’re a promotional product manufacturer, one of the few that actually makes something.  We’re not just importing it and putting a logo on it.  Whoever wants to buy these products, especially for a political campaign, and they need them to be made in USA, we’re open arms for.

Andy:  There you go, David Bronson, the man who will make a hat for anybody.

David:  Well, I don’t know if we’d say anybody yet…  But in most cases, yes, we’ll do it.

Andy:  All right, David. Thanks very much for joining me today on the strategy session podcast! We really appreciate your time.

David:  Thank you very much for your time, and I hope to see you at the next show, Andy.

Andy:  Sounds good, we’ll speak to you soon.  This has been the latest episode of ASI’s Strategy Session podcast.  To listen to all of our podcasts, go to www.asicentral.com/podcast.


PPB Factory Floor Tour: Unionwear’s USA Made Hats and Bags

| Posted by unionwear

Original article and photos of factory tour found at PPB Magazine.

Unionwear stitches pride into every U.S.-made, union-made cap and bag.

Twenty years ago, textile imports and overseas manufacturing were on the rise, as companies sought ways to do more business with less overhead. But at the same time, Unionwear/Konvex (UPIC: MADEINUS) was founded with a focus to keep manufacturing and production on American soil. Now the New Jersey company is a proud supplier of caps, bags and military goods that are both U.S.-made and union-made.

PPB: Sew American-how Unionwear keeps production on US Soil.“We produce more than 600 different kinds of hats and bags in 360 color combinations,” says David Bronson, national accounts manager at Unionwear. “The most complicated bag we make is a casualty care bag for the U.S. Army, which requires 75 steps and over 100 pieces to produce. It is a fanny pack that holds medical supplies for Army medics.”

The simplest product, Bronson says, is a ski hat. To produce the popular cap style, machines knit yarn into a tube and employees cut the tube and sew it to shape. Unionwear customers’ top picks from the supplier are brushed cotton unstructured hats, structured cotton twill hats and tote bags.

To ensure a quality-finished product that’s wearable, usable and long-lasting, Unionwear has invested in dozens of pieces of specialized equipment—each dedicated to a single step in the process of assembling hats or bags. Additionally, Unionwear team members are experienced in the manufacture of such items. “We require employees to have five years of industrial sewing experience before they are allowed to finish products in our facility,” says Bronson.

“Our experience in making both hats and bags has benefitted the production of both products,” he adds. “In addition, we have become experts in decorating unfinished hat and bag parts, which enables us to get much better quality, larger embroidery fields and lower prices.”

Read on to see how Unionwear pieces together its popular line of hats.

The caps begin as a roll of fabric, which is drawn out and cut for the quantity needed per order.

Each panel of the cap is then die-cut according to the type of cap it will be—structured, unstructured and fitted are a few styles Unionwear makes.

At sub-assembly stations, the panels are sewn together and eyelets are sewn in as well. Embroidery is done at the flat-panel stage, as on this back panel.

More than 100 embroidery machines run daily at Unionwear

Visors are produced and attached to the crowns of each cap.

Next, the trimming, cleaning and quality-control process begins.

Finished products are inspected again before being polybagged, boxed and shipped.


Founding date

Mitch Cahn

Number of orders filled per year

Number of employees

Size of production facility
70,000 square feet
140 sewing machine operators

Dedicated production lines
Baseball caps
Promotional tote bags
High-end tote bags
Military packs
Bucket and boonie hats
Patrol caps
Duffels, attachés, messenger bags and backpacks

Types of specialized equipment
Hat taping machine
Robotic blocking unit
Sweatband-making machine
Double-needle hat taping machine
Bucket-brim stitching machine
Hydraulic die-cutting clicker
Tajima embroidery machines
AS Technologies roll fuser
Automated web-cutting machinery
Programmable tackers
Programmable box stitchers
Roll-to-roll zipper-to-gusset attach
Self handle machinery
Roll slitter for making handles



Make America Great Again Hat Brought To You By Lean Manufacturing

| Posted by unionwear

This podcast can be heard on Lean Blog

TRANSCRIPT: Mark Graban:  Hi, this is Mark Graban. Welcome to Episode 234 of the podcast on November 16, 2015. Today’s guest is Mitch Cahn; he is president of Unionwear, a manufacturer of hats, bags and apparel in Newark, New Jersey. I first learned about Mitch and his company at the Northeast LEAN Conference recently, and I blogged about that. You can find a link to it at leanblog.org/234. Now, what caught my eye was the political hats they produce, including the famous red “Make America Great Again” hat that Donald Trump wears, among hats produced for other candidates. Beyond the surface of those hats is a fascinating story about competing instead of making excuses. As Mitch explains here in the podcast, Unionwear has been very successful, even though it’s producing in one of the highest-cost parts of the world. Unionwear has had to compete against imports from China and lower-wage southern states here in the US, and LEAN has been a major part of their strategy for improving productivity, reducing cost and being fast to market. Now, whether you work in healthcare or manufacturing, you’ll really love the story, the principles and the ideas behind Mitch, his company and his employees.

So, can you start off by introducing yourself and your company, Unionwear?

Make America Great Again Hats Brought To You By Lean ManufacturingMitch Cahn: Sure. My name is Mitch Cahn; I am the President of Unionwear. I started the business in 1992, and we’re based in Newark, New Jersey. We manufacture baseball caps and all sorts of headwear, and sewn bags, like backpacks, laptop bags, tote bags, garment bags, and messenger bags. Everything is 100% made in USA, and everything is made with union labor.


Mark Graban: What prompted you to start the business?

Mitch Cahn: I started the business in 1992. I bought a bankrupt baseball cap factory. Before that, I was working in investment banking, and I really didn’t like it. I wanted to be the client—I wanted to make stuff. So I spent about a year trying to come up with an idea to start a business, and then I came across this small baseball hat factory that had been foreclosed on in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I came up with enough money to buy the equipment at an auctions sale. I was going to do something different with that business—I was going to start selling baseball caps to the fashion industry, which was not a thing in 1992. You couldn’t go into The Gap or Macy’s and buy baseball caps back then, and I was actually successful very quickly. The idea caught on, and we picked up customers like Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom’s, and Izod, and we were helped by the growth of outlet stores at that time. However, by 1994, our entire business model collapsed because all of those clients started manufacturing in China. It happened really quickly; I didn’t see it coming. It was only a couple of years after Tiananmen Square; China became this giant in the market economy, and one of the first items they went after was baseball hats, because it’s almost all labor.

So we needed to come up with a new business model quickly, and around that time we came up with the idea of selling products specifically because they were made in the USA—going after the Made in USA market. We started with labor unions. We actually named the company Unionwear because unions were at that time one of our natural markets. We were the only union shop that made baseball hats. They were natural market for us, and then, by the year 2000, we expanded into political campaigns when the Internet made it possible for Al Gore’s campaign to raise money by giving a baseball hat away to every donor. We had that contract, and that’s been a big part of our business ever since.

We slowly looked into other markets that we found were buying American. After our LEAN transformation in 2007, we were competitive with non-union shops in the deep south. We could even compete  with shops in Puerto Rico for military business—now that’s huge part of our business as well. In 2007, we bought a bag factory, and we did a LEAN transformation of that factory. Now that’s about half of our business. We’ve continued to expand our markets as the prices of imports continue to surge year after year, while our domestic pricing really remains flat. We’ve been able to break into more markets, particularly B2B markets that are looking at co-brands with the Made in USA label, which is really the most valuable brand in the world.

When someone gives a baseball hat or bag away, they don’t want that product to say “Made in China”. A lot of socially responsible companies give bags and hats away—Whole Foods, Google, and a lot of other companies—and they buy our products because the union label shows that the products were definitely not made in a sweatshop, and the Made in USA label shows that the products were not shipped halfway around the world. We’ve also been able to return to the fashion business over the last five years for the first time since the early 90s; we’ve been more competitive, and fashion businesses have been going for smaller batch manufacturing.

Mark Graban: It sounds like there’s a sense of purpose here, whereas a lot of industries and companies go with the flow. When business started going to China, all the lemmings said, “Hello, we have to go to China!” Even before you discovered LEAN, why was it important to you to stay in New Jersey?

Mitch Cahn: Well, I always reminded myself (and that’s the first ten years I was in business) that if I wanted to make money, it would have been a lot easier for me to stay on Wall Street. I didn’t want to make money; I wanted to make products. I find the manufacturing process extremely rewarding—I come into work, and someone meets me with an idea and leaves a sample. Then I have to figure out how to manufacture that sample, what machines to buy and what people to staff. To figure all that out and then go out in New York City and see people wearing and using the products is very rewarding. So, that was one part of it—I enjoy the maker experience. Second, from the outset I wanted to make sure that all of our employees were well compensated and had the same benefits as white-collar workers. Our union was the Ladies Textile Workers Union, and they said we were the first company (and we’re still probably the only company) that went to them before we started the business. We wanted to start a union shop because I knew we were going to give our employees the benefits that union workers would earn anyway. We might as well take advantage of the relationship that the unions had and use that for marketing purposes.

Mark Graban: I’m curious to hear more about LEAN. How did you first get introduced to the idea of LEAN?

Mitch Cahn: Around 2004, we faced with a lot of increasing expenses that were not really affecting the rest of the country. New Jersey was raising its minimum wage significantly ahead of the federal minimum wage. We were going to see our wages go up by about 30-40% pretty quickly. We also had big increases in health care at that time, and most of our competition was non-union shops in the South, and in right-to-work states. In most non-union shops, until ObamaCare, there was no health insurance offered, and we started to see the cost rise over a four-year period. We used to pay $50 a worker for health insurance, and by 2004, it was about $180. Then our real estate prices right outside the New York area started going up pretty quickly. So we couldn’t compete with the South, even for the Made in the USA work, and I was very concerned with our ability to remain a viable company. I started looking for a magic bullet, and I stumbled upon a LEAN 101 seminar that was being run by a New Jersey Manufacturers’ Extension Program (MEP). I took it, and it really blew my mind. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this program, it’s a national program, a one-day class that trains everyone from executives to factory workers on the whole LEAN process.

It puts people in a simulated factory making clocks. At the beginning of the day, everyone is using their own traditional methods to set up a production line and manufacture very simple clocks with the other executives—these are people who believe they know everything about manufacturing. At the beginning of the day, all these executives working together, with all their brainpower, might produce about 15 clocks an hour. Throughout the course of the day, LEAN principles are introduced one by one. Then they do another simulated flow, where the manufacturers take the principle they just learned and apply it to this mini-production line, and their volume increases. From the beginning to the end of the day, this group of executives will increase their production from 15 clocks to 300-400 clocks an hour! It really opened up my mind to the possibilities in my factory. I still remember when I came back, and all I could see was the opposite of LEAN. I was so angry! I was angry at everyone who worked for me for not seeing that they were doing non-value-added work all day, completely forgetting that I had just gone ten years without seeing any of that myself.

Mark Graban: Yeah, it becomes hard when you suddenly see waste and problems that you would have looked past before.

Mitch Cahn: I just wanted to do everything at once, and of course you can’t do that, but I did go back to MEP.  I hired them for a small project while they submitted a grant proposal to the New Jersey Department of Labor to do a LEAN transformation for us. I brought in the consultant from NJ MEP, and he met with our plant manager at the time and me. The plant manager was very old-school, a traditional manufacturing production line person with about 30 years’ experience, and he was very skeptical of the consultant. All he wanted to know was how he was going to make our machine operators sew faster, and the consultant said, “I can’t do that. I don’t know anything about sewing, to be totally honest with you.” The plant manager asked, “How are you possibly going to improve our production here?” and the consultant said “Well, I’m only going to focus on what they’re doing when they’re not sewing. I worked in food companies, paint companies and car companies, and it’s always the same things. All I do is look for those things, and I train your workers and your management to eliminate those things through designing the factory differently and training people differently.” The plant manager was not convinced, but I brought the consultant in anyway, and we started with a really simple project. He went for the low-hanging fruit, and he took a look at our embroidery operation. We run about 12 embroidery machines here in the middle of our production process where we embroider our own hats and bags.

He spent a day observing that process and asked me, “How long do you think your machines are down between orders?”  I remembered this from the spreadsheet that I looked at when I bought the machines, and I said about 20 minutes. He’d made a videotape, and he said, “Well, how about an average of about 2 1/2 hours?”  I didn’t believe him. I watched the videotape, though, and I saw that the machines were indeed down as he’d said. In the past, I’d walked around and saw everyone working hard and running around, so I couldn’t understand why the machines were down for so long, and this was something that was going on 15 to 20 times a day—that was the average number of orders that we are pushing through the embroidery department a day. It turned out to a very simple problem with a very simple solution.

Our embroidery manager was a Chinese National who spoke English, and our embroidery operators were mostly from Spanish-speaking countries; they spoke a little English. The manager gave the instruction to go pick out threads of certain colors for an order. From the time she gave the instruction to the time they brought back the proper cones was about two and a half hours. Why? Based upon the instructions from the customer, she told the staff to look for, say, dark gray and dark green. The employees would go out to the shelves of closed white boxes with the thread color names on them, and the names were things like cement, and soup and canary and so on. They had to open box after box to find the right color thread. If they were lucky, it was the thread the embroidery manager had envisioned in her mind. If they weren’t lucky, they had to go back and return with another armful of threads. Then they would have to count out the threads—threads were shipped to us in boxes of 12, and our machines had 20 heads on them. So they’d count them out, they’d have to find the beginning of each cone and they’d have to bring them to the machine, put them on the machine and thread them, and then go back to get the next color. So the consultant’s first project was to get rid of all the color names and get rid of the boxes. We put everything in giant zip-lock bags. We color-coded our factory thread department like a rainbow, and we referred to everything by color number. We took all the threads and inventoried them in units of 20 to correspond to the machines’ 20 heads. Bags would come out to the table; the embroidery machines would be loaded. When it was over, cones would go back into the bags and be put back on the shelf. The whole process went from about two and half hours to 15 to 20 minutes pretty quickly, and we were easily able to see the power of LEAN in that department. We were sold.

So we went ahead, we got the grant, and we spent about two years putting in every facet of LEAN into the factory. We put in 5S, we put in all sorts of Kanban, we did single cell flow, and every one of these steps was really a phenomenal success for us. The 5S is something that we do every year, and it’s something the owner really needs to be involved in. For example, no one who works for me is going to throw a machine away. I’ll say, “Hey, we’re never going to use that machine! No one is going to pay for it, I just looked on eBay; we’re just going to sell it for scrap.” No one else will say that. So I need to actively show up, ready to get dirty for a couple of days.

Mark Graban: You mentioned the MEP programs, and for people who aren’t familiar with that, it’s a federally sponsored and funded program, but the MEPs operate at the state level. Some of the MEPs are doing work with healthcare organizations—the Ohio MEP, which works under the name TechSolve, is working with both manufacturers and healthcare providers. You talked about your healthcare costs going up. If you went into a hospital, I know you would see the parallels of why it takes so long between cases in the operating room. You talked about sewing—we’re not asking the surgeons to work faster, we’re just trying to maximize the amount of time during the day they can actually be surgeons, and that makes a huge difference in healthcare. Hopefully it’s going to help get costs under control. There are big parallels there.

Mitch Cahn: Yeah, there are a lot of parallels between healthcare and manufacturing, and coincidentally, while we were going through the first LEAN transformation my first son was born. The consultant, Dave Hollander, who shepherded us through this whole process, always tells how I came back from the hospital with all these ideas—it was Mt. Sinai in New York, which was already implementing LEAN—that I wanted to put in our factory. We still use a lot of those processes, like color-coded folders. There are so many LEAN improvements that we made, but one of the first principles that they taught us was to get rid of tables. Tables are evil! Unless you are using the table for a particular job, it’s going to be filled with garbage, on top and underneath, because that’s human nature. I noticed that in hospitals, if anybody needs a table, they get a rolling cart, so we gave everybody their own rolling cart. We designated places on the cart for everything that they need, and we gave them a small personal space on the bottom for their own stuff. We still use that, and apart from the productivity gain, the amount of space we gained was great.

Mark Graban: There is a good general LEAN principle: put everything on wheels! Be flexible so you can rearrange cells, rearrange the layout, make changes as customer demand changes to create different capacity—that’s definitely a great lesson. There was a letter that you had posted at the Northeast LEAN Conference. Could you talk a little bit more about the idea?  I think a lot of manufacturers still don’t get the idea that they can’t create value by cutting labor costs. You have to redeploy labor in creating more value. Can you talk about what that’s meant for you and the company?

Mitch Cahn: Okay, we have a single-minded focus on creating value. Once the people who work here understand what that means, then it becomes a mindset, and it becomes very easy to implement any of the features of LEAN. We are here to create a finished product that needs to go right into a box and get shipped to a customer, and that customer will only pay for the value that we added to that product. So, if we’re making products, and we’re putting them in boxes, it’s inventory. We’re not creating value at that time; we’re just creating inventory. If we are creating work in process because people are working faster, that’s not finished product that we can sell. We’re not creating value. Now, if we are able to improve our productivity so that we’re creating a lot of value, and because of that I lay people off, I’m not actually creating value by doing that, either. Creating value means if I have a 100 people, and they used to make 1,000 hats a day, and now they can make 2,000 hats a day, and then 50 people can make 2,000 a day, I’m creating value by taking those other 50 people and creating another product with them. That to me is creating value. One of the keys to our success is our ability to measure the amount of value that we create. We have a process that we use. We do a lot of custom products—baseball caps are a very cookie-cutter process, that’s only about half of our business. The other half is bags, and every bag that we make is different. One day we’ll be making tote bags, the next day we’ll be making messenger bags. They’ve got totally different value street maps, and they’ve got totally different plant layouts.

So the first process for us is to figure out by doing a traditional time study, what is the cycle time of this product? What is the amount of time that the worker is actually adding value to the product, just picking two pieces of fabric and sewing them together? Or cutting that fabric—that’s really all we do that adds value. Everything else we do, such as looking for thread, waiting for instructions from a manager, redoing work or building up work in process, that’s not adding value. So if we take an attaché, and we know that attaché has 20 minutes of time that’s spent just adding value to that product, we can then measure our output in terms of minutes of work created against the amount of time that our workers worked. So we say, based on our time studies, our workers created 10,000 minutes of work today, but based on our time clock, they worked 20,000 minutes. That means they spent 50% of their time creating value. We measure this all the time. It enables us to get our pricing in check, enables us to know if we’re meeting our margins just by walking on the floor and seeing if there is work in process or if there are people moving around.  It’s created goals for everybody to know whether the shop is LEAN and creating value or not.

Now, when we started this process, before we did any LEAN stuff, we were adding value only 20% to 25% of the time. The rest of it was all spent on non-value-added work. By the end of the process, we were adding value about 65% of the time, so our productivity almost tripled. It was difficult for most of our line workers to grasp the concept of what we were trying to sell to them, so we changed our measurement from percentage of time working efficiently (or adding value) to hours per day, and then people finally started to get it. We said, hey, you know, believe it or not, you’re only spending about two hours a day sewing, but you’re getting paid for eight. We’re asking you to spend about five and half to six hours sewing and get paid for eight, and they got it. That actually seemed like a great bargain to them. We were able to retrain everybody on LEAN principles; we made our own videos highlighting about 50 different non-value-added tasks that were regularly performed in the factories, so we could help people identify them.

Mark Graban: There are many things that are interesting and impressive about your story, but I think one of them is your involvement as an owner. LEAN is not just an operations strategy; it really is a key piece of your business strategy—it’s how you’re running the business and trying to be successful in the long term.

Mitch Cahn: Yeah, I think if I were to describe my job, I’m in charge of LEAN here. Everything else kind of takes care of itself, but LEAN is a battle against human nature, and it constantly needs improvement. If you’re doing LEAN properly, you need to continually improve, because if you are able to clear up one bottleneck, there’s going to be another bottleneck created somewhere else. You clear up that bottleneck in sales, and there’s going to be a bottleneck in production. You clear up that bottleneck, then you find a bottleneck in order processing. So I leave the top line growth up to the salespeople, and I take care of the growth and capacity by implementing LEAN principles throughout our entire organization.

Mark Graban: At the conference you displayed hats you’d produced for Jeb Bush and for Hillary Clinton, and there was the bright red, very familiar Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” hat. I was wondering if there were any stories, particularly behind the Trump hat. I’m curious about getting that business and trying to deliver a large number of hats relatively quickly. Are there any stories that you can share about that?

Mitch Cahn: As for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, we have been doing work for a company called Financial Innovations for decades. They’ve been managing the Democratic candidates for President for quite some time, ever since Bill Clinton. We have a very strong relationship with them. One of the reasons our company is regularly chosen to produce products for candidates is that we can produce goods quickly. Candidates don’t buy for the long-term—a lot of the primary candidates right now don’t know if they’re going to be around in two or three weeks, so they’re ordering every week. Instead of ordering 25,000 hats at a time, they’re ordering 2,000 or 3,000 hats a week. They need people who can turn things quickly, and because of our LEAN principles we can do that. We don’t have a lot of work in process on the floor, so we’re able to rush orders for people who need them. Another reason is that we’re a union shop, and the union label assures political campaigns that we’ve already been vetted for any sort of social compliance issues. That’s a smaller issue for the Republican side, though we have done a ton of Republican work. We did all of the work for the John McCain campaign, and we’re doing about four candidates right now. They just ask that we don’t put a union label inside the hat, for whatever reasons.

The second reason that we’re chosen is that we have a reputation. The candidates don’t want to get bitten by going to unknown manufacturer and finding out the products were actually made overseas. Our reputation as a military contractor says to them that we have been vetted by the military, and military goods need to be made domestically—not just all the labor but even all of the components for those products need to be sourced domestically. So I think that’s why they come to us. We never work with the campaigns directly; we always go through advertising agencies. The particular agency that we worked with on the Trump hat came to us from the Made in USA Foundation. They were concerned after they’d seen these hats being made overseas and contacted that agency, who told them that they don’t need to put “Make America Great Again” on a hat that says Made in China.

Mark Graban: Right. It’s interesting that of the three hats that were on display, the Trump hat was the only one that did not have Made in the USA embroidered on the brim. I think some people misunderstand LEAN as being about cost, when the primary thing is about improving flow, as you’ve described so well here—reducing setup times, improving productivity as a way of being more responsive to customers. Those are really powerful things, and they can lead to being cost-competitive, as it seems you’ve done at Unionwear.

Mitch Cahn: Yes, it has, and in many ways that you wouldn’t anticipate. LEAN has developed our dedication to measuring time and doing value stream maps for nearly every product that we manufacture. Our production process is data-driven. Over the last five years, much of our business has been re-shoring, where companies, usually in the fashion or promotional industry, have been getting products made overseas but are starting to reconsider. In the past, our hats might have been ten times as much as the hat made in China, but now they’re only 25% or 30% more. Companies are much more likely to switch now, so we’re constantly getting products that have been manufactured overseas, and we’re asked to quote on them for domestically made product. We look at the way these products are made overseas, perhaps in China, and it doesn’t make any sense to us. Take a tote bag for example—they throw labor at it to save on materials. It’s a dead giveaway when I see a tote bag that has a seam running along the bottom. If you cut that tote bag in two pieces, you’re going to get a lot more bags out of the roll of fabric than if you cut one big piece, but it adds a lot of labor and makes it a weaker bag. It makes no sense unless you’re trying to save on materials.

So we take these products and we reengineer them in a way that is LEAN and uses the least amount of labor possible. Between our productivity increases and our ability to reduce the amount of labor that goes into the product, we’re able to compete on many items, particularly in the fashion business.

Mark Graban: I really appreciate you being able to share your story both at the Northeast LEAN Conference and for taking time to talk with me here today, Mitch. Again, my guest has been Mitch Cahn, President of the company, Unionwear. Mitch, I was wondering if you want to talk about the company’s website, or ways people can learn more about your business, or if you have any final thoughts for the listeners.

Mitch Cahn: Sure, our website is unionwear.com. We have over 40,000 Made in USA products that you can search for and order directly on the website. You can contact me through the website if you have any questions about LEAN. I love helping other manufacturers who are just getting started in the LEAN process. I just want to warn you—it’s never a good time to start, but once you start, you will be rewarded. You’ll never finish, but you will be continuously improving.

Mark Graban: Well said, and thank you, Mitch, for that final thought and for being a guest here today on the podcast, I really appreciate it.

Mitch Cahn: You’re welcome. Thanks.

Introducer: Thanks for listening. This has been the LEAN Blog podcast for LEAN news and commentary updated daily is at www.leanblog.org. If you have any questions or comments about this podcast, email Mark, at leanpodcast@gmail.com.


Alternet: Buying America-Many Ways To Express Values with your Wallet

| Posted by unionwear

Buying America: The Many Astounding Ways You Can Express Your Values with Your Pocket Book
Shopping can be an ethical act.
By David Morris / AlterNet July 27, 2015

“Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act,” Pope Francis announced early this year. How can we spend our money as if our values matter?

-Democrats brag about their merch being (1)In some sectors and for some values this is fairly easy. Food is an obvious example. Those who want to protect the environment and human and animal health will find abundant labels guiding them to the appropriate product: USDA Organic, free range, hormone free, grass fed. For those who want to strengthen community, shrink the distance between producer and consumer and support family farmers a growing number of grocery stores label locally grown or raised.

For those who want to support farmworkers as well as farmers, however, little guidance is available. The recently launched Equitable Food Initiative and Food Justice Certified labels hope to fill this gap. The former identifies food that has been harvested by workers paid a fair wage and laboring under safe and fair conditions. The latter offers three tiers of certification covering farm, processor and vendor/retailer. Only farms have been certified.

As for grocery stores, we can easily identify those cooperatively or locally owned. Going one step further along the supply chain we can use the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC)’s Diners Guide to Ethical Eating downloadable app to identify restaurants that treat their workers well. Extra credit is given to non-chain businesses. To earn a favorable rating the restaurant must pay its non-tipped workers at least $10 an hour and tipped staff at least $7 an hour, grant all employees paid sick days and enable internal promotion.

The ethical consumer who wants to patronize a locally owned retail store in general can visit Independent We Stand and download its mobile app. Or go to AMIBA and BALLE to find a list of independent business alliances in over 100 cities many of which have hundreds and even thousands of individual member businesses.

There are few guides to locally and rooted manufacturers. But 3-year-old San Francisco Made offers an excellent model, interconnecting and nurturing its 325 member manufacturers located in that city.

The vast majority of products we purchase will come from regional and national firms. One can easily check to see if the company is American and sometimes that will be necessary even when we think we know from the product’s name what nationality the company is. As Roger Simmermaker, author of How Americans Can Buy American and My Country ‘Tis of Thee points out, “Swiss Miss is American (based in Menomonie, Wisconsin) and Carnation is owned by the Swiss.”

For those who want to go beyond where a company is headquartered to who owns it, a list of companies owned by their employees is available from the National Center for Employee Ownership.

Finding American made products as opposed to American corporations requires more legwork. Almost 8 in 10 American consumers say they prefer to buy American made products according to Consumer Reports. (Another survey found that for Americans ages 18-34 the percentage drops to 4 in 10.) Patriotic buying has gained considerable cache in the last few years and is beginning to change corporate behavior.

Consider this story of Florida orange juice. In 2007 Pepsi and then Coke began to mix oranges from other countries with Florida oranges. Florida’s Natural, an agricultural cooperative owned by 1100 growers, whose motto is “we own the land, we own the trees, we own the company” added a logo to its packages sporting an American flag and the words “Product of U.S.A.” For a few years Pepsi and Coke thought price would trump homegrown but in early 2012 the Tropicana Products division of PepsiCo began to proclaim in print ads, “Grown, picked and squeezed in Florida,” (Florida’s Natural responded with its own new tag line: “All Florida. Never imported. Who can say that?”)

A 2013 survey of more than 200 U.S.-based investors interested in the luxury sector, found 80 percent of them concerned that the reputational risk associated with offshore manufacturing is beginning to offset the cost savings for luxury goods manufacturers. After Ralph Lauren proudly unveiled its new uniforms for the U.S. team for the 2012 summer Olympics it was discovered that every piece of the uniform was made overseas. A considerable public backlash led the company to promise to make the U.S. uniforms for the 2014 Winter Games from USA components.

Mitch Cahn, the CEO of Unionwear, a Newark, New Jersey clothing manufacturer told John Oliver about why both Democratic and Republican candidates buy his company’s hats. “Both want to demonstrate their commitment to made in USA. Plus, whenever one of their vendors messes up and sources something from overseas or switches. When they get caught, which they invariably will, it’s going to cost them so much more money to fix the problem, backpedal, apologize, change their message, that it’s easier and cheaper to just patronize clean shops.”

Finding out if a product is made in the United States is easy. All imports must carry country of origin information on the outside of the package. Finding domestic products that are largely made of domestic components, however, may be more challenging.

How American Is That American Product?

Even if we buy American made how much of the value of the product is actually made in America? For automobiles, textiles, wool and fur products the law requires disclosure of the percentage of a product’s domestically produced content.

The 1994 American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) requires all automobiles and trucks to prominently display a sticker showing the percentage of its value made in the United States. The AALA has several shortcomings. For one, it does not distinguish between Canadian and U.S. production. It does not take into account where the profits go (e.g. is the company foreign owned). Finally, it allows the “content percentages to be calculated on a “carline” basis rather than for each individual vehicle and may be rounded to the nearest 5 percent.”

The more sophisticated Kogod Made in America Auto Index, released annually by American University incorporates the (AALA) but adds seven further criteria: site of body, chassis, and electrical parts manufacturing (50 percent); site of engine production (14 percent); site of inventory and capital expense allocation (11 percent); site of transmission production (7 percent); site of assembly labor (6 percent); site of research and development (6 percent); and finally, where the profits in each aspect of the transaction go (6 percent).

In 2014 the Ford F-150 truck, the best selling vehicle in America topped the Kogod charts with 87.5 points out of 100.

As a general rule, automakers are more likely to build larger vehicles with higher profit margins in the U.S. and smaller ones overseas. The Kogod index seems to bear this out. The F-150 and Chevy Silverado score in the 80’s while the Chevy Spark and Ford Fiesta have scores of 15.5 and 19.5 respectively.

Aside from cars and textiles and furs, no U.S. supplier needs to identify where the product is made or its components. But if the company boasts that a product is “Made in the USA” or “Made in America” it must “contain no – or negligible – foreign content” according to regulations issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the product’s final assembly or processing must take place in the United States.

Nevertheless, the buyer who sees a Made in America sticker must still beware. The FTC investigates several complaints a year, almost all submitted by manufacturing competitors and the vast majority end in a settlement with no civil penalty. The civil penalties themselves are modest. California has its own higher and more rigidly enforced standard. No component of a product advertised as Made in the USA can be imported. In 2011 California’s Supreme Court ruled that the company Kwikset could be sued for using the label on one of its locks because the screws in it were manufactured in Mexico.

Americans don’t like to be misled by faux patriotic corporate advertising. As Consumer Reports notes, “Readers who have sent us complaints seem most irritated by foreign-made products whose makers have patriotic names (American Mills, Americana Olives, Great American Seafood, United States Sweaters, the U.S. Lock company) or whose packages have flag-waving slogans (“true American quality”) or symbols (pictures of the flag, eagle, Statue of Liberty).”

Over 90 percent of shoes and clothing sold in the United States is imported. One will almost always pay more to purchase Made in the USA but often their quality is far superior. If you buy a Brooks Brothers suit, 70% of which are made in Massachusetts, or tie, 100% of which are made in New York or shirt, 15% of which are made in North Carolina the quality is first rate and the clothes last considerably longer than cheaper imported items.

More than 97 percent of American denim jeans are made abroad but you can still find American made denim. In the 1990s Lawson Nickol was working for a U.S. jeans manufacturer who like almost all other jean manufacturers decided to move production to China. He resigned and in 2002 with his son BJ Nickol founded the All American Clothing Co. They started manufacturing their own clothing in 2007. Unique among jeans manufacturers, their customers can enter a code and trace their jeans back to the farm that grew the cotton.

One of the new firm’s biggest challenges was finding suppliers. “The apparel industry has lost 85 percent of cut and sew people in the USA since 2002 when China became king”, Nickol notes. He’s had to pay more for their materials and labor which makes their clothes more expensive which Lawson concedes but proudly adds, “…I buy a lot of higher cost products that are made in the USA in order to support tax base, jobs, SSN, police, firemen, hospitals, infrastructure, military, freedom, etc, etc. I don’t buy foreign jeans and help to support labor atrocities, child labor, poor manufacturing quality, give money to the foreign governments…”

Despite higher input costs his jeans prices are still competitive with denim giants like Levis. Why? “One of the things we don’t do a lot of is marketing and advertising,” says Nickol. American Clothing sells 95 percent of its products online. Nickol adds, “We don’t have as big of margins.”

Sluggish wages in the United States and soaring labor costs in countries like China, coupled with the growing realization of the costs inherent in the rigidity of long supply chains and the potential for product piracy, has made it increasingly possible to buy American in many sectors. Whirlpool already makes 80 percent of the products it sells in the U.S in its U.S. plants and it prices them competitively. In 2000, it manufactured most of its front-loading washers in Germany. Now the company is moving that production back to its Ohio-based facilities. “On the one hand, U.S. labor costs are often higher than in other countries,” says Whirlpool’s Casey Tubman. “But when you look at the higher productivity for American workers and consider the fact that it’s very expensive to ship something as big as a refrigerator or washer, we can quickly make up those costs.”

There are several useful web sites that identify American made products. (Look here, here, here, here, and here.)

Going Beyond Buy America

The same Consumer Reports 2013 survey that found that 78 percent of us prefer to buy American products also found that other values were equally or more important to us. Ninety-two percent preferred products from companies that give back to the local community; 90 percent preferred companies that treat their workers well; 82 percent prefer firms that express public support for causes we believe; 79 percent prefer a company that engages in environmentally friendly practices.

If you are one of the 90 percent who care how companies you want to buy from treat their workers one good indicator is whether the product is made with union labor. For clothing you can look for the UNITE label (the union created from the merger of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union). Those seeking to buy a specific car made by union members can find a list here. Those seeking web sites that offer extensive links to union made products can go here and here.

Those wanting to know more generally about the character of the company with whom they are doing business can check out whether it is a Benefit Corporation. This new type of corporation is required to consider its impact not only on shareholders but also on workers, community, and the environment. Benefit corporations are required to make available to the public an annual benefit report that assesses their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard. Twenty-eight states currently permit a corporation to become a Benefit Corporation. A list of Benefit Corporations by state is available here.

Certified B corporations are Benefit Corporations which must achieve a minimum verified score on an Assessment by B Lab, a 501©(3) organization. Recertification every two years is required against an evolving standard. A list of Certified B Corporations can be found here. About 60 percent are American corporations. Each year B Lab publishes a list of its top Certified Benefit Corporations by size and category. Companies are broken out by midsized, small, micro enterprises and sole proprietorships and are graded based on their environmental, worker and community impact.

For example, in 2014 King Arthur Flour and New Belgium were among the top rated B Corporations on labor issues. The 200 year old King Arthur, a company of 388 workers at the busiest times of the year, has a minimum hourly starting wage for full-time workers of $11.25 an hour. New Belgium’s lowest wage for non-temporary workers is $12 an hour. King Arthur Flour and New Belgium are 100 percent employee-owned companies. Both have profit sharing plans. At King Arthur Flour low income employees receive a heavily subsidized Community Supported Agriculture shares.

As Stephen Lurie at Vox observes, despite its high rating, King Arthur Flour puts its USDA organic label on the front of its packages and its B Logo on the back.

Assessing the character of a company is complicated and by its nature incomplete. Some might want to know how willing companies are to pay their fair share of taxes to sustain our public schools and roads and colleges. In 2015 Bloomberg compiled a directory of 299 companies detailing how much of their total profits they’ve stashed abroad to avoid taxes. Bizvizz has an ambitious but spotty downloadable app allows you to use your phone to take a picture of a brand and discover what tax rate the corporation that makes the product pays and in many cases, where its political contributions go.

Often those who want to make ethical purchases will have to assess which of the values they embrace are more important. For example, what do we buy when the organic farm treats its workers poorly? Would you choose a conventional tomato picked by well-treated workers than a local heirloom variety harvested by oppressed workers as the food writer and activist Eric Schlosser declared he would? Or would you choose the tomato that stresses the environment? A Toyota Camry is among those vehicles with the highest percentage of its components coming from the United States. But its plants are not unionized and the company’s profits do not stay in the United States.

With much fanfare Walmart has launched a new Buy America initiative. Would you now shop there given that Walmart’s policies may have single-handedly resulted in the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs and the erosion of U.S. workers wages? Or that more than 20 years ago it launched a similar campaign and began hanging “Made in America” signs in its 750 stores until NBC’s Dateline offered significant evidence the initiative was “more an advertising gimmick than a substantial plan.” At the beginning of its current initiative Walmart publicized a contract with 1888 Mills, a Georgia towel maker to produce American-made towels for the company’s stores. But 1888 Mills, which has an overseas workforce of some 14,000, will be adding only 35 jobs low paid jobs at its U.S. factory to meet Walmart’s multi-year purchase agreement.

Sometimes different values can lead customers to the same supplier. As I noted above, both Democrats and Republicans buy their caps from Unionwear in election years to demonstrate their support for domestic jobs. John Oliver calls it “electoral jingoism”. But CEO Mitch Cahn points out one key difference between the political parties on their values beyond domestic sourcing, “Democrats brag about their products being union made and the republican don’t want anyone to find out about it.”


Wanted in Global Markets: The “Made in USA” Label

| Posted by unionwear

When they came face to face with an angry broker whose business was threatened by their new website, Maker’s Row, Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez knew they were on to something.

Wanted in Global Markets: Made in USA“He came to our office and threatened to shut down the site because that was his livelihood,” Burnett said in the Brooklyn, New York, office of Maker’s Row, the site they believe is making it easier and cheaper for entrepreneurs get their products made in the U.S.

“It was a telling sign of the disruption that was going on in the industry,” Menendez said. She recalled the incident had left her looking both ways when leaving the office. “This is like a big guy, who comes in … huge presence. We felt really uncomfortable, but it was also really enlightening for us.”

Despite the decline in U.S. manufacturing, a “Made in the USA” label is still desirable in global markets.

It brings a certain assurance that products are made according to high production standards, using safe materials. Over the years, that label has also become synonymous with high labor costs. But the cost of foreign labor is on the rise, and it’s beginning to level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers.

Finding a domestic manufacturer, however, can be time consuming. Most brands don’t like to share manufacturing information because they don’t want to help their competition. “It was almost taboo to ask,” Burnett said.

Plus, many older manufacturers don’t have their own websites, which only compounds the domestic sourcing challenge.

One way to find a manufacturer is to get help from a broker, if you can find one. They aren’t always easy to track down. If you can afford the broker costs, you buy a list of manufacturers that might be able to make your product. It’s a system Burnett found troublesome.

“Some of these consultants were basically hoarding the information and charging $5,000. It’s impossible. Five to $10,000 for any small business?” Burnett said. “I would never pay that. I couldn’t pay it. I’m paying $10,000 for maybe my first run of products.”

Before starting Maker’s Row, Burnett founded two small businesses. He studied design in school and was lucky enough to design watches for Marc Jacobs and DKNY. It was a dream since his childhood in Detroit, where he saw his grandfather make watches.

In 2007, he began to market his own brand, Steel Cake. Using connections he’d developed through big designers, he had product made in China, which presented hurdles. Larger orders get priority, and it can take months for shipments to arrive in the U.S. So Burnett had to build inventory without knowing whether it would sell.

He also couldn’t afford to have staff on site to monitor the process for quality control. One costly mistake was enough to put him out of business, “There’s this manufacturing error that occurred in about $35,000 worth of lost merchandise. I couldn’t take it,” Burnett recalled. “It ended up being just too much of a gamble being so far away from my manufacturing facilities.”

So he got out of watches and began crafting leather goods, sourcing materials and manufacturing locally in New York City. His new brand, Brooklyn Bakery, began to take off, but the search for manufacturing help took months, diverting his attention from designing, marketing and selling goods.

Enter Menendez. She’s a marketer with experience at Google and Goldman Sachs. She not only helped Burnett find manufacturers, but also helped build a direct-to-consumer business, bringing Brooklyn Bakery to shopping sites and eventually building a consumer site of its own.

Together, Burnett and Menendez saw the power that local production brought to small business owners.

“We’d get the shipment back within a few days, and it was amazing. It was a very low-risk, very profitable type of business,” Menendez said.

Burnett said that managing the size of orders was the key to their success. “When I was producing domestically, I wasn’t producing a thousand of each product. I was producing a dozen of each product. That means that I’m able to test the market. See what works and press the pedal to the metal, when I see that something is moving.”

As they met with manufacturers and other entrepreneurs, especially the start-ups selling their wares on websites like Etsy and Shopify, Menendez and Burnett began to realize that the search for manufacturing help was a constant issue. So they decided to do something about it.

Maker’s Row went live in November of 2012. Within months, they learned it wasn’t just small businesses that needed help finding U.S. manufacturers. The problem was much bigger than that.

“Big brands are having this problem, too. We see that Wal-Mart is signing up. We see that Burberry is signing up. These are the kings of industry that we’re looking at here,” Burnett said. Big brands using Maker’s Row was a big surprise “because if anyone was to have this information, we thought that it would be the big brands.”

Supporting local manufacturers

The timing is certainly good for Maker’s Row.

There’s a lot of confidence among U.S. manufacturers these days. A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that 16 percent of the 252 U.S. manufacturers who responded are reshoring jobs from China, a 20 percent jump from a year ago, and more than double the number from February 2012.

Back then, Burnett and Menendez were just beginning to wonder how they could find enough manufacturers to make Maker’s Row a success. It was a tough sell at first, but they began to list manufacturers on the site for free, which turned out to be a smart move because some of them saw almost immediate results.

“People started to see leads before Maker’s Row asked them to sign up for their service,” according to Mitch Cahn, who runs Unionwear, a maker of baseball caps and bags in Newark, New Jersey. With leads in hand, it became much easier for Burnett and Menendez to sign up other manufacturers.

“We get several inquiries a day from Maker’s Row,” said Cahn, who bought a former baseball cap factory in nearby Jersey City in 1992, when, he said, there were about 400 baseball cap manufacturers in the United States. These days, he said, there are only about four but he believes the playing field for domestic manufacturers has leveled because the cost of labor overseas is climbing dramatically, making “Made in USA” more of a reality, than a lofty ambition. “There had been interest before but it was really a lot of talk,” he said. “Now that the price differential is so much smaller, people are saying, ‘Hmmm, I may spend another 20 percent to get a product ‘Made in the USA.’ Five years ago, it might have been another 100 percent.”

Local governments have gotten on board to help Maker’s Row, hoping to help their local manufacturers at the same time. They’ve had a large number of sign-ups in Los Angeles and Chicago, too. In about two years they’ve signed up approximately 5,000 manufacturers. A good thing, because there are also about 50,000 brands using the site to look for help. Subscriptions to Maker’s Row begin at $25 a month.

Shifting manufacturing

It’s a similar story at Genil Accessories in Brooklyn, where Gina Bihm and her staff make bow ties and neckties for the likes of Vineyard Vines and Marc Jacobs. Despite her big-name clients, Bihm says she also tries to help the little guy create a sample, if they can find her. “I don’t turn away no one. No one,” she said.

Bihm said the recession that began in 2007 nearly put her out of business. At the time she was shipping out about 20,000 pieces per year. In 2008 and 2009 work was hard to come by. Her entire staff, once numbering about 20 full-timers, was cut to zero. She needed a loan to pay the rent on her work space. She still has only 11 full-time employees, but she says business is better than ever. With bow ties back in vogue, they’re making about 4,000 units per week now, and that was before she found Maker’s Row. They’re practically around the corner from each other, but Bihm only signed onto Maker’s Row during the summer. “The phone calls doubled. I picked up about seven new customers and they all came from Maker’s Row,” Bihm said.

The 2-year-old website also works for entrepreneurs, including Andrew Kessler, Ari Klaristenfeld and Alexa Nigro, who began making their scarf product, called the “Scough,” with built-in carbon breathing filters, by hand in Brooklyn last winter. Within months they were having trouble keeping up with demand. They looked two months for a manufacturer before trying Maker’s Row. Two weeks later, they’d found MCM Enterprises, nearby in Brooklyn.

“We found that it was cheaper for us to manufacture here in the U.S. than it would be for us to produce in China or India,” Klaristenfeld said.

“We’re starting to send thousands and thousands of Scoughs to China which is this really interesting anomaly, where we’re making something in Brooklyn and, uh, it’s going to China because there’s brand, quality assurance that a lot of Chinese manufacturers can’t get,” Kessler said.

Those are the same reasons that Burnett believes Maker’s Row has seen some foreign businesses come online looking for U.S. manufacturing. “We’re looking to change the rule of thumb,” Burnett said. “We’re changing that mindset by showing people where they can produce and manufacture locally because this is a global shift right now.”

—By Andy Rothman.


Upstart: Makers Movement Panel Discusses “USA Made” Cost Myths

| Posted by unionwear

by Teresa Novellina for Upstart Business Journal

When Matthew Burnett, founder of Makers Row, launched his own watch line in 2007, he followed the advice he had always heard and went straight to Asia to get them manufactured, believing the costs would be less.

But because he was a new brand, and wasnít placing huge orders at once, he ran into problems that hurt his business.Makers Movement Founders Talk USA Made

“My largest order was the factory’s smallest order and I was always getting pushed to the back of the line,” Burnett recalled in a panel talk at Northside Festival Friday. That problem led to first a much-improved arrangement domestically (more expensive, but ultimately worth it), and eventually his New York City-based startup, Maker’s Row, an online network of U.S. factories that he launched in November 2012 and which connects designers with domestic factories.

His company tapped into a trend toward made-in-the USA brands, one that panelist Mitch Cahn of made in the USA manufacturer Unionwear says has little to do with patriotism but plenty to do with buying local, environmentalism, and a growing demand for better workers’ rights. His Newark, N.J.-based manufacturing firm, which supplies unions, government organizations and others with apparel and accessories, now has fashion designers calling.

“There are a few misconceptions about Made in the USA,” Cahn said. Among them: that the cost of raw materials is more expensive here. In fact, prices on imported textiles have been rising 25 percent a year for the past few years, and “we’re in the ballpark” on textile prices in the United States.

Meanwhile in China, labor costs are on the rise, and workers are demanding better conditions as well.

While labor costs remain higher here, one cost-saving strategy he has found that works is what he calls “lean manufacturing,” which he says makes sure that people involved in labor spend as much time as possible on activities that improve the quality of the final product, and represent an improvement “that your customer is willing to pay for.”

Jeff Sheldon, the founder of Ugmonk, is a graphic designer whose e-commerce company uses American suppliers. It’s pricier, but he saves in the long run. For instance, because the brand uses a screen printer domestically (for which they paid more), they’ve built a relationship that means when he has a rush order, Ugmonk gets pushed to the front of the line.

“I think itís really true that you get what you pay for,” Sheldon said. “I’ve learned that if you ask for cheap or the best quality you’re going to get one or the other.”

Source: http://upstart.bizjournals.com/entrepreneurs/great-mistake/2014/06/13/makers-movement-founders-talk-made-in-usa.html


Making Made in USA Easier: New Tools for Designers To Find Contractors

| Posted by unionwear

When they came face-to-face with an angry broker, whose business was threatened by their new website Maker’s Row, Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez knew they were on to something.

“He came to our office and threatened to shut down the site because that was his livelihood,” said Burnett in the Brooklyn, New York office of Maker’s Row, the site they believe is making easier and cheaper for entrepreneurs get their products made in the U.S.A

“It was a telling sign of the disruption that was going on in the industry,” adds Menendez. She recalled the incident had left her looking both ways, when leaving the office. “This is like a big guy, who comes in … huge presence. We felt really uncomfortable, but it was also really enlightening for us.”

Despite the decline in U.S. manufacturing, a “Made in the USA” label is still desirable in global markets.

It brings a certain assurance that products are made according to high production standards, using safe materials. Over the years, that label has also become synonymous with high labor costs. But the cost of foreign labor is on the rise, and it’s beginning to level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers.

Finding a domestic manufacturer, however, can be time consuming. Most brands don’t like to share manufacturing information because they don’t want to help their competition. “It was almost taboo to ask,” Burnett said.

Supporting local manufacturers

The timing is certainly good for Maker’s Row.

There’s a lot of confidence among U.S. manufacturers these days. A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that 16 percent of the 252 U.S. manufacturers who responded are re-shoring jobs from China, a 20 percent jump from a year ago, and more than double the number that were doing so back in February 2012.

Back then, Burnett and Menendez were just beginning to wonder how they could find enough manufacturers to make Maker’s Row a success. It was a tough sell at first, but they began to list manufacturers on the site for free, which turned out to be a smart move because some of them saw almost immediate results.

“People started to see leads before Maker’s Row asked them to sign up for their service,” according to Mitch Cahn, who runs Unionwear, a maker of baseball caps and bags in Newark, New Jersey. With leads in hand, it became much easier for Burnett and Menendez to sign up other manufacturers.

“We get several inquiries a day from Maker’s Row,” says Cahn, who bought a former baseball cap factory in nearby Jersey City back in 1992, when he says there were about 400 baseball cap manufacturers in the United States. These days, he says there are only about four but he believes the playing field for domestic manufacturers has leveled because the cost of labor overseas is climbing dramatically, making “Made in USA” more of a reality, than a lofty ambition. “There had been interest before but it was really a lot of talk,” he says, “Now that the price differential is so much smaller people are saying, ‘Hmmm, I may spend another 20 percent to get a product ‘Made in the USA.’ Five years ago, it might have been another 100 percent.”

Local governments have gotten on board to help Maker’s Row, hoping to help their local manufacturers at the same time. They’ve had a large number of signups in Los Angeles and Chicago too. In about two years they’ve signed up approximately 5,000 manufacturers. A good thing, because there are also about 50,000 brands using the site to look for help. Subscriptions to Maker’s Row begin at $25 a month.

Shifting manufacturing

It’s a similar story at Genil Accessories in Brooklyn, where Gina Bihm and her staff make bow ties and neckties for the likes of Vineyard Vines and Marc Jacobs. Despite her big name clients, Bihm says she’ll also tries to help the little guy create samples, if they can find her, “I don’t turn away no one. No one,” she says.

Bihm said the recession which began in 2007 nearly put her out of business. At the time she was shipping out about 20,000 pieces per year. In 2008 and 2009 work was hard to come by. Her entire staff, once numbering about 20 full-timers, was cut to zero. She needed a loan to pay the rent on her work space. She still has only 11 full-time employees but she says business is better than ever. With bow ties back in vogue, they’re making about 4,000 units per week now.. and that was before she found Maker’s Row. They’re practically around the corner from each other but Bihm only signed onto Maker’s Row during the summer. “The phone calls doubled. I picked up about seven new customers and they all came from Maker’s Row,” Bihm said.

Those are the same reasons that Burnett believes Maker’s Row has seen some foreign businesses come on line looking for U.S. manufacturing. “we’re looking to change the rule of thumb,” Burnett said, “we’re changing that mindset by showing people where they can produce and manufacture locally because this is a global shift right now.”


MSNBC Gives Bag Designer “USA Made” Makeover at Unionwear

| Posted by unionwear

The MSNBC show Your Business helps Yadabags find domestic manufacturer Unionwear to produce their bags more cost effectively than China.


JJ Ramberg, Host: We first met Janet a year ago, at a conference for entrepreneurs in Nashville.

Janet Goodman: My business is YadaBags. YadaBags is a purse that’s designed to carry medical equipment for people with chronic disease, so people with diabetes can put all the paraphernalia in it and actually find it.

Host: She came to us to ask a question on camera about getting funding for her business. Once she felt she got the design right she hired someone to do a small but costly production run to see if people would actually buy the bag. After getting some sales, she was optimistic and ready to produce more. But when she looked into manufacturing in China which she thought would be cheap she found that she would have to make a thousand bags to get the right price. That put her in a chicken or egg situation.

Janet Goodman: I am not willing to risk retirement, if I didn’t get orders and I have to put money in to get product that I know is going to sell I would do that in a minute.

Host: With an order for a thousand bags unlikely at this point, we set out to find a solution for her chicken or egg problem by doing what she thought was impossible, finding a domestic small batch manufacturer that was cost effective. And we found just the people to help us out. Janet, I want to introduce to you Matthew and Tonya.

In front of Unionwear’s Newark Factory

Janet Goodman: Hi Matthew, hi Tonya.

Host: They are the founders of Maker’s Row.

Matthew: So Maker’s Row is an online market place and we connect businesses, small businesses and big businesses with American manufacturers to produce products here in the United States.

Host: Maker’s Row did a little homework for us, within introduction to Mitch Cahn the President of Unionwear. They helped us surprise Janet and Fred with the tour of the Newark, New Jersey based factory where the order minimum is 300 pieces. A much easier pill to swallow than a thousand units being made overseas. Mitch.

Mitch Cahn: Hi nice to meet you.

Janet Goodman: Hi nice to meet you also Mitch, this is quite a place you know.

Host: Let’s see your bag. Tell us how much it cost to make this one.

Janet Goodman: For putting it together was $60 and not including material. It was labor only.

Host: Okay.

Janet Goodman: Right, okay.

Host: That’s your bag.

Mitch Cahn: Okay here is our bag. (Produces redesigned bag)

Janet Goodman: Oh very nice.

Host: And the total cost to put it together?

Mitch Cahn: Around $47 and the material should cost no more than about $7 or $8.

Janet Goodman: Total?

Mitch Cahn: Yes.

Janet Goodman: Everything?

Mitch Cahn: Yes.

Janet Goodman: Oh I could love him.

Host: Would you like to give him a hug?

Janet Goodman: Totally.

Host: Mitch explained that the approach to manufacturing in China were labor inexpensive is less efficient than the way they tackle a bag like Janet’s here in America.

Mitch Cahn: We took almost about 60 steps in manufacturing the bag and that’s how we are able to lower the cost.

Host: With all of these resources at hand we gave Janet a challenge. Pull this all together to re-launch YadaBags by November. Just in time for American diabetes month.

Host: So this was a big day.

Janet Goodman: Oh wow, really big. I think it’s really moving in the direction that I envisioned.

Host: What did you learn?

Janet Goodman: Oh wow, I think the biggest piece for me if feeling like I have some support in developing that and somebody to think with as opposed to trying to figure all this up, all of this stuff out myself which I can’t do because I don’t know a lot of it.

Host: But by the way you have done an amazing job. With no manufacturing experience, no design experience and you created a bag.

Janet Goodman: I did, right I got there.

Host: You didn’t yet create a business.

Janet Goodman: Well, I should have got there, but didn’t get there.

Host: Right you got a bag business.

Janet Goodman: I got a bag.



TechTarget: How Tech Helps Domestic Textile Factory Compete Globally

| Posted by unionwear

American apparel manufacturer Unionwear is surviving the global marketplace thanks to its Rootstock cloud ERP system.

TECHTARGET1Apparel is increasingly an overseas business. Studies show that only about 5% of manufactured apparel is produced in the United States. Custom apparel and promotional product manufacturer Unionwear, based in Newark, New Jersey, is one such manufacturer that has sustained operations in the United States. While it employs approximately 120 unionized workers in a high-priced industrial corridor, Unionwear has been able to compete globally partly because it has embraced cloud ERP through its Rootstock software.

The company’s journey into the cloud has its roots in lean manufacturing. Mitch Cahn, Unionwear’s CEO, and his team knew that in order to succeed in a challenging environment, they needed to differentiate themselves from their competitors’ business practices. Lean manufacturing — the methodical approach to eliminating waste and reducing manufacturing costs — was the silver bullet the company needed.

As part of its continuous improvement, Unionwear was ready to adopt an ERP system designed for its manufacturing environment. After a search, the team found that Rootstock Corp.’s cloud ERP software was scalable enough to accommodate Unionwear’s operations and production needs, according to Cahn.

The cloud-based ERP approach afforded fast and easy implementations for the company, with no major IT infrastructure investment needed and a built-in ability to easily expand. This was the perfect fit for Unionwear’s long-term goals: increase customer satisfaction while maintaining a stable expenditure of resources for the manufacturing and production architecture.

A glimpse into the future reveals business apps in the cloud

While the Rootstock platform came with a wide variety of ready to use modules, Unionwear’s focus was on using its inventory management. The company’s primary raw material fabric and varied customer demands require that Unionwear use a multitude of colors and types of fabric, Cahn explained. It is not only critical to plan precisely the amount of material required for production, but to know exactly what is available for production at any given moment. The industry is, in general, a low-margin business. Any time spent looking for material or having extra material laying around that may never meet the needs of a future customer does not fulfill Unionwear’s mission of creating value.

Efficiency was also a critical component of Unionwear’s cloud strategy — specifically, efficiency in finished goods inventory. Unionwear only measures efficiency in the production of finished goods, meaning products that are ready to ship to — and bring value to — the customer. Any material and work in process does not equate to customer value, according to Cahn. With Rootstock, the company was able to calculate the efficiency of its manufacturing effort based on internally-developed standards that measure when the product is complete and ready to ship.

Unionwear’s future plans continue to explore the possibilities of cloud ERP and what it can do to make manufacturing leaner. For example, the company is considering using Rootstock’s reporting tools and utilities, as well as different cost accounting methods. The capability is there for the ERP system’s usefulness to grow as the company grows; as Cahn said, this is “a tremendous advantage and opportunity.” With its ERP in the cloud, Unionwear is poised to be a global competitor for years to

Jim Romeo (www.JimRomeo.net) is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Follow SearchManufacturingERP on Twitter @ManufacturingTT

Source: http://searchmanufacturingerp.techtarget.com/feature/Unionwear-becomes-global-competitor-through-Rootstock-cloud-ERP

Upstart Journal: Makers Movement Panel Discusses “USA Made” Cost Myths

| Posted by unionwear

Upstart Journal
by Teresa Novellina

When Matthew Burnett, founder of Maker’s Row, launched his own watch line in 2007, he followed the advice he had always heard and went straight to Asia to get them manufactured, believing the costs would be less.

Makers movement founders talk 'Made in USA' manufacturingBut because he was a new brand, and wasn’t placing huge orders at once, he ran into problems that hurt his business.

“My largest order was the factory’s smallest order and I was always getting pushed to the back of the line,” Burnett recalled in a panel talk at Northside Festival Friday. That problem led to first a much-improved arrangement domestically (more expensive, but ultimately worth it), and eventually his New York City-based startup, Maker’s Row, an online network of U.S. factories that he launched in November 2012 and which connects designers with domestic factories.

His company tapped into a trend toward made-in-the USA brands, one that panelist Mitch Cahn of made in the USA manufacturer Unionwear says has little to do with patriotism but plenty to do with buying local, environmentalism, and a growing demand for better workers’ rights. His Newark, N.J.-based manufacturing firm, which supplies unions, government organizations and others with apparel and accessories, now has fashion designers calling.

“There are a few misconceptions about Made in the USA,” Cahn said. Among them: that the cost of raw materials is more expensive here. In fact, prices on imported textiles have been rising 25 percent a year for the past few years, and “we’re in the ballpark” on textile prices in the United States.

Meanwhile in China, labor costs are on the rise, and workers are demanding better conditions as well.

While labor costs remain higher here, one cost-saving strategy he has found that works is what he calls “lean manufacturing,” which he says makes sure that people involved in labor spend as much time as possible on activities that improve the quality of the final product, and represent an improvement “that your customer is willing to pay for.”

Jeff Sheldon, the founder of Ugmonk, is a graphic designer whose e-commerce company uses American suppliers. It’s pricier, but he saves in the long run. For instance, because the brand uses a screen printer domestically (for which they paid more), they’ve built a relationship that means when he has a rush order, Ugmonk gets pushed to the front of the line.

“I think it’s really true that you get what you pay for,” Sheldon said. “I’ve learned that if you ask for cheap or the best quality you’re going to get one or the other.”

Source: http://upstart.bizjournals.com/entrepreneurs/great-mistake/2014/06/13/makers-movement-founders-talk-made-in-usa.html

Newark Mayor Baraka Launches Manufacturing Initiative

| Posted by unionwear

Hon. Mayor Ras J. Baraka:  We need economic growth and job creation.  We need a trained workforce to fill those jobs.  We believe that manufacturing and advanced manufacturing is a large component of that growth.  We are going to organize our resources to begin investing and expanding our manufacturing base and training our workforce to accept those jobs.  In the first week of May we are hosting a Manufacturing Conference partnering with Mitch Cahn of Unionwear,  NJIT and the NJ EDA to help identify best practices, develop a point person from City Hall and to help grow the manufacturing industry in our city.  We are also asking that every major anchor corporation, business and public entity begin to identify their partners that they do business with and begin with the help of economic incentives from this city to encourage manufacturers to relocate their shops to Newark as we have a stronger infrastructure than any other municipality in this region for manufacturing and advanced manufacturing.  We want them to come here, develop here, grow here and we will train our residents for these jobs.


CIO Magazine: Cloud Based ERP, MRP Give USA Lean Manufacturer a Boost

| Posted by unionwear

A couple of years ago, Unionwear, a clothing and accessories manufacturer-based in Newark, N.J., employed a patchwork of systems to run its business.

How Cloud-Based ERP Can Give Your Business a BoostHeadquarters used Sage Pro accounting software to manage the books, while individual plants used Microsoft Access and Excel spreadsheets to track manufacturing activities. Unionwear, a 120-employee company, lacked a unified, enterprise-wide system.

“We were running a number of different systems — and leaving a lot of gaps,” said Mitch Cahn, president of Unionwear.


Calculating Costs for Each Run

One such gap was the lack of a perpetual inventory system. Unionwear updated its inventory balance periodically rather than continuously. As a result, the company needed to conduct a cycle count every time it wanted to begin a production run, Cahn says.

In addition, the manufacturer didn’t maintain a database of costing information, so cost calculations had to be done over and over again.

Duplication of effort was one issue. Integration, or the lack of it, was another. The absence of enterprise automation meant that shop floor scheduling didn’t take manufacturing capacity into account. And there was no integration with Unionwear’s Salesforce.com CRM system.

Against this backdrop, Unionwear decided to deploy an ERP system. The company looked into an on-premises approach, but determined that such a move would require a significant hardware upgrade. Cloud-based ERP became the solution of choice. In addition to the upgrade cost avoidance, the idea of having a system that would be updated regularly instead of annually was another selling point, according to Cahn.

Unionwear’s experience with Salesforce — the company went live on the cloud-based CRM in 2013 — was another factor.

“One of the main things that sold us on cloud was the Salesforce Platform,” Cahn said.

The company’s next step was to look into ERP offerings built on that platform. Unionwear selected Rootstock Software’s manufacturing cloud ERP and went live on the software in January 2014.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, research director, Social Business Applications, at 451 Research, said Salesforce, and CRM, in general, has become a common route companies take to broader automation. CRM contains the names, addresses and order details of a company’s customers, creating a foundation for additional applications.

“Building your application infrastructure around those records makes logical sense for a lot of people,” Pelz-Sharpe said.

Made in The USA

Unionwear manufactures and embroiders caps, backpacks, workwear and other items in the U.S., bucking the general trend of off-shore textile manufacturing. The company launched in 1992, when Cahn purchased the assets of London Cap Co., a Jersey City, N.J.-based baseball cap contractor. Unionwear has since brought on board the machinery and personnel of other failed garment manufacturers, most recently acquiring the assets of a backpack and bag manufacturer in 2007.

Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said Unionwear isn’t alone in its domestic focus, noting that a few apparel companies now concentrate all their manufacturing operations in the U.S.

“There has been, in the last three years, a small resurgence in domestic manufacturing in apparel after many years of decline,” Herman said. “We see the trend continuing.”

Unionwear, for its part, has adopted a regimen of continuous improvement and lean manufacturing to make a go of domestic manufacturing, cultivating a niche in small-batch customization. The ERP system helps enable this strategy.

“The automation is critical,” Cahn said. “Every dollar of indirect labor that automation replaces is savings that goes right to the bottom line.”

Small-batch customization provides a favorable outlet for domestic manufacturers, since overseas manufacturers typically focus on churning out larger lots of items.

Herman said companies such as Unionwear that specialize in short-run production can be much more responsive to customers if they make their products in the U.S. as opposed to Asia or other offshore locations.

But cost efficiency in this line of business can be hard to achieve.

“Small-batch customization comes with a high level of overhead and that overhead is basically order processing and all the paperwork associated with an order,” Cahn said.

The amount of paperwork to process an order is the same, whether an order is for 12 units or 12,000 units, Cahn noted.  Automation, however, reduces the paperwork burden, increasing efficiency and making smaller orders economically feasible.

Cahn said the task of creating a bill of materials might take one hour of time for a $50-per-hour engineer to complete.  Automating the bill of materials creation process eliminates that cost. And while saving $50 is not a big deal on a $50,000 order, the impact is much greater on a $500 job.

“I probably wouldn’t touch the $500 order before the automation,” Cahn said.

Cahn said most of the Rootstock components it has rolled out thus far, along with some Unionwear-built features, have made small-batch customization more economical.

Inventory Impact

Specific areas of ERP impact include stock control. Rootstock has imposed a structure on the inventory management task, according to Cahn. The software’s inventory feature gives Unionwear a “really good grasp” of inventory levels and needs in real time at any point in time, according to Cahn.

As for financial impact, Rootstock has contributed to a $225,000 reduction in inventory in its first year of use, Cahn said. He said apparel manufacturers tend to order more material than then need to ensure that they don’t run out of fabric when filling an order. The danger, however, is that a manufacturer will order far too much material, which will turn up in the year-end inventory count. At Unionwear, the Rootstock inventory module helps the company keep a close watch on the materials it orders.

Improved inventory control effects other functions within Unionwear. For example, feedback from the inventory system helps Unionwear adjust its costing methodology.

“We have a much tighter control over all aspects of our business,” Cahn said.

ERP also provides a greater degree of flexibility. Raw material data in the Rootstock database lets Unionwear tap into existing resources rather than purchase new supplies. For instance, if a new order requires a certain color of thread that Unionwear lacks, it can search the database for a close match.

“In the past, if we didn’t have it we would order it,” Cahn said. “Now, we can look through raw materials and make substitutions.”

Unionwear continues to rollout Rootstock modules as well as its own Salesforce-built features. Cahn said the company is easing into Rootstock’s scheduling and capacity planning module. That capability will let the company look at new orders and, based on existing capacity, determine whether the orders can be produced on time. If the timeframe can’t be met, Rootstock’s “drag and drop” visual interface lets planners move capacity around from one production line to another or reschedule earlier orders to
meet the delivery target, Cahn said.

“I can keep moving orders around until we are confident we can produce everything we have sold on a timely basis,” he said.

Unionwear is also using a reporting feature it created using Salesforce’s reporting engine. The company’s production efficiency reporting capability pulls production and costing information from Rootstock and labor hours from Unionwear’s payroll system to gauge worker efficiency.

Also in the works: a mobile technology deployment for production floor workers. The plan is to let workers use any Wi-Fi enabled device to report production data including yield estimates and actual fabric usage. In addition, shop floor personnel will be able to view work instructions, scheduling, and other information on the mobile apps, Cahn said.

John Moore

John Moore has written on business and technology topics for more than 20 years. His areas of focus include mobile app development, health IT, cloud computing, government IT and distribution channels.

Source: http://www.cio.com/article/2892380/enterprise-software/how-cloud-erp-gave-a-manufacturing-operation-a-boost.html

USA Made Promotional Products: 3 Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

| Posted by unionwear

How to make the most of selling products made in the U.S.

By Brendan Menapace for Promo Marketing Magazine

There are plenty of products that were made in America that we should all be proud of—Bruce Springsteen, baseball, movies where Nicolas Cage navigates an elaborate scavenger hunt made up of national monuments to find a historic treasure. The list goes on, but what stands out the most are the many promotional products manufactured in the U.S., and the business opportunities they present. By providing products made domestically, distributors can create business with new clients. Here’s how.


Aside from prMade in USA Promotional Productsoviding jobs in the U.S., domestically-made products can give distributors the chance to work with clients that otherwise may not have been available. David Bronson, national accounts manager for Unionwear, Newark, N.J., said that many companies only will purchase products that are made in the U.S. He named nonprofit, government and military organizations as potential clients that [usually] purchase domestically. “More and more, large domestic manufacturers, food processors, tech companies, and other corporations that promote themselves as ‘Made in USA’ are requiring their logo gear to also be consistent with their domestic mission,” he advised. “Unions and political campaigns generally have domestic sourcing requirements, which will boom in the upcoming presidential primaries and general elections.”

Bronson, who has been a distributor for a decade, added that using items made in the U.S. makes sense from an economic standpoint. “Domestic manufacturing is beginning to make sense economically in a number of areas,” he noted. “In particular, small-batch customization allows buyers to save on overhead, such as sampling, tech packs, sourcing, prepayments and lead times, that can dwarf the unit costs of importing fewer than a thousand units.”

Tim Boyle, president of JournalBooks/Timeplanner Calendars, Charlotte, N.C., explained that buying domestic ensures the protection of U.S. labor and manufacturing laws. “The U.S. has much stricter laws and regulations regarding safety and compliance,” he said. “When distributors sell U.S.-made products, they do not have to worry as much about factories using child labor or unsafe materials.” He added that distributors should still evaluate a company’s code of conduct and compliance safety standards. “Compliance and safety are top concerns for end-users,” he said. “Although the standards for compliance are improving globally, it becomes much trickier for distributors once they go offshore.”


Some distributors may be hesitant to choose domestic products over imports, as they say they can often get products from overseas at a cheaper price point. However, importing products can come with a high price tag that some distributors might not take into account. Factors such as duties, fees, shipping and port delays can throw a monkey wrench into the process and end up costing more than it than saves.

Bronson also explained that some clients would even be willing to pay more for domestic products. “Even when import pricing can still result in significant savings, there are many end-users who will still pay a premium to co-brand with the most powerful brand in the world—Made in USA,” he said.

Boyle he believes the global competition is a good thing for U.S. companies. “It’s hard to compete with importers on price, but not impossible,” he said. “We are constantly exploring new ways to increase manufacturing efficiency and decrease material costs, and we can often be competitive with import items, especially custom projects. Price is only one aspect of the equation.”

The best way to compete is to produce a better product. Bronson said that many imported items are made with cheaper materials and unnecessary labor, which creates an inferior product. “A common example is tote bags coming out of China that have a seam along the bottom,” he detailed. “This adds labor cost to the bag and also weakens the bag at its biggest stress point.” He explained that the sum is there because cutting large panels into smaller pieces provides a greater yield for the manufacturer.

“If a bag has $40 in materials in either China or the U.S., but it costs $4 to sew it in China vs. $8 in the U.S., the end difference will be $44 versus $48,” he continued. “And that $4 difference will be more than eaten up by shipping, fees and duties.” Bronson added that the gap between the price of imports and domestic products has decreased every year for the last six years, and he believes the trend will continue.


According to Consumer Reports, when given a choice between a U.S.-made product and an identical item sourced overseas, 78 percent of Americans prefer the American product. Boyle and Bronson are optimistic about the demand for domestic products.
Boyle said that he sees the demand for U.S.-made items himself. “My opinion is that the demand for U.S.-made products has never been stronger,” he said. JournalBooks, which has manufactured in Charlotte, N.C. since 1971, has taken steps to keep up with the increased demand. “We do whatever it takes to keep up with demand, whether it is adding the necessary equipment or adding members to our team. JournalBooks has a modern, 90,000-square-foot facility with plenty of extra capacity for additional growth.”
In Newark, N.J., Unionwear is having its best year to date. “The demand is higher than ever,” Bronson said. “It has been a challenge to continually increase capacity.”

He attributed much of the success to Unionwear’s ability to offer detailed customization. “Small batch customization is one area where improvements in order processing and set up times can have big payoffs,” he expressed. “We can make any of our bags in any color combination customers want at low quantities. This is what China does not offer the industry.”

Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

In Newark, NJIT, Rutgers Renew Focus on Edison’s Legacy: Manufacturing

| Posted by unionwear

BROOKINGS INSTITUTION Metropolitan Innovation Series

Last month, manufacturers gathered at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark for a roundtable with government officials, educators, and industry leaders. The event spotlighted Essex County manufacturing partnerships and incentive programs and featured testimonials by companies such as Unionwear, which produces hats and bags in Newark’s North Ward. Otis Rolley, chief executive officer of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, told attendees about the resources available to manufacturers seeking to grow within Newark’s borders.

MeanwhileNewark's Universities Renew Focus on Manufacturing, at Newark Liberty International Airport on the other side of the city, students and faculty from Rutgers Business School were running a kiosk that sells merchandise made by New Jersey artisans and small manufacturers. The kiosk project, called Jersey Bound, complements the work of the Newark Industrial Solutions Center, which is housed at the business school’s Center for Supply Chain Management.

The zeal for product development and manufacturing has deep roots in Newark. For over a century, the city was a pioneer in America’s adoption of new industrialized methods and a production-based economy. Numerous products of global importance were invented in the Newark area, including Thomas Edison’s light bulb and air conditioning. These transformative breakthroughs and favorable policy and regulatory conditions contributed to rising incomes and improved economic security for a growing, skilled middle class. Yet, in recent decades, this knack for scientific discovery and making things has not translated into a more competitive production base and workforce.

Today, the 24-square-mile city of Newark is home to 400 manufacturers employing roughly 10,000 workers, and the greater Newark area is a base for 800 manufacturers, a diverse mix of small and mid-sized businesses largely serving regional markets. Despite some bright spots, greater Newark manufacturing is underperforming on employment and output metrics, as well as on the assimilation of appropriately skilled workers and tools that support product and process innovation. The unfortunate result is that Newark is failing to leverage a host of advantages that could favor small-scale production by design and manufacturing start-ups or by retooled, existing businesses. These advantages include density, ample industrial building stock, proximity to markets and service providers, and enviable logistical assets, including a globally connected airport and the largest maritime complex on the East Coast, Port Newark-Elizabeth.

Encouragingly, the city’s higher education institutions show signs of a focused commitment and invigorated strategies behind next-generation design, research and development, and production, as well as support for manufacturing-career readiness in areas ranging from robotics and digital design to technical operations management and market analysis. There are few manufacturing naysayers in the classrooms or around the seminar tables of University Heights—home to the Rutgers Business School as well as NJIT— or at nearby Essex County College or Newark Tech High School, but rather a growing focus on hands-on learning and industry-centered partnerships. Perhaps the boldest example of this activity is the launch last year of NJIT’s New Jersey Innovation Institute, which strives to align industry, educational, and economic development goals through partnerships and strategic clusters.

The challenge (and opportunity) that University Heights now faces is ensuring that the fruits of its initiatives and collaborations reach the area’s neighborhoods and residents, including through the reactivation of older industrial sites and locally embedded training options. Another key will be stemming the brain drain of qualified students out of the area. These goals are becoming increasingly critical in light of sweeping demographic shifts, including an aging industrial workforce and a youth unemployment crisis, as well as the need for infrastructure upgrades and strategies to manage transformation associated with the ongoing expansion of Port Newark-Elizabeth.

Through inclusive and sustained coordination as well as smart investment, a robust industrial commons is within Newark’s reach—an industrial commons that would make hometown hero Thomas Edison proud.

Nisha Mistry is director of the Urban Law Center at Fordham Law School in New York City. Previously, she served as a visiting fellow at Rutgers Business School and manufacturing advisor with the Department of Economic & Housing Development in Newark, N.J. under the administration of Mayor Cory A. Booker. From 2012 to 2014, Mistry served as a mayor’s office fellow (Office of Mayor Cory A. Booker) and nonresident fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, where she authored a report on manufacturing in Newark.

SOURCE:  http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/the-avenue/posts/2015/06/24-newark-higher-ed-manufacturing-mistry#.VYv-FCUXbWI.twitter

7 Reasons Why People Really Buy American Made Goods

| Posted by unionwear

Manufacturing is booming in Newark and other American cities after decades of decline. Newark has over 400 active factories that employ over 10,000 people. Cities like Newark are reaping the benefits because there is already an infrastructure in place from the 70s. With concentrated labor, the center of transit hubs, and proximity to ⅓ of the population, the City is a great place to manufacture goods.

American Manufacturing Is More Competitive

7 Reasons Why People Really Buy American Made GoodsAfter 20 years, Maker’s Row preferred manufacturing partner Unionwear is finally competitive with imports again. Unionwear sold primarily to entities like the government and military because they required that products be “Made in the USA” and, at the time, there were really no other markets willing to pay a huge premium for goods.

The price of imported textiles has been growing at 25% per year for the last four years while the prices for domestic goods have remained flat. As the premium paid for Made in USA shrinks, more markets implement and enforce labor and sourcing standards, and the benefits of Made in USA increase in value. A lot more people will buy Made in USA when it is 25% more expensive than when it was 200% more expensive.

The 7 Reasons Why People Buy Made in USA:

Support American economy
Fair Labor & Product Quality Standards
Economics—small batch manufacturing
Buy Union
Buy Eco Friendly— consumers don’t want to be part of the problem

Manufacturers have learned to localize supply chains from the food movement. The underlying motivations are different and more related to worker rights. The closer production is to consumption, the less acceptable worker exploitation becomes and the more likely goods are produced using labor and environmental standards that the consumer benefits from.

The international worker rights movement is an issue in manufacturing; Bangladeshi factory collapses, inadequate minimum wages, and deep-seated inequalities. Consumers want to know that they are not contributing to the problem–that the products they buy are made at factories that comply with America’s core labor standards. This is important for domestic manufacturing because what actually causes buyers to connect with “USA Made” are deep convictions about issues that support of domestic manufacturing can cure.

Along with localism and worker rights, environmentalism and the maker movement are also affecting the American manufacturing landscape. All four of these factors are much deeper convictions than patriotism. That sentiment is rooted in business-to-business markets since companies are sensitive to being judged on their commitment to everything, from helping rebuild our economy to the working conditions at their vendors’ factories. Putting a Made in USA label on your product enables a small business to co-brand with the most powerful ‘brand’ in the world—America!

The most exciting aspect of American manufacturing right now is the confluence of pricing being competitive, deep seated convictions driving sales, and cloud computing and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) making small batch manufacturing a reality.

A special thanks to Unionwear’s Mitch Cahn. This post was inspired by Cahn’s TED talk and various other discussions on American manufacturing trends.

Source: https://makersrow.com/blog/2015/04/7-reasons-why-people-really-buy-american-made-goods/


Unionwear’s Featured TedX Talk: Made Right Here

| Posted by unionwear

Unionwear President Mitch Cahn’s 15 Minute Ted Talk–Made Right Here: How the international worker rights and buy local movements are creating a surge in U.S. urban manufacturing opportunities.  The talk discusses why the premium for domestic goods are shrinking, and the five types of business to business to market segments with strong convictions about buying USA Made.


Manufacturing is booming in Newark and other American cities after decades of decline.

Newark, NJ has over 400 active factories within the city limits that employ over 10,000 people.  Four years ago nobody knew this, now a growing number of people know this.  How did this happen in the middle of a recession?  Well, as a manufacturer, I can’t say it was anything that our industry did.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t anything that our government did.  And I don’t think it was a wave of made in USA consumerism that pushed us over the edge.

What happened was over the last 20 years, goods have been made overseas in the third world very, very cheaply on the backs of exploitation of labor and exploitation of the environment.  The growth in manufacturing now is because both “overseas” and “exploitation” have become a lot more expensive and a lot less attractive.

Activists did this–labor activists did this, unions, worker rights coalitions and environmental and buy local activists made this happen.  They raised awareness, they localized supply chains and they helped to impose regulations creatively.  And as a result we’ve seen what’s going on in Newark right now.  “Made in USA” has relatively become a bargain.  Cities like Newark are reaping the benefits because we have an infrastructure in place still from the 70’s and before that, we have a lot of concentrated labor and we are in the center of a transit hub.  We have the ability to move people and goods around very quickly.  We are within a day’s drive for something like a third of the population.

What I want to do now is talk about my experiences running Unionwear, which is a manufacturer of baseball hats, bags like backpacks and garment bags, safety vessel scrubs.  We manufacture everything from scratch right here in North Newark.  We have about a 110 union workers, we are 11 miles from Midtown Manhattan.  We have been in business for 21 years.  In almost every product category of ours, we might be the most expensive place to make that product in the entire world.  So how is that over the last four or five years we’ve grown by about 25% per year after about a decade of being flat.

Well we’ve narrowed it down to five areas.  One is market forces, specifically understanding the market forces that are going on and being able to educate our clients about it.  How is Obama care going to affect domestic manufacturing?  How is immigration policy going to affect in manufacturing.  What if China decides to float their currency against the United States?  Is that going to make United States manufactured goods less expensive?  And more appealing to the rest of the world?  Yes.

We stay on top of these things and we make sure clients know about them because changes in the economy happen right under people’s noses and they don’t even see it.

Market selection is a big one.  There are markets that want to buy local.  There are markets that want to buy made in USA.  It’s more expensive to buy those things but they are willing to pay a premium.  Who are those people and how do we reach them?

Product selection is an area that goes along with market selection.  Now someone might not be in a market that wants to buy made in USA but they might want to be a product that might be less expensive to manufacture in United States, so what are those products?

Re-engineering is important because it’s very different to manufacture a product where there is no regulation and people are paid ten cents an hour versus where it is manufactured in an area where there is a lot of regulation and people make 10 to 15 dollars an hour.  You can bridge that gap through smart re-engineering.

Finally we take advantage of our geographic advantages.  We play up how close we are to New York City and Newark airport and port Newark and millions of skilled laborers.

So I am declaring right now the era of cheap imports is over. It’s dead.

So what’s happened as the price of imports increases is the premium paid for made in USA product shrinks.  As that premium shrinks it becomes less expensive for people to have sourcing standards or enforce standards that they already had.  So what happens and why the market is grown is there are a lot more people who are willing to pay 25% more for a product that’s made green, made in USA, made union, then they were in 2008 when it might have been 200% or 300% more expensive for that same thing.  And it is that a big of a difference.

So one reason for this is labor supply and demand.  China has had decades of a one child policy, and as a result there are a lot fewer people entering their workforce now and the people who are entering the workforce, they don’t want to make the iPhone, they want to work for Apple.  So there are not enough people working in these factories–when that happens you have to pay people more to get them to work in manufacturing.

As a result of people being paid more there is now a consumer class in China and in India and in Pakistan.  That’s driving up the costs of goods, its driving up the costs of gasoline, petroleum which is making goods more expensive to ship to United States.

I put a slide up of the iPhone factory because that’s an example of what has happened because of worker rights activists.  When all of the working violations at the Foxconn factory where over a million people are employed were discovered, labor activists came in and negotiated a 40% wage increase and they lowered the amount of hours they can work from a 100 hours a week to 60 hours a week.  They came in a year later and negotiated another 40% increase.  You imagine what it does when a million people make that much more money.  And have to work that fewer hours.  They have to scramble the find workers.  That’s why prices have been of imports have been going up so much.

And as a result of social media, the rest of the world’s workers are finding out what’s going on and realizing they don’t have to work this way.  So you are seeing the same sort of riots, protests, strikes in Bangladesh and Pakistan.  This has led to wage inflation of 25% to 30% a year.  The response overseas has been to cut corners– poison in pet food, poison in dog food, exploding tires, broken plane parts, that’s led to more regulation which has put more expense on products that come in from overseas.

Companies have moved their manufacturing to places that they thought were cheaper than China like Bangladesh.  But they didn’t have the infrastructure and ended up being more expensive.  You ended up with month after month, factory fires and factory collapses which led to more regulation and more expense.

So who is buying made in USA, now that their premium has shrunk?

There are five different ways that people can say “buy local” and these are the markets that we try to appeal to.  Buy American, people buy American for economic reasons, or if they have standards like the US government.  Or if they want consistent messaging, like General Motors who makes goods domestically and they want to buy American-made goods because they are selling made American.

People want to buy union and support their fellow union workers.

People want to buy fair labor, they don’t want to buy goods that were made in a sweatshop.

People want to buy eco-friendly and people want to buy local.

So one of the of the areas that wants to buy American is the US government which makes up about a quarter of our GDP.  This is something that is relatively new, this enforcement of the government buying American made goods.

Another area is trade justice and if you say the labels fair trade and sweat free and living wage on goods, those are all ways of saying that these goods were made by workers who are not exploited.

An example of someone who used to not buy products with these labels in is now is NPR.  They would give away tote bags for memberships at the same time they were doing stories about sweatshops in China but the tote bags were made in those sweatshops because they get them for 25 cents a piece.  Now it’s costing them $2.50 a piece to import.  They are going to spring for $3 a piece and buy something that is made in USA and it basically cost less for them to put their money where their mouth is.

The link between fair labor and local and eco-friendly is this:  The closer production is to consumption the less acceptable worker exploitation becomes.  You don’t want to buy a shirt from someone around the corner who you know as working for below minimum wage and maybe working a 100 hours a week, but its okay if it is around the world.

Also the more likely that goods are produced using your labor and environmental standards.  The factories are operating under the same laws that you benefit from.

Another area is product selection.  So two examples of products that are less expensive to make domestically would be products that are big and bulky to ship and don’t have a lot of labor like this gigantic case right here that we make.  That didn’t need to be made in USA but it is.

Or bags using expensive materials– this bag has $40 in leather in it but only maybe $8 in labor.  In China maybe you can get it made for $4, so at the end of the day its $48 verses $44.  By the time you ship it here and have the duties on it, its less expensive to make it in the United States.  That’s why you see a lot of goods with expensive materials made in countries that are more expensive than United States like Italy.

So another area is small batch customization.  There is a big overhead to making products overseas, you have to translate, you have to make tech packs.  It is expensive to ship sampling back and forth, there are time zone considerations, so as result nobody wants to make 500 or a 1000 of something in China or Bangladesh.  It’s a lot less expensive to make it here.

And finally re-engineering is the area where we are able to close the gap through product design.  When we get goods a lot of times now people are reshoring goods–they send goods to us and it was a bag that they had made in China, they want to get it made in United States and I’ll say if you want it made exactly this way, its going to cost you $80 because there is no thought given to engineering the products because labor was practically free over there.  We can redesign it so your clients won’t notice the difference that will be just as nice and we can do it for $15.

The other area is Lean Manufacturing and that is the concept where you can take people in a high wage environment and train them to use all of their time to just add value to the product and not waste time doing things that are not that the client doesn’t pay for, like looking for a pair of scissors or waiting for manager or walking from machine to machine.

So finally, Newark is a place that is perfect for manufacturing for a number of different reasons.  We’ve got a high concentration of skilled labor, we’ve got a well developed infrastructure of manufacturing.  There are lot of other manufactures here which means that there is a market for mechanics and trucks and things where that might not exist in an economy where there is not a lot of manufacturers.  We are close to the port, we got Newark airport here and we’ve got access to everything.  We have access to New York City we have access to capital, marketing, and technological expertise right here in the city of Newark through our academic communities.

There are other cities where this is happening.  There are not a lot of rural areas where this is happening.  So this is the time to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity where people are coming to Newark to get things manufactured.  Thank you very much.


How Cloud ERP Helps Union Manufacturer Compete

| Posted by unionwear


Why Lean Manufacturing Needs Cloud ERP:

It’s about 10 years since we had our first lean implementation here. It wasn’t until last year that we were able to put the pieces together because we needed to wait for the software to hit the clouds.  Legacy systems are really too expensive and too clunky  for a company of this size to be able to implement a robust ERP and we wanted something with which we would be able to grow to four times our size.

We also want something that we can add on to if we want to do things like track production, raw material, and efficiency on the factory floor; not all of our production employees use computers but all of them use smartphones and with a cloud based system like Rootstock we can have apps put on to smart phones that our production employees can use to track production, to track receiving, track cutting, track efficiency and things of that nature in real time.  We can use that real time data for sales.  We can also use, we can also integrate our website with rootstock and populate our product line using materials and processes that we already have costed, have that information flow to the factory using API’s and other new technologies and have our MRP system purchase goods, have work travelers and work tickets and production planning done without having to use any indirect labor or admin staff.

How Cloud ERP Reduces costs:

One of the things we have been able to use Rootstock to do to save cost is to really get a handle on our raw material inventory.  We are able to make substitutions of raw materials in bills of material; so that if we are out of this swivel hook we can substitute a different swivel ,  take a look at what kind of inventory we have, recommends certain kinds of materials to our clients based on availability.

If sales people make recommendations of materials based on availability and cost and it will reduce waste and sting on operations tremendously.

In the future with ERP and the internet of things, we will be able to take orders online and use ecommerce and do many stages of our manufacturing using robotics, picking components and materials, using robotics to put them into bins, using apps to give workers instructions what to do with those bins and tracking production of them.

Unionwear Spoofed on Daily Show with Jon Stewart

| Posted by unionwear

After seeing Unionwear’s success making Made in USA merchandise for political campaigns, The Daily Show’s John Oliver proposes an “Election Stimulus” — a presidential election every twelve months–as a way to invigorate domestic manufacturing and other sectors of the economy who benefit from campaign spending.

Here is the unabridged transcript of the Unionwear interview:

Kudlow: Unionwear Gets “USA Made” Gold Ring

| Posted by unionwear

Unionwear and New Balance were featured on the Kudlow Report’s Made in USA July 4th Special. Unionwear President Mitch Cahn talks about how lean manufacturing principles helps union shops compete with factories overseas and in Right to Work States.



Newark Video Promotes Local Sourcing

| Posted by unionwear


Unionwear is featured in this video for Maker’s Row / Newark, a site for sourcing local cut and sew contractors.


The video was launched at an event on May 28, when Unionwear CEO Mitch Cahn spoke at a Brookings Institution panel along with Mayor Cory Booker and NJIT President Joel Bloom on Newark’s Manufacturing Moment, discussed here in NJ Biz Magazine:




CNBC: Made in USA on the Rise

| Posted by unionwear

cnbc imageMitch Cahn is the owner and founder of Unionwear, an apparel and accessories maker—all exclusively made in the U.S. Despite years of panicked manufacturing headlines—Japan is making everything! No, It’s China!—Cahn has kept his business open for 21 years and counting, all on American soil.

The company’s first core customers were unions that wanted to support union wages and “Made in USA” goods. Then more recently, a new crop of customers began ringing Unionwear headquarters in Newark, N.J.

East Coast fashion designers—including those in NYC’s garment district—were shopping for U.S.-based contract manufacturers. With labor costs in China rising and that country’s own economy accelerating, small U.S. shop owners couldn’t get the attention of overseas manufacturers. In an ironic twist, they couldn’t afford a “Made in China” strategy.

“Now we have five to 10 callers a day about doing that kind of contract work. It’s a groundswell,” Cahn said. “And it’s not patriotism. It’s economics that’s prompting them to call us,” he said.

Cahn’s changing business points to the shifting global economy. With labor costs in China forecast to climb further, more small-business owners are benefiting from, or actively pursuing, domestic manufacturing rather than overseas options, sometimes called reshoring.

And small shop manufacturers aren’t just dusting off shuttered businesses, locked up after jobs moved to countries such as Japan in the 1970s. Young entrepreneurs are innovating from scratch, creating new online communities such as Maker’s Row—and even turning to emerging platforms such as crowdfunding—to bankroll U.S. manufacturing operations.

(Read MoreMade in the USA: More Consumers Buying American)

STRDEL | AFP | Getty Images
Bangladesh factory collapse

After Bangladesh

After the deadly collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh, more people have been asking questions about overseas-made apparel, often linked to sweatshops and unsafe working conditions. (Read MoreHow to Bring Ethics to Your Closet)

Some top European apparel labels includingH&M have signed a safety-standards pact. But other major U.S. companies including the Gap and Walmart are pursuing independent solutions. They haven’t signed the group safety accord, which binds retailers to improve safety at Bangladesh factories.

But searching for ethically-sourced goods in a global economy is tricky. And what percentage of a good’s raw materials and labor must originate from the U.S. to merit a “Made in the USA” label?

“Right now there’s no common, national definition for ‘Made in the USA,’ ” said Harold Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group.

Even if you wanted to make American-made products, sourcing domestic raw materials is challenging in part because most online manufacturing resources are Asia-focused. But one Brooklyn, N.Y.-based start-up is changing that trend.

(Read moreThe ‘Opportunity’ Entrepreneur Returns)

Source: Maker’s Row
The Maker’s Row team of Tanya Menendez, Matthew Burnett and Scott Weiner have created a website that connects designers with U.S. factories and suppliers.

Maker’s Row

Maker’s Row is an online matchmaker that connects designers with industry-specific factories and suppliers—all based in the U.S. Product designers and small businesses can join the website for free, while manufacturers pay $200 a month.

Maker’s Row founder Matthew Burnett is a designer and Detroit native. He relocated to New York City to work for major apparel labels, before launching his own watch line. His grandfather was a watchmaker so he’s been around small shop manufacturing all his life.

But manufacturing his designs overseas was a costly headache. Orders and tweaks, shipped abroad, took weeks to resolve. “You add import taxes and it becomes such a gamble manufacturing overseas as a small business,” Burnett said.

Maker’s Row was launched in 2012 and breaks down the manufacturing process for small- to medium-sized ventures. The site allows entrepreneurs, many first-timers, to plug into a U.S. supply chain including factories in all 50 states.

Participating businesses straddle apparel and accessories. “It’s harder to find a manufacturer in the U.S. than in China,” Burnett said. Maker’s Row plans to add other industries, and is wrapping up their seed round of funding.

The site includes about 10,000 small-business owners and roughly 1,800 manufacturers, including Cahn of Unionwear.

And a vibrant U.S. manufacturing sector means more domestic jobs. For a $1 million backpack order, for example, Cahn estimates he’s able to hire 35 to 40 New Jersey workers. Less than 10 percent of American jobs come from manufacturing.

(Read MoreUS Manufacturing Shrinks for First Time in Six Months)

Can Americans Afford ‘Made in the USA?’

Of course not everyone can afford American-made goods. U.S. consumer spending fell in April for the first time in almost a year, as personal income growth was flat. But attitudes are changing.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced it will boost sourcing of U.S. products. And more American and Chinese consumers are willing to pay a 10 percent to 60 percent premium for “Made in USA” goods, according to BCG research released last fall.

Meanwhile, a shift in manufacturing away from China will begin to take hold around 2015, according to BCG forecasts. Rising labor prices there will create a ripple effect.

Certain industries—in which labor is a lower percentage of total product costs—are more likely to pack up overseas for North America, including Mexico, where labor costs are stable. Product categories likely to reshore first include appliances and electronics, transportation, machinery, plastics, furniture and chemicals, BCG’s Sirkin said.

But as the global economy evolves and shakes out new winners and losers, consumers are connecting the dots between inexpensive, overseas goods and evaporating U.S. jobs.

The recession has been especially brutal on chronically out-of-work or underemployed Americans. Unemployment that counts the discouraged and underemployed, sometimes called the “real” jobless rate, is still above 10 percent in many states.

“People used to thumb their nose at manufacturing jobs,” said Unionwear’s Cahn. But when the recession gripped the U.S. and the manufacturing sector was among the first to stand up and create jobs, many gave the sector a another look.

“As a country we can’t all be servicing each other,” Cahn said. “You have to have manufacturing.”

BCNBC’s Heesun Wee; Follow her on Twitter @heesunwee



NJBIZ: Newark Putting It All Together

| Posted by unionwear

Getting all the stakeholders on board is critical in push to help manufacturing expand.

Newark’s infrastructure and geographic advantages have drawn manufacturing to the city, but the Made in Newark movement says there are challenges, too. – (Photo By AARON HOUSTON)

By Beth Fitzgerald


Newark has become New Jersey’s urban manufacturing laboratory, as the Brick City engages stakeholders from business, government and education to help employers thrive while churning out products from clothing to chemicals, to paintbrushes and mattresses.

A key milestone in the three-year-old Made in Newark movement came in May, with the release of a Brookings Institution study that found Newark has drawn a cluster of diverse manufacturers that benefit from the city’s favorable geographic location, as well as its international port, rail and highway connections. But it also pinpointed serious challenges that can blunt Newark’s competitive edge: an aging workforce, insufficient investment in innovation and sustainability, and poor participation in regional and global markets.

Brookings fellow Nisha Mistry, a co-author of the report who also is an aide to Mayor Cory Booker, said Newark has a real concentration of manufacturing assets; getting them to perform more efficiently “will require the active involvement of many voices and institutions.”

Stakeholders looking to Newark’s manufacturing renaissance are hoping their involvement helps accomplish that. Among them are the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which wants to educate the next generation of shop floor leaders, and Rutgers Business School, which is launching the state’s first urban manufacturing resources hub through its supply-chain management program; both campuses are in Newark. The state Department of Labor’s advanced manufacturing talent network, launched in 2011 at NJIT, is working with all stakeholders, including community colleges and technical high schools, to train a pipeline of manufacturing workers in the skills needed on a computerized factory floor. The Newark Regional Business Partnership also is a major supporter of the city’s manufacturing initiative.

That level of involvement was the kind of thing Mitch Cahn envisioned when he helped launch the Made in Newark support group in 2011, with the help of Booker’s economic development team.

At the time, “I thought maybe there were a dozen manufacturers in town,” said Cahn, who launched his Unionwear apparel company in 1992 and has been in Newark for 12 years, where he now employs 110. When a research effort turned up 400 manufacturers in the city, “I was shocked,” he said.
Manufacturers, he said, have found “Newark is at the intersection of inexpensive space and abundant skilled labor.” But they tend to underfly the radar, because while they may employ a couple hundred people, they work in nondescript buildings scattered throughout the city. It’s hoped that the partnership with Newark’s universities can help power further growth in the sector.

“It’s very difficult to hire management in manufacturing, because individuals coming out of engineering schools and business school were not preparing for jobs in the manufacturing sector over the past 20 years,” said Cahn, who said his company makes baseball caps, backpacks and other textile products for companies seeking items made in America, including political campaigns, labor unions and the military. “Now that manufacturing is roaring back here, there’s a big gap.”

The challenge is finding factory managers who understand both manufacturing processes and new technology, he said: “In certain positions, we hire two people — someone with technological expertise and someone with manufacturing expertise — and hope they can work together.”

NJIT is eager to train the new factory management, said Donald Sebastian, its senior vice president for research and development. He said NJIT has long been committed to manufacturing: In 1995, he launched the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, which provides consultants to manufacturers to help them boost efficiency, provide training and develop new product lines. Originally housed at NJIT, today NJMEP is an independent nonprofit in Morris Plains.

“We’ve never stopped beating the drum to get people to understand that we have to be a producer country, and this needs to be a producer state,” Sebastian said. “People have gotten back to the business of understanding that we need to make the things that we consume and that we sell, and that innovation is not just about clever products — it’s about cleverness in producing those products.”

Sebastian said NJIT is considering an undergraduate program to prepare engineers for manufacturing. He said industry is evolving, and factory leaders must be prepared to manage rapid changes in product life cycles.

“Small and midsized companies have to be part of the design process, they have to be part of the innovation and thought process,” Sebastian said. Years ago, an auto parts supplier might make the same General Motors part for a decade. “Now, you may be a supplier to three or four automotive manufacturers, and those platforms change on a three-year time cycle — you can’t do the same thing over and over and over again.”

He said NJIT hopes to convene groups of Newark industrial firms and help them “develop a sense of identity and community, and chart a course for growth.”

Gale Tenen Spak, associate vice president of continuing and distance education at NJIT, said the university is exploring ways to replenish the pipe of “technologists” — workers with the training and credentials for advanced manufacturing’s computer-driven workplace. One idea is for workers to take “stackable” industry-vetted courses leading to credentials “that are accepted for an associate’s degree leading to bachelor’s degree. Then, you have the ability for individuals to have that long-term career with a family-sustaining income.”

Meredith Aronson, who for the past two years has headed the state’s advanced manufacturing talent network, said the Brookings report revealed “food and textiles are substantial and important manufacturing activities in Newark,” and recognized that “we are not performing as aggressively as we need to in Newark with regards to exports.”

And while it may be difficult to find large parcels of land to locate a factory in Newark, the city could attract high-tech factories that need less space: “I see opportunity for urban or metro-focused manufacturing, because the footprint can be smaller in many cases” and they can tap the urban workforce, she said.

E-mail to: beth@njbiz.com

On Twitter: @bethfitzgerald8

source: http://www.njbiz.com/article/20130624/NJBIZ01/306219989/Putting-it–all-together


4 USA Made Items That Cost Less Than Imports

| Posted by unionwear

With labor costs continuing to skyrocket in China, transportation costs trending upward, and importers piling on currency hedge premiums, a number of promotional items have become less expensive to produce domestically. Four places to look:

1. Products made out of expensive materials. Pricey leathers and performance fabrics make the difference in labor costs insignificant. This bag uses $40 worth of leather whether it’s made in China or New Jersey. If labor costs are $9 domestically and $3 overseas, the FOB price will be $49 vs. $43–and the shipping, duties, taxes, cost of capital and other import headaches will more than eat up the cost savings. That’s why so many leather bags are made in the USA or in places even more expensive, like Italy.

2. Bulky products that are expensive to ship. Look for hard cases, coolers, laptop bags, products that don’t ship flat or nest. We recently made a hard case that was three feet wide by two feet high–it was more cost effective for the client to buy domestically than to pay to ship mostly air around the world.

3. Products with unnecessary bells and whistles. When labor was almost free, the Chinese often engineered products to “make work”, and little has changed. Evolved US factories re-engineer, eliminating unnecessary labor from imported products and build dedicated, lean production lines to keep labor costs low in a high wage environment.

4. Small batch customization. Import unit pricing may still be cheaper on most items, but there is a large overhead with every transaction. Language differences require tech packs. Sample approval and product development cost a fortune. As a result, customization in small quantities is cost prohibitive. Not domestically: you can do all over prints, custom dye lots, custom patterns, and panel embroideries by the hundreds–not tens of thousands.


Corporate USA-Made Buying Sees Uptick

| Posted by unionwear


Company Logos Appear on Made in USA Gear More and More

Another day, another study that 75% of Americans are willing to pay more for USA Made merchandise.
Corporate logo apparel magnifies this phenomenon since companies are sensitive to being judged on their commitment to everything from helping rebuild our economy to the working conditions at their vendors’ factories. Here are six situations where a company will pay a small premium to see Made in USA on a promotional product that features its logo:


Company Store Catalogs/Fulfillment Programs
Companies that charge employees for corporate logo gear at far more likely to offer Made in USA options because it’s a risk free way to test their employees’ willingness to shell out a couple bucks extra for USA Made, while showing their support for domestic manufacturing. These companies may continue to buy their giveaways overseas unless they are…


Domestic Manufacturers

USA manufacturers such as GM, GE, John Deere, and Harley Davidson are already aware of the rapidly shrinking premium paid for USA Made. Most push “Made in USA” in their marketing and want to avoid appearing hypocritical saving money by putting their logo on an overseas product.

Other Industries Identifying with USA Made

Companies that promote their commitment to adding value with US labor in industries such as food processing, bottling, construction, energy and even technology, graphic design, and web development buy USA promos for the same reasons as domestic manufacturers.

Regulated Utilities/Telecom with strong Unions

Public Utilities and cable and phone giants such as AT&T and Verizon have been at the forefront of buying USA made wearables for their workers, as a nod to both the gigantic unions who represent their field workers and the politicians who must approve the usage of public bandwidth, easements, and other resources.

Trade Justice, Green, and other Social Ventures

Corporations with Social Ventures departments and/or a strong stated commitment to the environment or workers rights will buy USA Made–or at least avoid associating with countries known for sweatshops and lax environmental regulation.

Companies with Clients Highly Sensitive to “USA Made”

Unions, federal and state governments, the military, and political campaigns take issue with anything not USA Made, so companies giving away merch at events that cater to these industries take pains to endorse “USA Made”. Examples are financial services companies that cater to unions, military contractors, and DOT vendors.



BCDC – Newark, It’s Your Move

| Posted by unionwear

vimeo.comBCDC – Newark, It’s Your Move: Newark Highlight video for Brick City Development Starring: Chip Hallock – Newark Regional Business Partnership, Dr Lezli & Chris Harvell – DentalKidz, Don Katz – Audible.com, Mitch Cahn – Unionwear, Joe Taylor – Panasonic Corporation, Dr dt ogilvie – Rutgers Business School, Marketing Agency/Art Direction – Princeton Partners, Video Production – Visitivity Media.

Coast Guard Admiral Tours Unionwear

| Posted by unionwear


Newark, N.J. – Mitch Cahn (right), President of Unionwear, provides a tour of his Newark, N.J., ball cap manufacturing facility to Coast Guard Capt. Robert R. Mckenna, Commander of Community Services Command, Bernard Reiner, a Coast Guard Auxiliary congressional liaison officer, Rear Adm. Daniel R. May, Commander of Personal Service Center, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. The Coast Guard presented Unionwear a Certificate of Appreciation for their outstanding efforts, providing on-time delivery of the Coast Guard’s new standard uniform ball cap.

‘Made in Newark’ Initiative Hopes to Introduce Visitors to City’s Businesses, Locally Made Products

| Posted by unionwear

‘Made in Newark’ initiative hopes to introduce visitors to city’s businesses, locally made products: Newark – Activity buzzed inside a nondescript, one-story manufacturing building near Newark’s Branch Brook Park. Workers from Unionwear carefully cut zippers to length for royal blue gym bags emblazoned with a block-lettered “Made in Newark” logo on the side.