The New American Manufacturing


Here is an interesting look at how some changes in U.S. manufacturing models can still make it worthwhile.

When Richardson Industries shut down its 300-person furniture manufacturing operation in 2002, it was "the most painful thing I ever had to deal with-to look people in the eyes and say they weren't going to have jobs anymore," says Joe Richardson III, chief executive officer of the Sheboygan Falls, Wis., company. Chinese competition had gotten the best of Richardson and most of the rest of the domestic wood-furniture business, and the company became a U.S. sales and marketing outfit for imported tables and chairs.

But over the past couple of years, Richardson has put smiles back on the faces of about two dozen of his old employees-and $13-an-hour paychecks back in their pockets-by rehiring them at a new division he launched to manufacture fine wood cabinets for yachts. It was the brainchild of Gary Kane, a manager who had fled Richardson's doomed furniture business for a job managing a yacht builder, who came back to his old boss with the idea. Since 2003, Richardson Yacht Interiors has been stealing market share from European competitors with quality, price, delivery and customer-service advantages.

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