The American Spirit and U.S Manufacturing: What one company is doing to keep jobs in the U.S
You have to look very carefully to spot the silver lining in the cloud that looms ominously atop the future of U.S manufacturing. Staying positive seems evermore difficult especially with national unemployment rates on the rise. Politicians continue to skew the national numbers in their favor to validate political agendas while at the same time discouraged workers remove themselves from the "pool" of potential employees; people have given up. Some of the unemployed adopt early retirement if they are fortunate enough and others cancel retirement plans altogether. Our country was founded upon independence, and now it looks as if our dependence has become the catalyst for our decline. Almost everything we purchase turns out to be made outside of the U.S, why is that? Political agendas aside, everyone can agree that putting people back to work is a good thing and an "honest hard day's work" feels satisfying when you can earn a wage that supports your family. That satisfied feeling defines our American spirit; that feeling of knowing your independent efforts "did it". That same feeling, our "American Spirit" lived inside us in greater numbers when we as a country were actually making "things" in our country.
Outsourcing labor to countries where the US dollar is stronger is common place. From a business standpoint, it's attractive to pay someone less for the same work. Unfortunately for the U.S and its labor force, outsourcing has had and will continue to have negative consequences. Some companies who have outsourced their labor are starting to wake up; they are beginning to realize that their own outsourcing efforts have had direct consequences on their bottom line. At times a company's identity or brand loses status among consumers due to difficult to control quality issues, and foreign labor disputes. All in all outsourcing negatively affects the U.S consumer on a quality level, the U.S citizen on an employment level, and the U.S as a whole with respect to GDP. Preserving manufacturing jobs within the U.S is important, so when a U.S company has an opportunity to but avoids the temptation of outsourcing it's worth noting.
During this summer (2012) a medium sized thermal control company named Rostra Vernatherm located in Bristol, Connecticut purchased a smaller company in Caro, NY. The smaller company operated under the name Bilbee Controls for 32 years and is known favorably among many in the food service appliance industry. Bilbee Control's roots reside within the Catskills of NY and date back to the early 1950s. The company was founded by a factory employee with the American Spirit who had an American dream. That factory employee invented, patented, and produced the original B200 conduction type thermostat and eventually opened a small factory under the name Bilbee Controls in 1980. That same B200 technology is still used today by countless appliances requiring thermal control. The B200 technology is reliable, consistent, and manufactured with quality. Knowing that those attributes set Bilbee's products apart from international competition Rostra Vernatherm made sure to keep those same values preserved.
Out of courtesy for Bilbee's existing customers Rostra Vernatherm saved the familiar company name "Bilbee Controls". Rostra Vernatherm moved Bilbee to Bristol, CT from Caro, NY but maintained U.S. jobs, and was sensitive to the relocation process. Vernatherm offered job opportunities and relocation options to the existing Bilbee staff. Understandably most did not relocate to Bristol, CT and sadly jobs were lost in NY, but Vernatherm did bring jobs to Connecticut rather than ship them overseas. To ensure the same level of quality Bilbee customers expect from the B200 technology Vernatherm spent extensive time researching the B200 technology at the NY location.
Studies were performed on the traditional manufacturing processes, and close attention was brought to the calibration of controls; a large factor in dealing with quality and consistency of the B200 technology. Vernatherm simply did not lock the doors in NY the day of the closing and force the old employees out the door. Vernatherm sent engineers to NY to work with the original Bilbee staff and to learn their ways. Vernatherm was careful not to impose any changes to the process before all was understood. These safeguards were put in place so that there were no negative effects on the technology once the move occurred. Vernatherm's major priority was to ensure that the existing Bilbee customers continued to receive the same quality product that they have grown accustom to, along with the product still proudly bearing the label "Made in the U.S".
Because Rostra Vernatherm's primary thermal control application lies within the aerospace industry they operate their factory and manufacture products under strict quality programs. That same level of quality control and precision Vernatherm adopts to manufacture its aerospace grade technology will now be applied to the newly acquired Bilbee products. Rostra Vernatherm is a certified ISO 9001-2008 AS 9100 manufacturing facility in compliance with several other quality programs. Vernatherm has been manufacturing thermal controls in the U.S. for over 75 years and embraces lean manufacturing principals. The inevitable innovation Vernatherm will generate towards new applications of the B200 products and spinoff technologies is both exciting, and refreshing. With modern innovation, preservation of U.S jobs, and compassion for the American worker, the B200 American Dream of the 50s will not die; it will flourish into an American dream of the 21st century.
Written by: Anthony Truss – Rostra Vernatherm
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