Today, “Made in the US” is regarded as a sign of quality in markets around the world. Your customers will value and appreciate American-made products, provided that you find the right manufacturer.
Fortunately, the US manufacturing sector has been making a comeback in recent years, with about 12.2 million employees in this sector at the start of 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today’s consumers demand well-designed, engineered, and manufactured products from U.S companies. For online companies, there are other major advantages to engaging US suppliers, including shorter delivery times compared with overseas factories, easier communication with the manufacturer and the ability to resolve issues within the US judicial system.
Depending on your business’ product line, you might seek out a supplier with the capacity to handle a high volume of orders or offer several lines or related products. In other cases, you might want a manufacturer of limited edition, hand-crafted or “one-of-a-kind” items. In any case, you undoubtedly want the best possible pricing as well.
There are several leading directories of US manufacturers, including ThomasNet, MFG.com and Maker’s Row. Of course, you could also search by using a few well-chosen keywords, such as “US widget manufacturer,” or ask for referrals from your business associates.
Once you have identified several prospective suppliers, the next step would be taking a good look at their websites. Pay particular attention to the products they highlight, as well as any customer testimonials, to see whether their capabilities would be a good match for your needs. For instance, if you are a small online retailer, a manufacturer that caters to Fortune 500 companies may not be interested in your business.
If you are still interested in the manufacturer, you could send a brief email describing your needs and ask the company’s sales manager or representative to respond with a return email or a phone call. One of the benefits of talking on the phone is getting to know the person who will be your key contact if the relationship moves forward. Having that relationship can be invaluable in terms of ironing out any details in an agreement or addressing any problems that arise down the road. You can also ask the supplier to send you a sample for evaluation.
While conducting your search for a US supplier, you should also take time to prepare a request for quotation (RFQ) that outlines your requirements, such as how many products you plan to order, the specifications of those products, delivery times, shipping costs, etc. Sending the same RFP to several potential suppliers is the best way to ensure an “apples to apples” comparison. You can also track how long it takes each manufacturer to respond to your RFP.
Once you have received those responses, you can rank them in order of desirability. Then, you can begin negotiating and fine-tuning an agreement with the top supplier on your list, knowing that if the payment terms or shipping times become a deal-breaker, you can move on to your next choice.
Depending on the volume of your orders and factory location, you may also want to visit the manufacturer in person. Getting a tour of the production and warehousing facilities can give you a better sense of the company and its culture. Those face-to-face conversations can also strengthen your connection with the supplier so the new relationship gets off to a great start and “Made in the US” products contribute to your long-term business success.