Supply-chain snafus renew interest in reviving US manufacturing

But after 40 years of assigning production to large-scale overseas factories, that won't be easy to bring it back home


National News

January 25, 2022 - 5:00 PM

Jerzy Figura, a set up technician at the Rodon Group in Hatfield, monitors the operation of one of Rodon's automated plastic injection molding machines. The company reshored manufacturing of its K'nex toy line from Asia about a decade ago, and now promotes other manufacturers to bring back their overseas production to America. (Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Michael Araten knows a thing or two about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. Araten and his company, the Rodon Group, got many accolades and a visit from President Barack Obama a few years ago after shifting assembly of its K’nex brand of plastic construction toys from China to Rodon’s plant in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

As global supply chains melted down recently in the pandemic, Araten ratcheted up his evangelism for repatriating production to America, a process known as reshoring. He and Rodon are encouraging other U.S. manufacturers to evaluate the true costs for producing overseas — including soaring costs and shipping delays — and to bring back some manufacturing to American companies like Rodon, which employs 128 people who make precision plastic parts.

“All of a sudden, the stuff you thought you were saving on overseas, you’re not saving,” said Araten, who is chief executive of Sterling Drive Ventures, the family firm that owns Rodon Group. “I saw this happen in the Great Recession: There’s a shock to the economic system that causes people to really look at their total cost of ownership.”

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