As labor rates in China continue to rise, manufacturing overseas is losing its appeal. Rising costs, however, aren’t the only reason Jeff Gerbing, owner of Gerbing’s Heated Clothing, is bringing his company’s manufacturing back to the United States.
There are three main reasons Gerbing says he’s pulling out his company out of China:
One, we need to support our own country and put Americans back to work. Two, I need to have control over my own product, which includes no minimum runs, no large inventory requirements and no long lead times, which are increasingly late to boot. Three, prices continue to rise in China and delivery times continue to get longer.”
Rising costs in China won’t be something businesses can ride out. William Fung, managing director of one of the world’s largest manufacturing outsourcing companies, told the Wall Street Journal that he estimates China’s wages to increase 80 percent throughout the next five years.
For Gerbing, it’s more than just the money, he says.
“It’s time for companies to step up and make our nation great,” he said. “Being the leader in heated clothing, we set the standards. That’s why we’re coming back to the U.S. We have a passion in our hearts to have our clothing made in America. We hope that by our example, other companies will follow suit and do what’s right for our country.”
Gerbing looked to move the company’s manufacturing to various states and decided on North Carolina due to its strong history and network of materials.
“The sewing talent is in North Carolina,” he said. “There’s a great support network, from textile knowledge that’s available from other companies who are producing clothing, to many universities and community colleges.”
The transition will occur in phases over the next three years. The first products to come back to U.S. production will be the company’s jacket liners in September.
North Carolina residents will be ready to produce them.
“I have found that people just want to help,” Gerbing said. “I’m impressed by the people of North Carolina and their strong work ethic.”
The hard work ethic is going to be necessary as business is going strong for Gerbing Heated Clothing.
“We had a great 2010. Motorcycle sales were up 10 percent, and Core Heat was up 30 percent,” Gerbing said. “We obtained more dealers. The Core Heat and Lifestyle line continues to grow at an astounding rate — more and more markets are opening up.”
The company has made numerous innovations to its product lines.
“We came out with hybrid [battery-operated] motorcycle clothing, which works on our new flexpack battery,” Gerbing said. “We are coming out with a new summer line of clothing — High-Vis mesh jackets that have the capability to zip in heated liners.”
In the fall, Gerbing’s Heated Clothing will release new high-tech thermostats. The company also continues to develop the military side as it has several projects underway.
“A lot of this is still under wraps due to release dates and notifying the proper avenues in our business,” Gerbing said. “We have 63 projects underway in our R&D department that are pushing Gerbing’s to stay the leader in technology and innovation in the heated clothing industry.”
With the amount of different product lines, Gerbing’s Heated Clothing is able to target a number of different demographics.
“The Core Heat side is for the everyday person who gets cold — soccer moms, hunters, fisherman, people doing outdoor sports, etc.,” he said.
Gerbing’s product lines are also made for anyone who rides ATVs and motorcycles. Gerbing’s started doing business with Harley-Davidson in 1998.
“We provide them with their entire heated clothing line,” Gerbing said. “We are working on new projects with them that will be released in the fall.”
Soon enough, all of their lines will be marked “Made in the U.S.A.” PSB
Copyright 2011 Powersports Business