You’ve undoubtedly heard arguments in favor of buying American-made products. Ever since overseas outsourcing became standard practice across various areas of industry, there have been those who defend the virtue of American-made. These arguments typically focus on three areas: economics, environment, and quality.
From an economic perspective, buying American-made means creating jobs and keeping revenue cycles within American shores. From an environmental perspective, it means lessening fossil fuel use and reducing carbon footprints. From a quality perspective, it means compliance with consumer protection laws and safety standards. American-made quality also speaks to something a little less computable, something not easily represented on a spreadsheet. Although it’s not easily described, you’ll know it when you see it.
UNDERSTANDING AMERICAN-MADE DESIGN QUALITY
When you hold a custom, American-made baluster in one hand and its foreign, factory-made counterpart in the other, you’ll instantly know which is which. The difference in craftsmanship is night vs. day, winter vs. summer, mass-produced vs. custom. And though there’s no shortage of reasons for this difference, I’m focused on the distance between design and execution.
Before outsourcing manufacturing, products are oftentimes still designed, tested, and mocked up in the U.S. Then the design is shipped and put into overseas production. When this occurs, quality production is less likely. This isn’t because those producing are unskilled or don’t care. It’s more likely because they are so far removed from those who truly understand the product’s purpose and intent: the designers.
A product’s quality is affected by how closely the person who designed it is involved in its creation. When the designer and creator are in the same country, state, city, or shop, design can easily work with production and solve any miscommunications or misunderstandings. The same process becomes more difficult when the designer and the creator are separated by oceans, language barriers, and cultures.
CUSTOM, AMERICAN-MADE STAIR DESIGN
At Glacial Wood, everything we do is custom. When an interior designer or other professional has a custom stair design, they turn to us for production. We often work with American-made stair designs. There’s really no limitation in terms of what we can work out or develop. When customization matters, you don’t want a manufacturer that is halfway around the world.
Don’t limit the success of your project with the mass produced materials in a catalog. This is where American-made matters most – when a designer and manufacturer can discuss and understand a shared vision. This brings greater assurance that the final product will be what the designer, and the client, requested.