U.S. Manufacturing

Constructing the Future of U.S. Manufacturing

With K’NEX, Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys, children can build from their imaginations and open their minds to the worlds of science and engineering. As my company created these products for kids, many years ago our minds were opened to another complex subject: the math behind producing them in the United States.

Since 1992, our subsidiary The Rodon Group has helped K’NEX Brands make this a reality, manufacturing more than 32 billion bricks, rods and connectors at our plastic injection molding facility in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. We sell many of these toys at Walmart. So when the company announced its $250 billion U.S. manufacturing commitment, we were thrilled – because we were aligned with a retailer that’s acting on a cause we’re passionate about.

Last August, we attended Walmart’s first U.S. Manufacturing Summit, meeting with state representatives and connecting with like-minded businesses on the challenges of making more products domestically. Now that it’s time again this year, I’m excited that we’ll not only be attending, but playing an even bigger role.

This Thursday, I’ll be speaking on stage with Jim Stephen, CEO of Weber, at the second annual U.S. Manufacturing Summit, and I’m eager to share K’NEX’s story as well as some practical advice for other companies. While the case for manufacturing in America has been presented by many, some businesses remain skeptical that there are advantages. And we know firsthand the journey isn’t always easy. For example, although we quickly saw the major upside of bringing products to our customers faster, we discovered there were several minor supply chain details we weren’t up to speed on, like the proper thickness of a box, the ideal inks for packaging, and others that we had to replicate in a cost-efficient way.

Offstage, I’m excited about the connections we’ll all make. At The Rodon Group, we not only make toys – we also make about 5 billion parts a year for industries from home construction to food and beverage. So we’ll be sharing those details with companies who are interested, and we’ll also be seeking our own partners, too: We still import our toy motors, and if we can find a company at the summit that can make those domestically, we’ll reach 100% U.S. production on virtually every K’NEX item.

Given that I’ve said last year’s summit was like LinkedIn for U.S. manufacturing, I’m confident that those connections will be made for not only K’NEX, but hundreds of other companies assembling their dreams right here in America.

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Community

When Disaster Strikes, Associates Provide Real-Time Relief

When forecasting warned that record rainfall could be coming to Louisiana, a team at Walmart’s home office did what they always do when severe weather is imminent: Pull together the right people to prepare for help.

Because there are about 30 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations in the Baton Rouge area where the flooding eventually hit, the company’s Emergency Operations Center had a responsibility to local associates and communities. Logistics, operations, and merchandising teams assembled quickly, first mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana and ramping up shipments of diapers, bottled water and other essentials.

While some stores and clubs closest to Baton Rouge did have to close their doors because of flood damage, most have reopened now. Ensuring that corporate functions and teams on the ground can work together to make that happen is at the heart of the EOC’s role.

Formed in the early 2000s following 9/11, Walmart’s EOC was established to support associates and local communities in times of need. Whether it’s securing generators to restore power to facilities or acting as a call center so that associates and community members can locate and assist one another, the EOC is the hub that helps Walmart locations provide a sense of normalcy when disaster strikes.

With the recent Louisiana flooding displacing thousands of people from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million to organizations making a difference on the ground. Learn more about those efforts here.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Watch the American Dream at Work at this Utah Company

If you were watching TV over the weekend, you may have seen a new ad about Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing. While the music in the background is fairly recognizable, what may not be as well-known is the commercial’s cast: real employees of Lifetime Products, one supplier we’re working with to re-shore production of several items.

Based in Clearfield, Utah, Lifetime manufactures basketball hoops, folding chairs and tables, and picnic tables. They also produce other consumer products, from lawn and garden items to kayaks and paddleboards, for other companies.

The company was founded in 1986 and soon became a Walmart supplier of sports equipment. Fast-forward 30 years and they are providing approximately half of their 300 products to Walmart stores, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club locations across the U.S.

Lifetime began as an idea in a garage in Riverdale, Utah, when a husband and wife team wanted to build a better basketball hoop for their family. Their passion and innovation expanded the project into a business whose name reflects its mission: to build durable, lasting products for consumers and their families.

The company has grown from 15 employees in a partial warehouse to 2,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in Clearfield, population 30,000, and one of the largest private employers in the state.

In late 2014, we at Walmart reached an agreement with Lifetime for the production of patio furniture and other products re-shored from China. Walmart’s commitment to Lifetime and American-made goods has allowed the manufacturer to establish new production facilities in Mascot, Tennessee, just north of Knoxville. Lifetime hopes to hire 500 employees over the next five years in this new location, which is situated in a town of just 2,500 people.

“Lifetime’s relationship with Walmart and Sam’s Club has been vital to our expansion,” their president and CEO, Richard Hendrickson, recently said. “As a company, we will continue to fight hard to keep jobs and manufacturing technologies and expertise right here in the United States of America.”

When we visited Lifetime to shoot the commercial, we also got the chance to meet several of their employees and chat about their work. In addition to Mike’s story here, you can watch others – and read more about our commitment to U.S. manufacturing – at walmart.com/americanjobs.

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Opportunity

When an Obstacle Opens Doors to a Better Life

When I arrived in Pass Christian, Mississippi, in 2009, I knew putting down roots would come with its share of challenges. A native of Peru, I didn't speak much English and couldn't even help my 9-year-old daughter with her homework. But I was willing to do whatever it took as long as there was an opportunity.

Walmart store #5079 extended me that opportunity as a part-time associate in the deli. Being able to make a living in my new country not only motivated me to learn English, but also pursue my GED certificate so I could better provide for and assist my daughter. Looking back, doors have continued to open for me from the very first day I was hired. I’ve made lifelong friends, earned U.S. citizenship, been promoted to full-time training coordinator, and built a life I'd always envisioned – which includes long walks with my family along the Gulf Coast.

Today, my English – and confidence – have grown so much that I’m pursuing my new dream of becoming a human resources manager with Walmart. Taking inspiration from my store manager, Lynn Day, I’ve started working toward my associate degree through Walmart’s partnership with American Public University.

Encouragement and support from people like Lynn helps me continue to realize my goals. She’s such a great mentor to me – and that’s what I want to become for the people around me.

I believe that knowledge is power. And I believe if I have the knowledge, I have the power to help people.

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Sustainability

How One Small Farm Planted a Seed of Opportunity

For Juan Carlos Urquia, there was always an excitement associated with finishing his homework. It meant he could join his father on their small, 3-acre farm in the tiny rural community of Ocotal, almost three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

As young as 5, he enjoyed helping his father raise and harvest corn, beans and cucumbers more than anything. He immediately sensed the responsibility of producing food people needed to survive. More than three decades later, Juan Carlos still finds joy in the field. Only, these days, his passion has evolved into an opportunity for his extended family and a growing number of others in the community to make a living.

Juan Carlos’ care and attention to detail sparked an opportunity to begin filling orders of several hundred cucumbers per week for Walmart in 2006. That opportunity has since grown to more than 25,000 cucumbers per week, and the family farm has spread to nearly 100 acres.

With access to stores across Honduras, Juan Carlos has created full-time jobs for 20 people, many of them siblings and cousins. And that has created work for nearly 100 others in the community who work to clean, process and transport the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions he grows, as well as those who supply fertilizer and other materials to sustain the operations.


The care was always there, even in the days when Juan Carlos was learning from his father. But, through support from Walmart and other organizations committed to delivering training and best practices to farmers in the areas of sustainable agriculture, efficiency and optimization, they’ve seized an opportunity. In fact, Honduran farmers sold more than $148 million in fruit, vegetables, grains, meats and other perishables to Walmart in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 6.5% of the national agricultural gross domestic product and helped boost the country’s agricultural exports.

When Juan Carlos was a boy, he and his extended family all lived under his father’s roof. Through their commitment to the farm, he, his siblings and cousins all have their own homes today – and that’s something they’re extremely proud of. They're not just producing food. They're creating opportunity and raising the quality of life for those around them.

Small and medium-sized farmers around the world will be counted on to meet half the increased global demand for food and clothing through the year 2050, and Walmart has committed to specific goals to improve their livelihoods. You can read more about this work in our Global Responsibility Report.

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