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.

4 Comments

Innovation

Why Pickup is a Time-Saving Treat This Halloween

As a dad of three, I love planning for Halloween. My family and I start in September thinking about the perfect costumes for a fun season of parties and trick-or-treating. This year, my 3-year-old, 5-year-old and 7-year-old are obsessed with Star Wars, and we will be trick-or-treating as their favorite characters. My 3-year-old is particularly excited to be Darth Vader (or as he says, "Darth Tater" – how cute is that?).

If you’re a parent, you know that finding the perfect costume isn’t always easy, especially if your children – like most kids – like to change their minds a few times along the way. (Of course, that never happens in our family. Right, kids?) And once your costumes are set, the last thing you want is to find the store doesn’t carry the right size.

This year, Walmart is sparing customers from that hassle through a simple solution: making the majority of our in-store costumes available through same-day Pickup. Think of it like a reservation system. Simply purchase the item online and then pick it up in the store the very same day. As long as your child’s friend doesn’t snag the last one of your favorites, there are no unpleasant surprises, and no scouring the aisles for that perfect wig or mask. (One heads up: We expect superheroes to be one of the most sought-after costumes this year.)

We know that the way customers shop has changed – they expect a connected experience and depend on us to deliver it. With thousands of physical locations, plus online shopping and convenient services like Pickup, Walmart is uniquely positioned to serve customers anytime, anywhere for all their Halloween needs however they wish to shop.

For the past few years, I have been on the team that has been working to develop our Pickup program, so I'm especially excited about this. I recently took my family to our local store to test it out. We bypassed the aisles, went straight to the Pickup counter and, within minutes, my kids had their costume selections in hand.

Whether your family chooses to dress up as Star Wars characters or superheroes this Halloween, I hope you save time shopping so you can enjoy the fun stuff: parties, costume contests and trick-or-treating. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Editor's Note: Walmart has this Halloween's popular costumes and candy exclusives. For more information on this year's top items, click here.

Be the first to comment on this article

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.

Be the first to comment on this article

Life

#FiveThingsFriday: Jet.com, a Special Surprise and Appreciating Associates

ICYMI this week: Walmart acquired Jet.com and expanded the way we serve our customers, Miss America Savvy Shields returned to her home state of Arkansas to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and we’ve got Halloween decorations to make your house the spookiest on the block.

Walmart Acquires Jet.com

At the beginning of the week, we were excited to officially welcome a new company to the Walmart family. But why Jet.com? Our CEO Doug McMillon said it best: “Walmart and Jet.com obsess about saving customers time and money. By joining forces, we’ll be better at doing both, creating seamless shopping from app to site to store.”

A Special Request Inspires Custom Delivery

For the past three months, Danny Nolin’s Ocean Pacific striped T-shirt is the only one he’s wanted to wear. After being washed and worn dozens of times, the shirt finally ripped, and his family searched high and low for a replacement, only to find that it was no longer available in stores. After one of his relatives reached out to Walmart on social media, we were able to team with our supplier, dig through the archives and make 10 new shirts just for Danny.

Way to Go! Associates Earn Cash Bonuses

Our people work hard to serve our customers. So much so that 99% (!) of our stores met goals for cleanliness, faster checkout and better service in the second quarter. We were excited to recognize our associates’ hard work by recently paying out more than $200 million in quarterly bonuses to about 932,000 hourly associates.

Miss America Savvy Shields Visits Walmart

The newly crowned Miss America, Savvy Shields, made an appearance in Bentonville, Arkansas, this week to support a cause near and dear to her heart, bringing awareness to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. She toured a Walmart store and interacted with associates and customers all to raise awareness for the cause.

Have No Fear: Cool Halloween Décor is Here (All Under $18!)

You can always count on Walmart for some scary good deals. Check out some of the items we have this Halloween season to make your house one of the scariest on the block!

Be the first to comment on this article

Opportunity

This Mall in Indiana is Helping Retail Workers Succeed

No matter the job, real-world experience is the most valuable foundation for starting a career or advancing an existing one.

Training is a close second. But sometimes it’s unclear how both of these can move you forward, especially in the retail industry.

In Northwest Indiana, a new retail training lab is working to provide the answers.

Positioned in a local retail hub -- the Southlake Mall in Merrillville, Indiana – the retail training lab is a place where retail job seekers can take classes that cover the interpersonal and technical skills that are necessary to create an overall outstanding customer experience. Not only can workers gain this new knowledge, but they can also earn an official credential: Graduates can receive certifications in customer service and sales, loss prevention, retail management, and/or inventory management, all of which are recognized by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Loss Prevention Foundation.

While it may seem unusual to establish a training center in the middle of a shopping environment – for these students, it just made sense. Not only do participants have close access to technical instruction, but they can step out of the retail training lab and experience customer service and retail management in action, just by walking into one of the many stores in the mall.

A few weeks ago, the first round of graduates completed the NRF customer service and sales certification. I was taken aback by how passionate they were about everything they had learned, and as a previous store owner for 23 years, I knew that they were equipped with everything they would need to be successful in either starting or advancing in their careers. Not only were they armed with certified skills, but they were coming away with a renewed sense of confidence.

This lab, an initiative of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board, was made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation to the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, which has enabled us to offer classes at no cost. That strengthens employment opportunities for everyone who walks out of our doors. We’re excited to provide such one-of-a-kind service for jobseekers and employers in retail.

Be the first to comment on this article