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Domestic vs. International Manufacturing: Which Is Better For Your Business?

domestic manufacturing

The American economy would not be what it is today without outsourced manufacturing. But is it essential to the health of our industries?

 

What was once a cost-effective solution is now facing problems. Emerging regulation standards, longer lead times, rising shipping costs, and quality control issues are plaguing the global manufacturing industry. Whether you work with domestic manufacturers or not, sourcing decisions should be backed by careful analysis to avoid costly repercussions. Here is why staying in America can alleviate most issues concerning supplier relationships.  

Keeping Manufacturing in America

made in america

Buying local is more than a transactional act of patriotism. And although the upfront cost may be higher, its best to remember that cheaper does not always mean better. In fact, according to a recent Thomasnet.com survey of manufactured goods buyers (given the current post-covid economy), over 83% of companies are looking to re-shore their supply chain within the next 3 to 6 months.

 

Here are the benefits of using a domestic manufacturer.

 

Higher Labor and Manufacturing Standards

Labor costs were the initial reason for the major trend in outsourcing that began in the later 1970s. Up until 2011, America witnessed millions of jobs move overseas to China. Today, we see a moving wage gap shrinkage between America and its foreign competitors every day (with global wages increasing by 20% year after year).

 

When addressing the issue of labor costs, you must consider the whole picture. High employee turnover associated with low labor wage costs typically results in low productivity. On paper, it looks mathematically sound to partner with an international manufacturer who makes a product for $4 an hour vs $20+ domestically. But the money saved will be tested by production rate issues associated with low labor costs. Not to mention the hassle of dealing with poor currency exchange rates.

 

In the United States, employers comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) enacted in 1938 as a federal guideline for reasonable working wages and conditions. As a business, protecting your brand by working with morally compliant manufacturers benefits your company’s reputation (and your conscience).

 

fair labor standards act

“On-shoring” is making an economic comeback with a newfound desire for locally sourced goods. At BIT, we carefully manufacture our industrial grade felt for industrial application according to SAE and ASTM mandated standards. We guarantee quality control, provide samples, and welcome plant visits (all facilitated by transparent communication without any time-zones to maneuver).

Supplier Relationship Opportunities              

Fostering a long-distance relationship with your manufacturer can be tricky; differing time zones and language barriers can lead to costly communication issues. Proximity to your supplier reaps the benefits of quick response times, so if there is an issue, it can be addressed with little to no repercussions. You also have the personal touch of meeting face to face with your supplier, giving you the firsthand opportunity to oversee the facility and operations.

 

Building a rapport with your manufacturer can lead to growing business opportunities. Recently, we were able to produce and color match our Poly-Sonic acoustic panel felt for our sound abatement customer located on the west coast. From a plant visit, their supply chain team witnessed our production line firsthand.  This key insight provided them with a new line of upholstered materials to match their current acoustic panel line.

 

Shorter Lead Times with Lower Shipping Costs

containers on boat for international shipping

More companies have begun “re-shoring” jobs in the past ten years due (in part) to unreliable international shipping costs. Less than 1% of goods travel by air to the United States. 99% of the rest of all goods arrive here by container. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for product arrival by boat. If shipping wasn’t costly enough, COVID had only exasperated prices with considerable surges in container freight rates at the height of the pandemic. Just as we believed business was normalizing, incidents like the Suez Canal in March prompted a new price surge re-emphasizing the uncontrollable nature of overseas shipping.  If that does not complicate things enough, extra add-ons to your overall cost include local tariffs, customs and duty taxes.

The cost of transporting goods from the point of sale ultimately adds up to time. Can you meet the demand of your customers with the given supply of your manufacturer within a proposed time-period? Unlike labor wage costs, quantifying international shipping can be tricky and lead to missed ship dates or, worse, missing inventory. There is little to no control over maritime trade. And without the proper regulations in place, it might as well be impossible to know when your shipment will arrive in adequate condition. Economic/geopolitical disruptions, competition with foreign markets, and weak currency further complicate getting your product to its end destination.

Domestic manufacturers can (potentially) bypass long lead times without the hassle of unwanted shipping costs, proving to be the most economical choice.

Tight Quality Control 

Most companies partake in low-cost country resourcing to take advantage of available and cheap resources. With the added bonus of a low wage cost. But cut-down on operational expenses is easily disrupted by supply chain mishaps and unforeseen foreign barriers (geographical and political). As those are issues out of your control, the lack of quality control on product specs and regulations is slowly becoming a dangerous risk.

 

Knowing what could go wrong before it goes wrong should be detailed in advance to then formulate quality processes and policies relevant to your company. Minimizing overhead costs is appealing but can result in lower-quality materials managed by inexperienced workers leaving you with a not-so-great product.

workers quality control

This is not to say that every overseas manufacturer is a poor-quality choice. In recent years, international manufacturers have elevated production to mimic the standards and expertise of western principles. But most companies still fall short of properly executed quality policies and plans. With little to no insight into the production’s facility, relying on foreign companies to regulate in the name of your brand is risky. Good questions to ask yourself before engaging in business with any manufacturer (domestic or not) are:

  1. Have they made this product before and under these regulations?
  2. Not only have they produced them, but can they produce in mass production?
  3. Are they able to ship to you on time?
  4. Do they allow company quality checks?

 

We have worked with a handful of customers who have received acoustic panels from Chinese manufacturers with failure to test the finished product. Acoustic panels must pass a surface flammability test, testing both surface flame spread and smoke development (expressed as Flame Spread Index and Smoke Developed Index). You can read about our acoustic panel line with relative technical documentation here on our website.

 

To recertify the proper testing, the company chose to re-test the acoustic panels in-house upon arrival. Unfortunately for these clients, the quality control tests they were promised were never met, leaving the supplier and buyer at loggerheads over quality. After 3 months and threatened legal action, the refund from the supplier could not make up for robbed time and potential of a ruined reputation.

Diminish Risk with a Domestic Manufacturer

Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. And what you pay for has everything to do with overall product quality; from the sourced raw materials to the expertise of employees to the operational standards of the factory.  

 

Localizing your choice of manufacturer places control back into your hands. And with a supply chain in sight, you can guarantee your company’s credibility all while promoting the local economy.

 

Interested in finding out if Bouckaert Industrial Textiles can help you re-shore your non-woven supply chain like we have so many others? Contact us today!

Why Polyester Felt is the Best Choice for Acoustic Insulation

In design, sound matters. The function of a space is not determined by its aesthetics only but also by the sounds it makes.

Decorative polyester felt panels

“Sound may be invisible or only unconsciously perceived, but that doesn’t make it any less an architectural material than wood, glass, concrete, stone or light.” – Michael Kimmelman.

Sound inextricably becomes attached to function. But because design begins first on paper, it isn’t until we inhabit a room that we determine how to relegate noise.

The growing popularity of decorative acoustic felt panel installation proves that balancing the acoustics of a space does not have to clash with its original design elements. Although it’s true one size does not fit all when it comes to acoustic treatment, polyester felt is proving to be the choice material for acoustic felt panels by the design industry.

What is PET?

PET recyclable plastics

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is a thermoplastic polymer resin comprised of recycled transparent plastics. PET is frequently referred to as polyester in textile applications but retains its acronym PET regarding packaging, bottling, etc.

Polyester was first patented in the 1940s by Dupont chemists in Delaware, U.S.A, as a new textile fiber. It wasn’t until the 1970s that new technology made it possible to mold PET into bottles. Today, it is the number one recycled plastic worldwide.

PET is highly flexible in its natural state and therefore easily moldable for its end use depending upon how it is processed. Its applications as the number one recycled plastic range from food packaging and bottling to fabrics to thermoforming in manufacturing and automotive insulation.

The textile industry is a significant end-user of PET, making up about 60% of overall PET consumption.

What is Polyester Felt?

BIT Poly-Sonic Acoustic PET Felt panels

Polyester felt is made of recycled PET plastics, mostly water bottles or other single-use products. The recycled material is compressed and melted down until left with plastic flakes. The plastic bits are then remelted and extruded as fiber. This fiber is then used to produce rolls or sheets of PET textile material, similar in any felting process. It can contain anywhere from 0% to 100% recycled content. Not only is it sustainable, but it is fast becoming the premium choice for sound dampening performance in lieu of other traditional materials, like fiberglass.

Polyester felt’s lightweight durable nature (combined with an additional lower melting point ) create the ideal properties for acoustic felt panel design. Its capability to be easily cut, variety of color options, and limitless forms are making polyester acoustic panels part of the visual landscape in modern interior design.

Benefits of Using Polyester Felt in Acoustic Insulation

Polyester felt wall panels

When we design for sound, we are designing for experience. Before, implementing sound insulation into already existing spaces meant the only solution was to hang unattractive hanging baffles and deal with the eyesore.

Now, polyester felt delivers an appealing design in junction with high-functioning performance rates of acoustic insulation.

There is a symphony of reasons the design industry is choosing polyester felt over any other material; acoustically, environmentally, and aesthetically.

Excellent Acoustic Performance

While it is possible, it is challenging to include acoustic design into a space before it has been occupied. In most cases, sound is the last piece an architect will fit into the puzzle. Knowing how a room will be used and where the potential challenges will be for sound issues are essential pieces of the puzzle to negotiate when implementing acoustic solutions. The building layout may not be flexible, but the acoustic solutions can be.

Polyester acoustic felt soaks up ambient noise in a variety of forms. Do you need to mitigate noise in your office conference room? Consider hanging acoustic clouds strategically over spots where noise reflection is at its highest. Are your gym guests experiencing an overload of noise in a large open floor plan? Ceiling baffles would work best here, especially when dealing with higher ceilings.

Using polyester acoustic felt to your best advantage involves finding your key sources of noise and adopting different paneling styles to adapt to the parameters that will help aurally orient your space.

Appealing Function in Design

Polyester felt ceiling baffles

If, as Kimmerman claims, sound is as vital as wood is for building framing, how far can we take acoustic solutions? Structural possibilities with PET are far-reaching. Its flexible form can be bent, molded, and shaped to any design for an assortment of interior applications, including furniture and lighting fixtures. Designers can exercise creative freedom with a host of different color options and texture choices (dependent on manufacturing methods).

Felt itself is a nuanced fabric that works to your elemental design. You can play it safe and subtle, blending your acoustic felt panels into the background or creating statement pieces that accentuate your already developed design theme. Acoustic insulation can be as simple as under-carpeting or as intricate as 3D ceiling baffles.

Ultimately, polyester felt complements a space without compromising it.

The Sustainable Choice

Recyclable icon on phone

It is estimated that Americans alone throw away upwards of 35 billion plastic bottles a year. And subsequently, roughly 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans. But a major culprit of waste is the textile industry adding billions of pounds of waste to our landfills and depleting energy and water resources.

Reworking the end-use for so many single-use plastic products (and the proposed 95% of all textiles that do have the potential to be recycled), PET is the friendliest raw material in textile applications (among other industries) as well as the healthiest.

Polyester needle punch felt is manufactured without the demand for any chemical additives like glue or resin to bond the fibers. Furthermore, polyester felt does not give off VOCs or odors. This makes it safe for indoor use (able to meet building standards and certifications) while requiring fewer energy resources in the manufacturing process.

The amount of recycled content in PET material can vary from 0% to 100%, depending on the providing manufacturer’s specs and the customer’s desire for a “greener” source. It is not only recyclable at the end of its life but possibly reusable dependent on its modularity.

Designing for the Ears

Polyester felt decorative ceiling panels

The acoustic properties of a space have a significant impact on its residents. Managing unwanted noise by integrating acoustic solutions promotes your community’s overall wellness and health, whether it be at home or in your commercial office building.

In the acoustic design process, custom is the standard. Finding the best product for your project starts with making the quality choice of polyester felt. At BIT, we manufacture 100% polyester acoustic panels under our Poly-Sonic line. Each panel has a recycled content of at least 60% PET plastic and is made entirely in the US in our facilities.

Poly-Sonic acoustic felt provides fantastic sound quality that is available in any weight, thickness, or color necessary to meet your specialized products’ demands. We also provide rolled goods that can be molded into any form of acoustic panel solutions or used as a wrapping fabric for other soft-touch surfaces, so the design process is entirely yours.

PET felt hanging ceiling baffles

 

Acoustics should be a part of your building design, whether you choose to stay traditional or seek out artful installations. Contact us today to learn more about our Poly-Sonic line and how you can begin designing your space for both eyes and ears.