Last week I was among a group of journalists who toured the Charlotte, NC facility where DeWalt builds cordless power tools. The event was held to announce a group of new tools (more on them in an upcoming story) and to show tradesmen that the production of some tools has been brought back to this country.
The products assembled in Charlotte are labeled "Built in the USA with Global Materials" (BIUSA) because they contain too many imported parts/components to legally carry a "Made in the USA" label.
I wrote about this plant when it opened in late 2013. At the time, I thought the move had as much to do with PR as with the production of tools because the first products out of the plant were the older 18-volt XRP models favored by DIYers. But my opinion shifted when I saw the inside of the plant. Yes, DeWalt hopes to boost its reputation by bringing some production back to this country, but it's also clear they are serious about building more of their tools here.
The Charlotte plant currently runs two shifts during the week and one on the weekend. I asked about an open area in the middle of the floor and was told they would be using that space to add one or more lines for the production of brushless motors.
Several things stand out about the Charlotte assembly plant. This was my first trip to a facility where cordless power tools are made and it never occurred to me that after a lithium-ion tool is assembled its electronic memory must be programed. And I had no idea every tool produced in the plant would be subject to electronic and mechanical testing to verify it performs within spec. Finally, I was surprised to learn how many of the components that go into the tools made in the U.S. The brushed motors used in some of the tools are wound and assembled on site. Other parts come from SB&D plants in Cheraw, SC (plastic housings), Hampstead, MD (powdered metal gear housings), and New Britain, CT (machined parts). Of course some parts are imported and will likely continue to be—though sourcing varies by tool and may change over time.
As part of its BIUSA initiative, DeWalt is converting an existing SB&D facility in Greenfield, IN to the production of some corded models that currently come from China. There are advantages to producing tools close to where they are sold: logistics are simpler, transport costs are lower, and there is less risk of an interruption to supply. And from a marketing perspective, consumers prefer products that are completely or partially made in the U.S. to ones made overseas.
Much of the machinery in the Charlotte facility came from an existing plant in Mexico. That plant continues to operate and sends most of the tools it produces to Europe. DeWalt's factories in China and elsewhere will remain open too; just not as many tools from them will be shipped to the U.S. Some of the DeWalt tools sold in this country will continue to come from other parts of the world, such as hand tools (mostly China), mechanics tools (mostly Taiwan), modular plastic storage boxes (Israel), and pneumatic nailers (Taiwan).
If this sounds complicated, it's because it is. Like it or not, we live in a global economy where manufacturers make tools in multiple countries with materials that come from multiple countries and then sell finished products all over the world. I'm just glad that in this particular instance American workers will get a piece of the action. View the slideshow on this page to see what goes on at the factory. Be sure to see the captions and video links.
For more on how and where tools are made see: A Trip to the Recip Blade Factory (Lenox)
A Trip to the Screwdriver Factory (Klein)
A Trip to the Knaack Box Factory (Knaack and Weather Guard)
A Trip to the Nail Factory (Senco)
A Trip to Klein's Tool Factories in Texas
A Trip to the Plier Factory (Channellock)
A Trip to an Ideal Factory (Ideal Industries)
A Trip to the Socket Factory (SK)
A Trip to the Work Boot Factory (Keen)
A Trip to the Leatherman Factory
A Trip to the WIRE-NUT Factory (Ideal Industries)
A Trip to the Hand Saw, Plane, and Chisel Factory (Lie-Nielsen)