With an ever increasing amount of manufacturing transitioning out of the U.S., it is becoming difficult to find companies that are committed to maintaining domestic production facilities. Undeniably, there are some fiscal advantages to outsourcing labor and materials to these lower cost markets. However there can also be some prominent disadvantages as well; primarily there exists a potential sacrifice in quality and shipping delays of complete goods and replacement parts. In addition to these specific production issues, and what can be of greatest importance, is that moving manufacturing out of the United States can be harmful to the employment rate and economy in general.
That being said, I was recently privileged to attend a factory tour at True Manufacturing, which helped to renew my confidence that there are still companies with firmly rooted American values and history that choose to keep their production in the United States. True is headquartered right in the heartland of the U.S and manufacture not only all of their commercial refrigeration units, but 85% of everything that goes into the unit, in America. Whether it is shelf clips or wiring, almost every component is made in-house, allowing them to have much more rigorous quality control capabilities and support the U.S. economy.
True was founded in 1946 by the Trulaske family, when they identified a need to keep beers and other drinks cold in a more convenient way. Frank Trulaske and his two sons, Bob and Art, set to work on their idea and created the first True Manufacturing roll-top bottle cooler in the garage of their family home. Word of the innovative bottle cooler got around and soon the Trulaske family became occupied with filling orders. Their first major customers were from the soft drink industry and the popularity of their products spread throughout the big brands of that market. Moving past the production capacities of a garage, the family purchased a warehouse in downtown St. Louis and moved their manufacturing to the new location. Currently, their main headquarters is located in O’Fallon, Missouri, including their largest expanse of warehouses, exceeding 2 million square feet. True also has additional warehouses throughout the U.S and internationally as well. At over 3 million square feet of production facilities, it is certainly apparent that this American company has definitely made some progress from the single car garage ‘facility’ where it all started.
Getting back to the quality control advantage of domestic production, one thing that made a strong impression on me during the tour is that True performs an in-depth quality control check on every single unit. The value of this is virtually immeasurable from an end-user’s standpoint. Most companies run tests on certain batches of product or on randomly selected units, but True tests every unit and each quality control check is recorded and tracked. Therefore, on any given machine, based on the model number and serial number, they can identify who worked on that unit. A key benefit to this system is that it allows them to quickly identify where production issues may be originating and quickly resolve the problem. To me, such rigorous quality testing is unheard of, or at least exceptionally rare, and would be virtually impossible in manufacturing conducted overseas.
Of course there are other aspects about a True unit that sets their manufacturing standards apart from the rest of the industry. For example, True's oversized refrigeration system, with larger compressors, a larger evaporator and larger condensers, means the unit doesn't have to "work" quite as hard to cool products and has a longer life expectancy than their competitors' system. It also cools down much faster and keeps a more consistent temperature. Another admirable component of True’s production practices is their use of Ecomate foam, which is much more environmentally friendly and exceptionally sturdy, when compared to the insulation used in other brands of commercial refrigeration.
As a company True holds high standards for all aspects of their operation. Maintaining a commitment to American production requires innovative thinking and engineering to keep production costs at a level where pricing can remain competitive. True is exceptional at balancing these variables, while producing top quality commercial refrigeration pieces that are built to last and out-perform the competition. Their factory tour was highly educational and they do a fantastic service in training their staff and sales representatives from their distributors. It is clear to see that the strong American values which were present from inception are still prominent in their company today.