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The Truth About 'Made in the USA' | Ask The CEO

Daniel Barousse

Daniel Barousse

CEO and Co-Founder

If you drive through sort of small town USA, in most places where manufacturing was the bedrock of the economic community, for many decades, you'll see that a lot of those places no longer have the standards of living or, the jobs to support flourishing. And that's where a lot of people are saying the American dream has died as a direct result of the lack of manufacturing jobs in the United States. We need more of it. We need a lot more of it. 

I'm Dan, the CEO and co-founder of Slice Engineering. We make industrial 3d printer components for a wide number of industries. We're based in Gainesville, Florida, and we try to do as much as possible of our manufacturing in the United States. And there are a lot of reasons for that. And I'll go over most of those today.

The core of it is we decided at the very beginning, when we started the company that we had two choices to follow. We could either do sort of what everybody else does, outsource manufacturing overseas and there are obviously. economic benefits to that. Or we could make everything as much as possible, as close as possible to where we are physically located, geographically located.

And we decided to do the latter. We actually made that a core value. One of our core values is localized manufacturing.



The importance of Made in America

One of the reasons that Made in America is important is that it holds significant value. When I see something on a product that is made in America, it carries more weight. It says this was made with attention to detail. This was made in a quality way that certain standards were upheld to make this product.

And that's important for me as someone who produces products, that when people hold what we've created, what my team has created. In their hands that they know that a level of quality and ingenuity and innovation went into making this product. And they can feel good about the purchase that they've made.

There's a lot that goes into getting the Made in America label. The Federal Trade Commission in the United States actually determines what Made in America is. And there's a certain, number of barriers or hurdles, that you have to jump over to be able to say a product is Made in America.

So typically, most of the final assembly would have to happen in the United States. So, the terms are substantial transformation. A substantial transformation is when the final product is fundamentally different in nature or in use from its components or subcomponent parts that were imported from other countries or other places around the world.

And then the other part of Made in the USA is domestic content, a significant percentage of the manufacturing processes and the manufacturing costs have to have occurred in the United States. Then final assembly also, that has to happen as part of the Made in the USA claim in the United States, the final assembly of the product.

So if a product says Made in the USA on the label, It has to meet all of those standards from the Federal Trade Commission that qualify as all or virtually all being done in the United States. And the FTC's standards are actually much stricter than most countries that have a label that says made in, you know, pick your country.

So, The United States, the bar is quite high for what qualifies to be made in the USA. So for that reason, you might see a lot of other labels on products like designed in California, like what you would see on the iPhone or other Apple products, or assembled in the USA. There are a number of 3D printers on the market that are assembled in the USA, but not, necessarily designed or made in the USA because they can't quite meet that bar that's set by the FTC for, having substantially all or virtually all of the costs and processes occurring and final assembly occurring here in the United States.

And the United States historically was a bastion of manufacturing. In fact, that's how we helped win World War II was because of our manufacturing prowess, our manufacturing might. That's how we rebuilt, Japan and Germany post-war. Even today, 10% of our GDP, our gross domestic product as a country is due to manufacturing efforts, 

but largely in very regulated industries like medical and aerospace and automotive, those big industries. But even so, something like 74 percent of manufacturing is still being done by small businesses in the United States. And most of those small businesses are the ones that are creating the millions and millions of manufacturing jobs in the United States. Slice engineering being one of those companies. 

There's something to be said for supporting your town, for each supporting your local community, where you can build relationships easily with your neighbors with the people that you know and encounter, at the local Starbucks or at your church or, you know, at the grocery store down the street, all of those things, those relationships have value.

And if you drive through sort of small town USA, in most places where manufacturing was the bedrock of the economic community for many decades, you'll see that a lot of those places no longer have the standards of living or the jobs to support flourishing, and that's where a lot of people are saying the American dream has died, is a direct result of the lack of manufacturing jobs in the United States. We need more of it. We need a lot more of it. 

So even though we're making just a very small dent, In that statistic, I would love to be able to drive through more small towns in this country and see not blight, but instead see a thriving local economy. And that's good, not only for that local economy but good for the country as a whole and good for tourism and good for the world.

If our local economies are doing well, so that is something that we want to support. And, we try to do as much as we can again to localize our relationships and work with people first in our small community of Gainesville, Florida, and then Florida at large. And then the Southeast, we think of it as like concentric rings, you know, the United States, and then the world.

So. If we can find something in Gainesville instead of finding it in New York, we will do that. And if we can't find it in Gainesville or New York or California or wherever else in between, then there are some things that are just only made in certain places in the world. And so in that case, obviously you have to go there.

The business decision overrides the desire to have localized manufacturing, but the goal is always to try to stay as local as possible. Obviously, as someone who lives in the USA. It's important for me personally to see things that are made in the USA. But you may ask, you know, I live in Germany or I live in Japan, why does it matter to me?

And I had this question posited to me by a friend of mine who lives in Germany. And he said I don't care that your product is made in America. But, then I asked him about some of the tools that he had on his desk. And they were all made in Germany. And I said, well, you bought a made-in-Germany tool, right?

Because you're A German, you live in Germany, and you know that that Made in Germany label means something. That it means that it was made with quality, made with care. That it was made to a certain standard. And that the people who made it make their living off of it and are treated well and fairly. And that's what Made in USA means for Americans.

And that is the feeling that I get when I buy a product that says Made in Germany. I know that it was made to a certain quality standard, and so, you know, the same can be said about something made in Switzerland, made in Japan. I will choose to buy a product that is made by a company that is clear about where their products are manufactured, that the country of origin has a statement of quality to it, and a statement of ethical business standards to it. 

And most people, given two products that were made to a similar specification, research shows that they will choose the one that is made in a place, manufactured in a place, that has a statement of quality and they can trust the source. They will choose that product over the other. So if you live in Japan and you don't care if something is made in the USA, that's fine, but you do care if something is made in Japan.

And so in reverse, I would say I care about something made in the USA, but I also care that something is made in Japan. There's a statement of quality that comes with that. And so I will buy a Japanese-made product if I know that the company is, is a good company and the manufacturing is done well, which that made in Japan moniker is part of that statement.

So if you love the country that you live in and you support the manufacturing practices there. Embrace the made-in-your-country moniker. Embrace that. Buy products that are made near where you live. And that will make for a more ethical economy and sustainable economy globally. The other aspect of this beyond the economic benefits of investing in your local community is quality and reliability.

We have a lot of manufacturing standards here in the United States, including those championed by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a number of others. We also adhere, most manufacturing facilities will adhere to ISO standards, the international standards organization.

And so when you have this, history of, Quality standards, building on quality standards, you end up with processes and people who know how to work to the process to ensure quality control around the product. And that's not always the case when you outsource, you know, it's just difficult to control that final, that little piece of detail that matters for the end customer and matters for us as a team to know that the product that we're putting out. Is the absolute best that it can be. 

There's also innovation to think about when you invest in a place where the technology is actually being developed, you get easier access to new innovations and new changes in your pursuit of excellence. So a lot of innovations in the 3d printing industry, which is the industry we're in are happening in the United States.

And so by investing with our industry partners in the U.S., we are able to take advantage of those innovations more quickly. Obviously, there are innovations happening around the world. And in that case, we are trying to take advantage of those as well and work with those partners internationally. But again, as much as we can focus on the United States and working with our local partners, emphasizing those relationships in those concentric growing rings, it makes a difference for us being able to access innovation at a faster rate.

And if globalization has taught us anything, it's that the rate of innovation continues to increase and move faster. So that's what we are investing in. 

Sustainability and Ethical Manufacturing

All right. So we already talked about innovation. I'm trying to draw a light bulb here. See if I can draw a light bulb. It's a terrible light bulb. It's a funny-looking light bulb. You know, that's a light bulb. That's gonna be our innovation. And then the other things that we care about here in terms of sustainability and really taking care of people the right way is, you know, greenhouse emissions have been a really big deal as we've come to understand more what human's carbon footprint is over the last couple decades.

So localizing, manufacturing, and, you know, working in the USA, in the United States as a US company. Allows us to really minimize our carbon footprint by reducing transportation costs and having a lower overall economic, or excuse me, lower overall environmental impact by working with local or more local vendors on things like packaging and trying to find a way to, you know, use recycled or recyclable products in our final components that we provide to our customers.

So reducing that CO2 output, it were carbon, total carbon footprint is a big part of working more locally. Another aspect of this is, we really care about people. The United States has very high standards around the way people have to be treated. In a manufacturing environment, the way that safety is accounted for, our little guy here, he's going to wear a hard hat.

this is a hard hat. Safety is really a big deal and making sure that people are paid fairly for their efforts, if you go back to the Industrial Revolution here in the United States, there was a time where people were not paid fairly, where children were being used in factories and not compensated fairly. And you have a lot of fair labor laws and standards that came out of those practices.

For the United States that happened many years ago, but in some places of the world that's happening right now. And some of our products were literally created and in response to that phenomenon where people aren't being treated fairly. So we have a product called activated alumina.

It's a desiccant that we use to help dry filament. It's used in a number of other applications outside of filament, but that's how we use it is for filament drying. It's an alternative, a stronger, a better alternative to silica gel and the reason we decided to come up with this product was not only because we and our customers had problems with wet filament, but also because silica gel, the base components to make that product, are primarily mined in one particular area of the world where people are being, a particular people group called the Uyghurs, are being taken advantage of.

And they are not being treated fairly. They are basically working in slave camps and labor camps. And they are, um, being abused in a way that would, put, hopefully, most people that saw it to shame. And, So we've decided as a company when we find out about that type of information, that we want to move in the opposite direction.

And okay, how can we find a solution that is sustainable, not only for the planet but also for the human inhabitants of this planet, since we are the caretakers of this giant blue-green ball hurtling through space. So we want our little guys to wear their hard hats and to get paid appropriately. He's got a little dollar in his hand here.

And, and when our little guy is not wearing his hard hat and he's not getting paid appropriately, not only does he suffer, but humankind as a whole is not moving forward. And so we want to minimize our impact on that and make sure that when we are producing products, that we are contributing to human flourishing and not to human abuse.

So that was a major, major impact on why we decided to do as much as possible made in the USA. Or when we work with suppliers overseas that we do audits and we make sure that that company is, they're not only being financially responsible, of course, and all the other sort of business things that need to be done with an audit, but also that they're treating their people fairly and well and that the workers are being treated fairly.

Compensated and, not abused that they're working hours that a normal human should be able to work, and still be able to get rest and nutrition and go home and spend time with their family. So that is a big part of how we do business with this sustainability and ethical standards in mind. 

So the other aspect of this localized manufacturing where we've really seen it be quite powerful was of course, during COVID.

So during COVID-19 world supply chains shut down. And while we were certainly not, unimpacted by the pandemic, the impact on us was much less because we had really well-established relationships with our suppliers. We had worked with them in advance to make sure that we had backups, that we had a way of getting our products back in stock, and that we had adequate supply available, and that our supply chain wasn't going to be completely shut down. 

Of course, there were delays. Of course, you know, nothing ran smoothly during COVID as compared to pre-COVID, but the impact on our supply chain versus the global supply chain or the supply chains of many of our competitors meant that we had products in stock and inventory and ready to sell to customers who are ready to buy when many of our competitors did not.

And so we ended up gaining significant market share. During COVID-19 because of the fact that we just had inventory available. We could sell stuff when other people could not sell stuff. And that was a definite significant benefit of being made in America during the pandemic. Of course, we don't have pandemics all the time, which is a very good thing hopefully we don't have another one for a long time, but the impact of supply chain disrupting events. Is not restricted to a pandemic. 

You look at the bridge in Baltimore or the issues going on with the Suez Canal or the Red Sea with the Houthis, the drought in Panama. I mean, you could name dozens of events over the last decade that have disrupted global trade.

And when you have a shorter supply chain physically, there are just fewer ways to disrupt it. And that just makes business sense. 

So in terms of where we're going next, we again, try to do as much as we can in-house or in those concentric rings, like I talked about earlier, but in the future, we'd love to bring even more processes in-house.

Find ways to do more of what we're doing here at our headquarters in Gainesville, Florida, but also working with our suppliers internationally and domestically to find ways to improve the value that we're providing to our customers through new innovations and through reducing costs for providing high-quality product at a reasonable value. For our customers. So that's where I see Made in the USA working for us now and in the future. 

One of my hopes is that 3d printing as a movement will help to encourage more innovators and small businesses to bring their products to market more rapidly and thus help to impact their local economies, just like we talked about in the rest of this video. 

So if you're one of those people that is looking for a way to use 3d printing more effectively, we've got a great guide and free ebook called Seven Things You Should Not Do With your 3d Printer, feel free to grab it in the description below. We're coming out with new resources all the time. So be sure to like, and subscribe if you want to see more videos like this, or check out our website to see more about our products and learn more about the 3d printing ecosystem and the innovation that's coming out in this space. 

Thanks for watching. And don't forget to stay zesty. 

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