Gases and welding equipment is a global market, even for gases such as helium (a globally traded product) and, for a while last year, acetylene (due to the need to import calcium carbide). Lately there has been a great emphasis on the resurgence of American manufacturing, so it got me thinking: Just how important is it for a product to be made in the USA?
American-made, to many, is a symbol of quality. You could argue that quality is subjective, but as many GAWDA members know well, strict government regulations in the U.S. demand quality. In my discussion with Uniweld President David Pearl II for a recent article on counterfeiting, he spoke about how the “Made in the USA” seal is a symbol of quality outside of the country as well.
“Some countries in the Middle East have had issues with bad counterfeit products coming in and people getting hurt when those products did not perform like they were supposed to. They would really like to have product from the United States, so they are passing laws requiring the country of origin to be stamped right on the product.” Trying to skirt these laws by putting “Made in the USA” on counterfeit products, he adds, is now a serious crime. While we may think highly of ourselves, it seems others do too. As Pearl explains, “Made in the USA” is a universal symbol of quality.
The opinion that matters most, however, is that of the end-user customer. Jim Earlbeck, president at Earlbeck Gases & Technologies in Baltimore, MD, related the reaction from his customers when he has represented lesser-known foreign manufacturers whose products offered great features. “When you talk to the American welder about buying a machine that’s made in Finland, not his favorite American-made machine, he really pushes back. You really have to sell your tail off to convince him that the value is truly there.”
Quality products can—and do—come from countries all over the world. That’s one of the great things about being part of a global market; innovation can sprout up anywhere. So just how much weight does an American-made label carry in a customer’s buying decision? Does it matter at all? I don’t have the answer, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.