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Focus: Manufacturing

Feature Article from Our Manufacturing Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine

- Nov. 24, 2015 -

Supply Chain News: Under Armour Making Bold Move for Made in USA, Thinks it Can Help Reshape American Economy


Fast Growing Apparel and Shoe Maker Discusses Project Glory, New Production in Baltimore


SCDigest Editorial Staff

We're still a bit cynical about the so-called Reshoring phenomenon, in which companies are said to be bringing back production to the US from China and other offshore locations.

As SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore wrote in a recent First Thoughts column, much of the supposed trend is anecdotal, and is just not showing up in manufacturing data.

"If there is any real reshoring going on, we must be pulling production back from somewhere besides China and Mexico," Gilmore noted, based on continued growth of US trade deficits with both countries. (See Can - and Should - Western Manufacturing Be Saved Part 7.)

SCDigest Says:


Under Armour has begun using other manufacturing technologies similar to the one used with the Speedform shoes, but won't identify them for competitive reasons, and more are on the way.

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If may be just another anecdotal story, but apparel giant Under Armour's plan to bring much manufacturing back to the US is a powerful one that will be closely watched by other manufacturers for sure.

The basics are the strategy should be familiar: a "regional manufacturing" approach, or what Under Armour is calling "local for local," in which multiple production centers are developed close to major local markets, such as China, Europe, South America, etc.

Thinking globally, Under Armour is nevertheless beginning the journey it calls Project Glory in the US.

"We're starting in Baltimore," Kevin Haley, the company's head of innovation, recently told the Baltimore Sun newspaper. "That's our home."

Prior to this new thinking, Under Armour's manufacturing footprint looked a lot like other global soft goods brands, primary producing in 14 low cost countries, with 65% of its products made in China, Jordan, Vietnam or Indonesia.

But a couple of years ago, Under Armour started making its Speedform running shoes in a lingerie factory in the Baltimore area. The process to make those shoes has been changed dramatically, including 3-D molding technology to create some of each shoe that results in a product without seams, designed for comfort and a more precise fit.

It's also made with a lot less labor. A major athletic shoes are made using an assembly line type approach, with often more than 150 workers touching each shoe. Under this new process, as few as 30 workers do something to each product.

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank hopes to expand this type of thinking to other products under the company's banner. It is currently constructing a sprawling new headquarters campus in the Port Covington area of Baltimore that will include a renovated 133,000-square foot former city garage where engineers, developers and designers will collaborate on Project Glory. There mission will be to develop and find ways to use advanced manufacturing processes to make products on a smaller scale in local markets while also improving the products' performance.

Under Armour hopes to soon thereafter start making more shoes and apparel on the Port Covington campus, using advanced and innovative manufacturing techniques.

(Manufacturing Article Continued Below)




"If you could manufacture a shirt or a pair of running shoes in Baltimore and sell them at a profit in the US, then what can't you manufacture [other products] in the US and sell in the U.S?" Under Armour's Haley asks. "We can be a beacon to show the way ... that with the right amount of innovation and technology and know-how - and the will to do it - you can manufacture anything here."

Producing in the US will "reduce lead times, time in transit," Haley said, "so the consumer gets what they want more quickly, more efficiently, and get better products."

Under Armour has begun using other manufacturing technologies similar to the one used with the Speedform shoes, but won't identify them for competitive reasons, and more such production innovations are on the way, Haley said.

Another driver of the local-for-local strategy and the new manufacturing processes will be to create the ability to make products for specific end-use application or individual consumer desires - the "mass customization" much talked about more than a decade ago, but from our view never much really put into practice.

"Our goal is to not limit this to our facilities or even apparel or footwear, or even our industry," Haley added. "We want to show if we can make something as labor-intensive as a $25 T-shirt or a $100 pair of shoes in Baltimore, you can effectively make anything anywhere. We think we can change the shape of the economy over the longer term."

Can Under Armour just do it for US manufacturing? (Sorry Nike we couldn't help ourselves).  Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

Recent Feedback

According to the Reshoring Initiative, here are the top countries and cases from which reshored: China 194, Mexico 27, Unknown 13, Canada 10, Taiwan 9, Japan 8, India 7, Italy 6, Korea, Malaysia, Hungary 3 each.

Global Region: Asia 241, N. America 37, Western Europe 12, Eastern Europe 5.

Reshoring will lead to more choices for consumers, faster delivery and less harm to the environment. Changes in the global manufacturing market, technology and the benefits of locating manufacturing closer to customers are giving companies more options to manufacture competitively domestically.

American and foreign companies are locating here to be in close proximity to the U.S. market to improve responsiveness and time to market while boosting innovation.

In order to help companies decide objectively to reshore manufacturing back to the U.S. or offshore, the not-for-profit Reshoring Initiative's free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator (TCO) can help corporations calculate the real P&L impact of reshoring or offshoring.


Sandy Montalbano
Reshoring Initiative
Nov, 24 2015

All I can say is thank God for companies like this bringing jobs back to the US. I got laid off in 2006 and ever since I've been a made in USA zealot. Every time I need something I google "made in USA." Whatever I'm looking for, I can find American made stuff most of the time. Clothes, shoes, boots and tools are pretty easy to find.... on-line. I don't waste my time at China-Mart or Home-Cheapo. I even found an American TV (Element Electronics) and an American laptop (Lotus PC). If I can't find something new made here, I buy one used on ebay. I'll push a Chevy before I'd drive a Toyota. Buy American, the job you save could be your own.

Andy Checchia
Not Provided
Not Provided
Dec, 01 2015

I want to buy USA made product. The only sneakers I can find that say Made in USA are New Balance, but shoes with that label are only 75% USA made. I would like to buy Under Armour (Go Seth) but only if made in USA.

Joe Childers
Mar, 23 2016

Based upon your plan to return to US manufacturing, our investment firm will consider investing in your stock.

John Harrington
Harrington Investments, Inc.
Aug, 10 2016

With 35% tax on products made abroad coming into effect, you should start thinking U.S.A.

Joe T
Dec, 04 2016

 Good for US. Bring those jobs to the USA!

Curtis Bland
Business Manager
IBEW Local 1400
Dec, 22 2016