We are nearly two months into the baseball season and we have yet to have a baseball related post. Now that the Red Sox have crept above 500, it is time to rectify the situation. Check out this video on making baseball gloves:
The interesting part of this to my mind is what it says about manufacturing in America.
I still have a baseball glove from my youth. It has Catfish Hunter’s autograph and a tag that says “Made in Korea.” That is, even 35 years ago making low-end gloves had left the US. Of course, now Korea is too costly for making commodity products. My son’s glove says “Made in the Philippines.” So how can Insignia Athletics manage to survive in the US? They seem to be following the playbook for American manufacturing:
- Automate as much as possible.
- Train for flexibility.
- Exploit closeness and responsiveness.
Being in the US means paying higher wages. Those wages are justified when the workers are highly productive. Automation and flexibility facilitate that.
However, it is the last point that seems particularly important. Once upon a time, people would pay a premium for a “Made in America” label. That isn’t so anymore. That may be because American quality has slipped or it may be that overseas quality has improved. The exact explanation is immaterial. What is relevant is how can you gain value from being a domestic supplier if the simpler designation of domestic is not enough. Insignia has opted to emphasize customization. Their offering is pretty sweet. You can choose custom colors for the trim and even have your name stitched on the thumb. And they get it to you in ten days. Rawlings (a larger glove company) also offers a custom program (it even allows you to choose different leather colors) but takes much longer. When you order through a dealer, it takes six to eight weeks. Clearly, tens days for a customized glove — even when customization is defined by tweaking the trim — is something cannot be done from overseas. This a nice example of production location being a true differentiator in what a firm can offer the market.