The advantages of low-cost labour, and therefore low-cost manufacturing in places like India or China make it a pretty tall order to consider manufacturing at home, in Canada. After all, you want to provide the highest quality products, at the best possible prices and have enough left over to easily cover the bills. But as I discovered, there are viable alternatives to manufacturing offshore.
What I Learned from our Offshore Manufacturing Experience
Right from the time my husband and I launched KANDY Outdoor Flooring back in 2011, we wanted to manufacture our own outdoor flooring products onshore. At home. I did so much research it made my head spin. However, I just couldn’t make the numbers work. The only thing that made sense for us at that time was to work directly with offshore production facilities in South America and China. We sourced the best quality materials, provided our specifications, and then set out to LEARN a ton about the offshore manufacturing and importing processes.
I found the costs reasonable, comparatively speaking, and enjoyed a high degree of control over the mix of product types. But pretty soon we were faced with weather-related delays, and even had political unrest disrupt some raw material delivery. We experienced unpredictable shipping costs, enjoyed the challenges of language and cultural barriers, and then ran into what seemed to me to be outdated importing processes that the so-called experts continued to recommend.
I’ve learned a lot about importing. Everything from the value of having a good customs broker on your team to inner workings of tariff classifications. I learned that it didn’t really matter how much I invested into our quality control process, nothing I did gave me any recourse when I encountered problems with a shipment. It happened more often than I care to recount here, adding grey hairs to my head and hits to our bottom line.
This is why I never let up on the idea of landing a solution that would lead to KANDY manufacturing its products right here in Canada.
Canadian Collection Outdoor Flooring from KANDY
In spring of 2016 we were wildly excited to finally launch Canadian Collection: a superior-quality line of outdoor flooring deck tiles. We proudly say that they are inspired by Canada, designed in Canada, and made in Canada.
I’d been in discussions with our manufacturing partner for two years before we were ready for market. First we had to reach an agreement in principle, work through our design parameters, develop and test prototypes, and finally move into the production phase.
I’ve distilled the 5 key benefits, for us and for our customers, that we have realized as a result.
Quality Control Process
Quality control inspections are now carried out by Canadian residents who share Canada’s values. We no longer have to navigate language barriers and culture differences in order to work through quality control issues. We’ve been able to implement an automated assembly process, increasing both quality and consistency to our Canadian Collection interlocking deck tiles. Our manufacturing partner stands behind our products and if there are any issues, they work with us to find solutions. We are not left high and dry the way we were with our international manufacturers.
Simplified Supply Chain Logistics
As a small business owner, I can’t tell you how much I love this one! I swear the reduction in administration has bought me another
day a week. Ok maybe not :-0. But I no longer have to deal with customs brokers, decipher tariff classifications or acronyms, or fill out dozens of forms the way I did for the importation process.
Improved Reaction Time
When we had to wait for a product shipment from overseas, we sometimes had to tell customers to wait as long as four months between placing their order with us and delivery. Now, with our Canadian Collection, that time lag has been reduced to a matter of days. We can receive an order from a customer, and ship from Ontario to anywhere in North America. This has reduced time on every phase of the chain: from processing to shipping and delivery. This all adds up to savings of time and money, and more satisfied customers too.
Trends change in home décor and design from season to season, from year to year. Now, as soon as we get a whiff that the market is signalling demand for a new colour or pattern or material, we have the ability to generate small test lots without having to order a full container load. We are able to keep our prices lower, and deliver to the marketplace only what customers actually want.
Support Canada’s Economy
KANDY Outdoor Flooring’s brand purpose is “expanding home experiences”. When we identified that purpose several years ago, we envisioned only how it would apply to beautifying balconies. But by manufacturing in Canada, we help keep more dollars and jobs here at home – expanding home experiences in Canada’s economy, too.