Decoding Design

In Brooklyn, exporting U.S.-made goods to China

In Brooklyn, exporting U.S.-made goods to China

Posting in Cities

How did Watermark Designs flip the manufacturing and exporting script?

In Brooklyn, a seemingly modest plumbing fixture company is thriving post recession by exporting its American-made products to China.

Jim Dwyer reports for the New York Times that the gap in production costs between the U.S. and China is getting smaller and smaller for a few reasons, including increasing labor costs in China, more efficient American production, and a weakening U.S. dollar. So Watermark Designs supply what the speedy Chinese manufacturing world doesn't: design and quality. The company offers fixtures that are custom made for each project.

“The days of mass producing in New York City are gone,” Mr. Abel [owner of Watermark Designs] said. “If you were producing nuts and bolts by the tens of thousands 50 years ago, you’re not going to do it today. But creativity, or uniqueness or design is definitely something that can flourish in New York.”

Investing in a $60,000 3-D printer also allowed Watermark to quickly and easily make prototypes for approval. The designs given the green light can then be made on the company's traditional fabrication machines with information from the prototype.

How big is manufacturing in New York? Dwyer quotes a study that found the New York metropolitan area led the nation last year, increasing from $85 billion to $105 billion since 2010. It's good news, but Abel points out the serious shortage in the skilled labor to work the machines.

“I can get the best equipment,” Mr. Abel said. “I can’t get someone to operate it — machinists, machine programmers, people with knowledge how to operate sophisticated equipment, they’re not there.”

In Manufacturing Shift, Made in U.S. but Sold in China [NYTimes]
Via: Core77
Image: Watermark Designs

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure