Graham-Field looks for greener pastures

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ATLANTA - Graham-Field continued its "Made in the USA" initiative in February, when it announced plans to move production of its Lumex recliners from Taiwan to a 103,200-square-foot facility here.

Graham-Field plans to spend about $1.75 million rehabbing and expanding the plant, and thanks to a local economic development program, about half that investment will be offset with tax breaks, said President Ken Spett.

"Producing and assembling products in the states provides several advantages, such as streamlined logistics and a qualified workforce--both of which we found to be very strong in the Metro Atlanta region," he said.

In an effort to reduce expenses, Graham-Field was one of the first HME manufacturers to ship much of its manufacturing to Asia beginning in the 1980s. The company still produces about 75% of its HME products offshore. But about two years ago, to create some market differentiation for its products, and to take advantage of increasingly competitive U.S. manufacturing, Graham-Field began to selectively return some product production to the United States.

The company will continue to do this where it makes sense, mostly with non-commodity products like the Lumex recliner and the Patriot Homecare Bed, which integrates headboards and footboards manufactured overseas with sleep surfaces manufactured at the company's Fond-du-Lac, Wis., facility. Graham-Field moved production of the Patriot bed to the United States in mid 2009.

(While it may make sense to manufacture some higher-end products in the United States, it's hard to compete with low-cost Asian-made commodes and other bent-metal items, which are typically labor intensive, Spett said.)

Even if higher-end American-made products can cost a little more than their offshore counterparts, smart providers generally will pay for quality, Spett said.

"Dealers who are still in business today have developed other ways to stay alive--they aren't always just after the lowest price," he said. "They are more involved in complex rehab or have gone into retail. A lot of them are also some of the better business thinkers. They are able to analyze and say: "If I invest $10 more today, it will save me $100 in reduced maintenance and repair costs over a couple of years.'"