Last week we featured an interview with Josh Miller, documentary filmmaker of “Made in the USA: The 30 Day Journey.” In that interview we mentioned that he would visit Made In USA Zipper manufacturer, UCan Zippers to film a video documenting the company’s commitment to American Manufacturing for nearly 30 years. Below you will read our interview with UCan Zippers’ Malan Lai, Managing Partner, General Manager, and the son of the founder of UCan Zippers, Paul Lai.
Why are we having an interview with an American Manufacturer on a logistics blog, you ask? It’s simple. Think about it for a second. Almost everything you touch, see, use, have fun with, was made by a manufacturing company. Further, most likely, that object made by a manufacturer was brought to you on a truck. As you may or may not know, Cerasis is a transportation management company who works with manufacturers and distributors so that they may have efficient transportation and logistics processes so that they do not spend more money in time or direct carrier costs which could add up to a lot of money and hurt the competitiveness of the manufacturing company.
Second, our business and the sustainability of our business is directly related to the economy and the success of American Manufacturers. Without their ability to sustain and compete, our services aren’t as widely needed.
Finally, as Manufacturing Day comes up this October 2nd, we feel a duty to our customers, future customers, the manufacturing community and the country as a whole to do all we can to promote the positive stories of manufacturers. In our eye, UCan Zippers could have joined all the other companies outsourcing for cheaper labor, but they didn’t. They dug in, did all they could to remain efficient, and stayed here. It’s why their quality is the biggest reason they are and will continue to succeed. We are very proud to hold this interview with UCan Zippers and we hope you can check them out too! (see what we did there….couldn’t help myself!)
What is the story of UCan Zippers?
UCAN Zippers was started in 1989 by my father Paul Lai. He was given the opportunity to buy a small zipper company from a family friend and decided that he would take the leap of faith to run his own business. The business was a small operation in the beginning with my father and three other employees helping pack and ship zippers to customers in Los Angeles. My father soon discovered that the zippers he was importing from Asia lacked consistent quality. He started to acquire his own machinery to gain control over the quality of zippers he was offering to his customers. UCAN Zippers became one of the first companies to offer custom zippers with speedy delivery. As his customer base grew, my father was able to expand operations here in Los Angeles with local manufacturing. Over the years, UCAN Zippers added its own dye house facility and expanded its zipper lines to include coil, plastic molded, and metal zippers made in the USA. Today, UCAN Zippers is one of the last remaining zipper manufacturers in the US.
You all have chosen to continue to manufacture in America where others have offshored production in the quest for cheap labor, why did you decide to stay in LA and continue being Made in America?
My father, being of Taiwanese decent, could have easily made the transition to China. However, the American Dream was built here in Los Angeles and that dream needed to remain here. There are so many great things about Los Angeles. Our city needed more jobs as things were moving overseas. Our employees are Angelenos who contribute to our local economy. There are numerous cut and sew operations, for both hand bags and apparel, that are still here and with whom we have long standing relationships. It was important to us to contribute to our city because this is where it all started.
Speaking of offshoring, over the last few years, we have seen manufacturers bring back production to America with Reshoring. Why do you think companies are doing this?
We have seen too many times, companies who bring final products in from overseas and there are issues with their products. From time to time, we receive calls to correct oversea mistakes. I believe that the effort to reshore production is the realization that oversea production is not the ONLY way things can be produced and sold. As more brands are educated, through experience, we’ll see more and more brands bring parts of their products brought back to the US.
What are the biggest challenges “Made in America” manufacturers face today?
Some of the challenges that we have faced is our supply chain is shrinking. Not too long ago we had a wire supplier close their doors to manufacturing domestically and move overseas to remain competitive. It has become more difficult to find domestic suppliers but we have been very fortunate with the relationships that we have with our current suppliers. They have really been supportive of us and we’ve developed great relationships to help the local supply chain.
What are the biggest upsides to being “Made in America”?
The biggest upside to being Made in America is the opportunity to interact with our clients and fellow entrepreneurs. We get to take part in growing with local brands and helping them bring their designs to life. It’s really fun to be a part of the American dream.
What does being “Made in America” mean to UCan and how are you impacting the economy because you also try and work with “Made in America” vendors and suppliers?
We’re impacting the economy by employing those that live in the local area. By employing those that live in our local area, we know that they will be also spending their money at local shops and services. Also, when working with local vendors and suppliers, we’re supporting the local supply chain. It’s creating a self-sustaining economy.
This week, Josh Miller, filmmaker of the documentary, “Made in USA: The 30 Day Journey” is toured UCan Zippers and shot a video. What are you most excited about to show off to those following Manufacturing?
We’re excited to show that zippers are still made here in the US; in Los Angeles. The most common reaction, when we tell people that we make zippers here in LA, is amazement. Most people are amazed that manufacturing still exists here in LA and we’re excited to show people our factory.
A fantastic interview, and from everyone at Cerasis, we thank Malan and American Manuffacturer, UCan Zipppers. Here is to continued success! What are you thoughts on American Manufacturing? Let us know in the comments below!