COVID-19 provided an opportunity to rebuild What's your plan?

By Bart Taylor | Jul 06, 2020

For the CompanyWeek team, July feels like January. We've used the COVID-19 disruption to invest in both a redesign of and a new supply-chain portal -- SCoP. We launched our new site Monday, as the summer turned and as many companies look to the second half of 2020 as a new beginning. SCoP's around the corner.

If the site is better -- improved search, less clutter, better organization of our content, and with SCoP a fundamental realignment of how suppliers are sourced -- our efforts are also a response to the shifting ground for U.S. manufacturing.

A common sentiment today is that COVID disruptions will translate to opportunity for domestic manufacturing. And to be sure, factors have aligned to favor U.S. production.

Yet for many companies, across multiple industries, shortening supply chains or locating domestic factories is more talk than reality. As much as we'd like, and despite the interests arrayed to bring back pharmaceutical and PPE manufacturing, many U.S. brands and buyers will fall back on trusted, cheaper suppliers in Asia.

The bar is even higher for other industries.

In a terrific expose on the challenges facing outdoor industry brands, Outside writer Christopher Solomon's "How the Outdoor Industry Responded to Coronavirus" points out OI's China addiction, one we've reported on for years:

"The industry has deep ties to China, where much of its gear and apparel are produced, along with the buttons, fabrics, and raw materials that go into making those products. Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported, in late 2019, is an important cog in this machine. According to Mike Wallenfels, a founder of Mountain Hardwear who also consults with several outdoor brands, the city 'is extremely critical to a lot of the outdoor-industry supply chain' -- mostly as a transportation hub for a skilled labor force that works elsewhere in China."

And no mention of plans to reshore production, of domestic manufacturing initiatives from industry leaders, of the improving quality of the U.S. supply chain. The new normal is not so new.

But for others, game on. We hope to help.

For those intrepid companies fighting to make more here, finding capable suppliers is the obvious start. But a dozen other criteria matter. Tools that can make more sense of these complex relationships can make a difference.

We can't sew a seam, fashion composites into bike frames, or injection mold precision parts -- work that brands outsource to China. But we're developing new ways to connect companies. Relaunching this week was a start. We'll tell the story of more and more manufacturing companies going forward.

In SCoP, we'll make it easy for companies to find and connect with new suppliers, by organizing manufacturers in meaningful new ways. For example we've started a Outdoor Industry Manufacturing Group -- for companies equipped and motivated to manufacture OI products here. In addition to industry, we'll group fabricators by certifications, by accomplishments and accolades, by affiliations and regions.

The two products combined feel like Christmas to us. What about your company? If your story needs to be told, your people and capabilities publicized, contact us now. Together let's ensure post-pandemic manufacturing is a narrative of more domestic production.

More next week.

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at