When I started BlumSafe about five years ago, the greatest challenge we faced was how best to manufacture my design for a specialized wall/cabinet mounted safe for watches, jewelry and other valuables. After consultation with many business associates and friends, and after exploring manufacture in the US (but being rejected by several credible manufacturers as being “too small”), I decided that it would be easiest and least capital-intensive for us to manufacture the BlumSafe in China, and source the other components (winders, drawers, etc.) from Taiwan.
Fast forward to today and BlumSafe is no longer “too small” to manufacture in the US, and I am proud to announce a US-built version of the BlumSafe is now available for sale. This North Carolina-manufactured BlumSafe will not only help our fellow Americans and reduce energy usage in transport, but this “Gen 2.0” BlumSafe will also permit us to offer custom colors and finishes, achieve some manufacturing and quality control efficiency improvements, have improved lighting, include a battery backup box to supplement the backup key, and arrive at your door in better packaging. Initially, the US-built version will cost customers $180 more than the Chinese version (BlumSafe will bear the remaining difference in supplier cost), but will otherwise essentially be the same model as, and interchangeable with the Chinese-built safe.
I want to emphasize that there is nothing “wrong” with the Chinese-built model, which has garnered great reviews and an overwhelmingly happy customer base. We will still offer it as long as the demand exists. That being said, surveyed customers have overwhelmingly expressed the willingness to pay a small premium for the “Made in the USA” safe, and we knew the moment had arrived to launch our move to US-based manufacturing.
Read on if you are interested in learning about this journey from China to the US…
Building in China
When BlumSafe began, I had a myriad of other considerations for creating a company based on my little passion project – a wall safe customized for watch collectors, targeting an price point that all watch collectors could comfortably access. I needed to manage product design, website creation and hosting, payment processing, marketing, sales, fulfillment, warehousing and after-market support. Therefore, I concluded that I had to make manufacturing as simple and efficient as I could. Basically, I built BlumSafe for “me”, hoping there would be a few other “me’s” in the marketplace. Fortunately, there were many. But the die had been cast — we would manufacture our custom design in China, where I found credible factories willing to engage in my fantasy, and with the manufacturing efficiency, experience, and supply chain to make it possible at a satisfactory cost.
This, however, doesn’t mean it has ever been easy manufacturing the BlumSafe in China. My greatest sources of personal stress in building this company has come from the manufacturing and trans-oceanic shipment process, especially this year. I have visited my manufacturer in China and developed a good relationship with its management over the years. However, besides the obvious challenges of the language barrier, there are other issues that are inherent in trying to maintain a longer and international supply chain, and when problems arise, they are fundamentally harder to manage and correct. Cultural issues abound, deadlines can be maddeningly elastic, and maintaining quality control is always a major, “keep me up at night” worry. Add to this the fact that during the past year and a half, due to COVID and other issues, transport of safes has become much more expensive and difficult – the cost of shipping a 40 foot container plus customs duties has increased more than threefold from 2017.
Due to these supply chain challenges during the pandemic, I regret that some of our loyal customers were forced to wait months for their BlumSafes. Of course, supply chain issues have been very common across the US economy since March 2020, but BlumSafe is my baby, and our customers must be better served. These worries caused me more stress than at any time since BlumSafe’s founding, and I needed to do something about it.
We are also eager to find ways to provide superior products with a greener footprint, and our research indicated that an onshoring solution would help us achieve an overall reduction in the energy and materials expended in delivering each safe to our customers’ doors.
One other reason for this move, but certainly not least: at a time when elements of the US economy are suffering due to the pandemic, we at BlumSafe want to help our fellow Americans in every way we can, and thus help strengthen our great nation.
Building in the US
Over the course of time, we began manufacturing certain BlumSafe products in the US, like our groundbreaking Screen electronic display board concealment piece, and the Frame accessory for the BlumSafe. But attempting to build the BlumSafe itself in the US was on a different scale. Now, five years after we started the company our market and demand are well-established, allowing us to more predictably order larger shipments and making BlumSafe a “safer bet” for a U.S. fabricator.
So we started looking around for possible fabrication partners. I asked friends on LinkedIn, contacted some of my specialty lending company’s corporate customers for advice, and searched the internet. I weeded out the bigger companies who, frankly, still didn’t have the time or willingness to give BlumSafe the attention we needed. During my career, I had experience investing or lending in several smaller to medium-sized fabricating companies, and knew that was where we wanted to be for a long term partnership – places with all the industrial-scale metal bending and finishing operations we needed under one roof, along with modern equipment, a reasonably diverse customer base, and stable, experienced management that seemed to understand BlumSafe’s business.
Ultimately, we believe we have found this partner less than an hour’s drive from our North Carolina warehouse! The process of back-and-forth prototype development, product improvement and components sourcing challenges took about half a year. During that time, we came to appreciate the intangible value of having a US manufacturing partner – ease of communication and cultural familiarity first and foremost. We expect these aspects to allow us to more easily improve and innovate our product as time goes on.
I’m also very happy that our “Made in USA” safes will help satisfy key demands of our growing audience of interior design and custom closet professionals: that we offer BlumSafes in custom colors and additional accessories. Our US manufacturing solution will allow us to progressively add more design and functionality options over time, so that our product line will better serve not only our watch enthusiast clients, but also those who are using BlumSafes for jewelry, collectibles, and guns – with personalized focus on display, concealment, smart home functionality, etc.
We are in the early days of this next leg of BlumSafe manufacturing, starting with production of the all-steel safe in the US, but still relying on China for lock/keypad subsystems and display doors. There may be some bumps in the road, but we are very excited, proud and happy about this development which, in a microcosm, represents a growing trend across many industries towards onshoring and investing in our great nation and people.
Wish us luck, and thank you for your support.
And God bless the United States of America!