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COVID-19: A U.S. Manufacturer's Perspective


By Alex D. Kanaris

VDG has been designing and manufacturing drum motors for belt conveyors used in food processing, supply chains, pharmaceutical, postal/parcel, aggregate and mining industries since 1985. All of the components used in our drum motors are manufactured in-house, using American materials and American labor. 

How Did We Get Here?

Our ongoing challenge is that although our product is made with higher quality materials and labor, we find ourselves priced out of the market by other conveyor drive companies that utilize cheaper materials and goods imported from overseas.

However, I believe the value of domestic manufacturing exceeds the short-term gains of outsourcing at lower cost. VDG is dedicated to manufacturing in the United States, to ensure high-quality products, short delivery times, and strong customer support. Our trade-off here is that our pricing can be up to 10-20% higher than our competitors.

Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people have realized how severely America depends on other countries for essential equipment such as PPE, medicine and other products that affect our supply chain. 

Approximately 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in our medicine are imported from abroad. Policies that were implemented in the past for political advancements have led to the outsourcing of our technology, our manufacturing, and our health. 

We are losing our collective skill set as a U.S. economy, and once we’ve outsourced a skill or an industry, the process of recovering it is long and difficult. If we maintain our current course, the continual draining of jobs, knowledge, and innovation will render the U.S. weaker than competing countries, giving them both a technological and an economic advantage.  

The Path Forward

Hopefully, the lesson we all learn during this time, is that we cannot take control of our economy and our country’s future, if we continue to allow other countries to take advantage of our technologies, our natural resources, our educational system and our purchasing power. I fear the current path we are on can only lead to a slow surrender of our industrial capacity. U.S. manufacturers should be wary of being tempted by low pricing, rendering themselves vulnerable to a supply chain breakdown like the one we’re seeing today.

This is really a simple concept at heart. To begin undoing the damage done, we have to be willing to accept a slightly higher price for products that are made domestically. OEMs and end users must trust that the quality and longevity of a domestically manufactured product will lead to a higher ROI in the long-term. 

The benefits of bringing manufacturing back to the United States will include an expanded job market, a stronger labor force, and subsequently a stronger economy. On a policy level, economic growth through opportunity has to be encouraged, and domestic businesses should be allowed to grow and thrive.

At this point, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many lives and on the world economy. We have all been touched in one way or another by this tragedy. Looking forward, we must think on a long-term scale, to correct our current course, and confidently step forward by investing into our own economy.


MF061820 KanarisAlexander D. Kanaris is president of VDG (Van der Graaf).