Tailor Made Products manufactures and supplies housewares products – particularly kitchen utensils and gadgets – that stand out for their quality, innovation, and sleek design. Both an importer and manufacturer, the company operates a state-of-the-art plastic injection molding manufacturing facility in Elroy, Wisconsin as well as corporate offices in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
Since it was purchased 22 years ago, the privately owned business has undergone a strategic evolution, carefully shaping Tailor Made into the success that it is today. “When they purchased the business in 1994, it was a mix of proprietary and custom molding,” explains Operations Manager Jaime Kuhn. “Since then we’ve gotten away from the custom side so we could focus on the proprietary, and that is when it really blossomed.”
Tailor Made’s private labeling program gives customers the opportunity to personalize products to meet their specific needs. The team works closely with these customers to gain an in-depth understanding of their vision in order to bring it to reality. This product personalization covers everything from the type of product to color and packaging styles. Customers can also choose to have their items manufactured in the USA or to utilize the services of Tailor Made’s overseas partners. In addition, Tailor Made is able to accommodate virtually any size private label program, not just larger orders.
Sixty percent of Tailor Made’s business comes from domestic production, while the remaining 40 percent of business comes from imported brands. The company’s domestic manufacturing produces a range of primarily kitchen-related housewares, from bowls and colanders to measuring spoons and cutting boards, as well as plastic coat hangers and Bottle Buddy, a bulk water racking system for storing three and five gallon water bottles.
Tailor Made’s ability to manufacture within America sets the company apart. “There are not too many housewares manufacturers in the US,” Mr. Kuhn points out. “We are able to offer a domestic solution for people who look for the Made in the USA label.” It is no secret that manufacturing in North America can be cost prohibitive, and Tailor Made has managed to overcome the challenge through Lean manufacturing, which eliminates waste, as well as through automation. “We really focus on automation to the point where we are cost competitive with China. We actually re-shored eight products that were sourced in China; now they are produced here. We were able to do that through automation.” The team plans to bring even more production back from China in the future.
To give one example, the company relies on automation to create high quality utensils with stainless steel handles. “With most utensils that you see, the head and handles aren’t molded right onto the shaft,” Mr. Kuhn explains. “They are molded separately and then pushed together.” Tailor Made, on the other hand, boasts fully automated two shot and insert molding capabilities to create a seamless finished product. Furthermore, this product is “one of the few domestic utensils that have the stainless in them.”
The company’s advanced manufacturing techniques also include ultrasonic welding, a process that utilizes sound waves to fuse components together. “[The equipment] vibrates at 20,000 hertz and basically that vibration heats up the joints on the part and melts it and fuses it together,” Mr. Kuhn explains. “That has really created a very competitive solution.”
In addition to manufacturing its own housewares, Tailor Made imports two high quality kitchenware brands. Crisp™ is a collection of fruit and vegetable cooking tools specially designed to make kitchen prep work easier. From peeling potatoes to coring apples, Crisp™ has the right tool for the job and is engineered to save time while producing superior results. Streamlined and ergonomic, the collection boasts contoured handles, angled blades, and above-and-beyond features not found in run of the mill kitchen tools.
Crisp™ was developed by Carter McGuyer Design Group, an award winning, Alabama based design company that has brought more than 350 products successfully to market. Carter McGuyer Design Group places an emphasis on aesthetics as well as function, creating sleek, modern, and colorful kitchenware that looks as good as it performs. “The Crisp™ line really emphasizes design,” Mr. Kuhn remarks. “We really did our homework for that line of products. We did a market comparison with a team of cooks and looked at competitive products, figured out what was good with them, what is bad with them, and then came up with a design that encompassed all the best points – and then improved upon them.”
Curious Chef® is a line of kitchen essentials specially designed for children. “It has a complete line of utensils that are smaller so that the kids can use them,” Mr. Kuhn explains. Products include everything from brightly colored mixing bowls and measuring spoons to aprons and rolling pins. To ensure that little chefs have everything they need, products can be purchased separately or in kits, such as a 5 Piece Pizza Kit, 6 Piece Cookie Kit, 17 Piece Measure & Prep Kit, 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit, 5 Piece Pie Kit, Christmas Cookie Set Gift Bundle, and Ice Cream Set Gift Bundle.
The easy to use kitchen tools are safe for children five and up to use, allowing young cooks to learn valuable skills alongside parents, friends, and relatives. The educational and bonding opportunities that the product cultivates have helped the brand skyrocket. “Curious Chef® has really taken off this year,” Mr. Kuhn reports. “It is getting kids involved in cooking at a young age. It is focusing on the family.”
Tailor Made relies on a few foundational principles to successfully supply and manufacture its popular products. Perhaps most importantly, teamwork is emphasized and encouraged. “That team philosophy is really big.” As a small company, teamwork is especially important to ensure that everything is accomplished with a small staff.
Tailor Made’s company culture also places an emphasis on continuous improvement. “We focus on making each day a little better, picking out one thing and making an impact.” Focusing on one relatively small thing at a time can add up fast, ensuring that the company runs as smoothly as possible. In addition, the team puts a great deal of effort into maintaining strong relationships with customers. “We are a dependable supplier,” says Mr. Kuhn. “We can give them a competitive cost.”
The team’s formula for success should continue to keep the company moving forward successfully. One challenge to watch is the shortage of skilled workers that plagues the manufacturing industry throughout North America. “In our area, I think it is the same as with every other business. You struggle to find the right people to keep up with your growth.” The team is working to get around the problem by hiring people who show the right potential and then training them internally. “We focus more [on hiring] someone who has the right attitude and fits our culture as opposed to someone who has the skills,” Mr. Kuhn explains. “If they have the right attitude and fit in with the culture we can train them with the skills.”
Finding enough workers is particularly important because Tailor Made is enjoying steady growth and an increased interest from customers who value the Made in the USA label. “People are looking to go back to buying American, so we have been seeing an uptick from that.” For the past several years the company has been expanding between 5 and 10 percent each year – and this rate is expected to increase soon. “I see us continuing to grow [because we] have that domestic option for housewares,” Mr. Kuhn explains. “I think one of these years, instead of doing the 5 to 10 percent, we will do a big 20 percent growth jump. I think we are really close to doing that.”