RT Machine was recently selected to outfit a 200,000-sq.-ft. furniture manufacturing plant in Gas City, Ind. It will serve as a production facility for Echelon Furniture, a new division of Muniré Furniture Inc. of Piscataway, N.J., which is a large producer of baby and juvenile furniture.
Based in Hughesville, Pa., RT Machine sells new and refurbished items from most of the major brands in the woodworking industry. Edward Thomas, the company's marketing director, says that while overseas manufacturing has increased in recent years, higher costs have caused some companies, like this current client, to return to domestic manufacturing.
"Let's be real about our state of the industry, this is unique," says Thomas. "Unfortunately, we've seen way too many businesses go the other way, where manufacturers here in the U.S. shut down their plants and move overseas to manufacture. But this is the case where somebody is already manufacturing overseas, but has determined that it would be a wise investment to manufacture in the U.S. where his market is."
Thomas, who's been with RT Machine for about five years, says he has never seen an order like this. Typically, the company sells one or two machines at a time to cabinet shops with up to 25 employees.
The process started about a year ago when the owner of Muniré Furniture contacted RT Machine based on a relationship from previous machinery dealings. The company asked RT Machine administrators to locate an existing facility for purchase or lease in a state that was friendly to business and then equip the site for production.
Ironically, the economic slump hasn't impacted sales at RT Machine all that badly, says Thomas. Because of the number of woodworking plants that have closed down, RT Machine was provided with a number of opportunities to buy equipment on the open market to refurbish and resell.
"Our new machinery sales have had certain increases here recently, but going back to the end of 2007 new machinery sales were on the decline. Customers weren't looking for a $100,000 capital investment, but were willing to maybe spend $50,000 and we could find a suitable used piece of equipment at a much more satisfying cost to them."
The Echelon Furniture plant started production with 25 employees in 2010 and is hoping to have 100 sometime this year. The goal is to have 350 employees by 2013.
"The people out in Indiana have been very receptive of the plant. That goes all the way up to the governor of Indiana who participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It's been a pretty big deal for the state of Indiana and the community of Gas City."
For information about Muniré Furniture, visit www.munirefurniture.com.
Contact: RT Machine Company, 201 Boak Ave., Hughesville, PA 17737. Tel: 570-584-2002. www.rtmachine.com
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.