I recently reached out to Cari Ugent, founder of Safepole as I heard she had moved her manufacturing from overseas to Chicago and wanted to know more. But before I get into that, I have to tell you a bit about her business because it has a great story.
A few years back, Cari was hospitalized for a severe illness and had to be continuously connected to an IV Pole. The unbalanced weight of the pole made it difficult to do even the most basic tasks and she wondered if others had the same problem. As a journalist, her first instinct was to start interviewing the nurses and doctors at the hospital- it turned out they had similar experiences. They told stories of poles holding medication bags or precious blood tipping over or even poles not making it into the elevator with patients. She decided something had to be done and founded Safepole, with the goal of improving patient and nurse safety and quality of life.
When first starting out, Cari had all her parts sourced from Korea. As is the case with many start ups producing overseas, she ran into challenges- parts were delivered with errors and communication was difficult and led to high unexpected costs for her business. It was through a connection at DesignHouse that Cari was able to experiment with manufacturing in the US.
DesignHouse connected Cari with Skol, a sheet metal manufacturer in Chicago, who was able to collaborate with and redesign her most expensive part, the base. Originally the base was weighted with separate weights that had to be sourced, purchased and drilled into the base. Working with Skol, they redesigned the base into one simple part that was heavy enough to be its own weight, making the part as cost effective as Korea in the process. Though the part cost was similar, by moving this manufacturing to Chicago Cari was able to save money by spending less time managing the quality control and sourcing parts for her product. She has since moved the production of all Safepole parts to the Chicagoland area and is proud to say Safepole is fully US made.
We love this story because it dispels the myth that manufacturing overseas is always cheaper. There are many costs that go into producing products and factoring time, collaboration and design can affect the ultimate cost of your end product. Do you have a similar story about manufacturing locally that you would like to share? We’d love to hear it. Email us!