Manufacturers adapt in uncertain times

The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China has sparked a manufacturers migration from China to the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Many American-based companies are considering manufacturing domestically as a solution to the turbulent economic times.

One such company is CIE Manufacturing (formerly CIMC Intermodal Equipment), which is in the final stages of adding manufacturing capabilities to its North American facilities. The move will help insulate CIE from trade disruptions and allow the company to offer better lead times to clients throughout North America. Prior to the move, then-CIMC-IE’s intermodal container chassis were manufactured solely at its production facility in China. Its North American-bound chassis were shipped to South Gate, California, for post-shipment reassembly and inspections before being delivered to CIE’s North American customers and dealer organizations.

“The move reduces the external impact of global trade imbalances, will help us maintain and grow our dominant market share, give our customers reductions in lead times, and optimize existing quality controls as a result of our ISO9001 Certification,” said Trevor Ash, executive vice president at CIE. “CIE is proud of its quality management systems certification.”

The U.S. enjoyed steady economic growth before the coronavirus epidemic. Despite the fact that other Asian countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, India and Singapore absorbed some of China’s manufacturing might, these countries along with 10 other Asian low-cost manufacturing countries combined saw contractions of 7% in manufacturing exports to the U.S. – from $816 billion in 2018 to $757 billion in 2019. China alone saw imports decline by 17% due to rising tariffs.

“The implementation of the tariffs and the escalation of the percentage of those tariffs made it very advisable to invest in U.S. manufacturing to protect our position in the market,” Ash said.

Assembly line at CIE’s newly expanded manufacturing facility in Emporia, Virginia.

“CIE continues to be the market leader in sales and distribution of intermodal shipping chassis in the U.S. market.” Producing over 180,000 chassis for the American market to date, CIE is the world’s largest manufacturer of intermodal container chassis. 

Embracing its already prominent American footprint, the company recently changed its logo to that of an eagle and its colors to patriotic red, white and blue.

CIE is in the final stages of its production line installations in South Gate and in Emporia, Virginia. CIE’s Southern California location has been the company’s headquarters since 2008. The facility’s close proximity to the Port of Long Beach – one of the largest ports in the U.S. – offers added benefits, including increased efficiency. The company began its Emporia operations in 2015, mirroring its California counterpart. Missy Pinksaw, CIE’s director of corporate marketing, credited its geographic midpoint along Interstate 95 and its proximity to the Port of Norfolk for better equipping CIE to reduce lead times for its more populous customer base across the eastern half of the U.S.

The strategic locations of the bicoastal manufacturing facilities, both upgraded in 2019, give CIE a distinct advantage in providing its superior products and services in supporting their valued U.S., Mexico and Canada customer base. “We underwent a lean manufacturing enhancement to both facilities, focusing on the ability to better control operational quality, efficiency and excellence.” Ash said.

Ash announced that although CIE plans to continue its expansion and manufacture additional models at both U.S. facilities in the near future, first on-deck will be a 40-foot gooseneck tandem marine chassis, which Ash described as the “workhorse of the intermodal shipping business.”  These new North American chassis lines will be another step in CIE’s constantly evolving efforts to pioneer and revolutionize the intermodal industry.

The company already offers the Revere Chassis line, an industry-leading innovation, which carries an unsurpassed 10-year warranty on non-wear parts.  The Revere line features the industry’s premium components and an environmentally friendly powder coating, called KTL, which is resistant to cracking, peeling and corrosion.