That’s not a typo, but the number of Rhode Island jobs the Warwick-based Quick Fitting, Inc. expects to create in the next 18 months as it steps up manufacturing and cuts off its Chinese manufacturers.
“It’s happening now,” John Cronin said yesterday. Cronin, U.S. manufacturing project director for Quick Fitting, said the push fittings designed and built by the company are already carried in most Lowe’s and Ace Hardware stores. The fittings eliminate the need for soldering copper and brass fittings or gluing for PVC piping, opening simple pumping to do-it-yourselfers and enabling professional plumbers to complete jobs faster and under all types of conditions. He said all Lowe’s stores would offer the product shortly, thereby requiring the company to ramp up production.
The company’s success and what it means in Rhode Island jobs is part of the story; the bigger piece is the resurgence in American manufacturing.
Quick Fitting has found American-made products more dependable and amazingly, in many cases, less costly than what is produced in China. The stainless steel rings used in the fittings are already made in this country and sent to China to be installed.
“They make mistakes over there,” said Libardo Ochoa, who with David Crompton, president and CEO of Quick Fitting, designs the lightweight fittings and holds several patents. Ochoa, who came to this country five years ago from Columbia, said that a prototype fitting was sent to China for manufacturing and had not been made as designed. In addition, cheaper materials had been substituted for the specified materials. Finally, Quick Fitting discovered the pilot product was being produced and sold by another Chinese company.
Cronin said the company spends considerable sums on suits, which is an annoyance.
“It’s a constant battle to protect your technology,” he said.
But more than that, the company has found it can count on American manufacturers to consistently produce fittings that meet their quality standards, whereas as much as 20 percent of the Chinese product fails to meet requirements.
“We feel that we will have the quality and we’ll be able to meet the same price point as China,” he said. When transportation costs and turnaround time is calculated, Cronin says, “we can be competitive.” He said American manufacturers’ shift to technology has helped sharpen that edge, and that the company is already working on contracting out much of its work.
As an example, Cronin pointed to the grip component of one fitting. When made in China, the part cost 4.2 cents. Making it in this country costs 3.1 cents.
Cronin expects Quick Fitting, which currently employs about 70, will increase its workforce to 200 within the year. He expects the contracts with other manufacturers – all in Rhode Island – will create an additional 450 jobs.
That process is happening quickly.
Crompton was on a conference call yesterday making arrangements to expand to all Lowe’s stores and establish manufacturing suppliers. He couldn’t be interrupted.
In a release issued by the company, Crompton said, “As a leading innovator of push-fit technology, Quick Fitting is excited to offer the first ‘Made in the U.S.’ push-to-connect product offering to the North American market. This underscores our commitment to create high-quality American products, while expanding on the Renaissance in Rhode Island Manufacturing."
Cronin said the company would invest $20 million in a new state-of-the-art advanced technologies research center, forming and manufacturing facility. He said the company could reach a point where it would require more space, in which case it would most likely relocate at Quonset. Quonset would also provide the added benefit of rail connections.
Ironically, the biggest export from China could be the capital Quick Fitting needs to bring all its manufacturing home. Cronin said the company is seeking to gain approval for the EB5 government program that allows foreign investors to come to this country and work under a Green Card with the opportunity of becoming an American citizen. He said banks are adverse to the risk of large scale manufacturing loans while equity partners are looking to take over the business and sell it.
“We’re in the final stages of approval for foreign investment,” he said of the program.
Might the company look to expand into China?
Cronin called China “an opportunity market.”
But, he added, “business development is based on trust” and when that happens, “they will become better partners.”