Where do you manufacture your products?
We manufacture globally. Our goal is to produce the highest quality products we can at a price that sets us apart as a value leader. If that ideal location is the USA, China, Mexico, France, or the Moon, we’ll make it there. We are always looking to expand our manufacturing base, so the exact locations may change from year to year. As of the beginning of 2021, it’s primarily China.
How does your quality compare to other companies that market Made in USA?
The short answer: Very well. The (very) long answer: Let’s focus on China as an example. It’s important to understand two things: One, a country is not a factory. There are dozens of fitness equipment factories in China, so the quality from one factory to another will differ. Two, factories in China can make world class products. iPhones are made in China and are obviously high-quality products. At the same time, there are many stereotypical low-quality products made there. That variation in quality exists in fitness equipment too.
The quality a company receives from a factory is only as good as what they’re willing to pay, and the standards they set and enforce. If a company in the USA imports and sells a product with substandard quality, they are ultimately the ones at fault, not the factory in China. A lot of work is involved to setup the kind of quality standards and inspections that are needed to deliver an exceptional customer experience, and that’s our responsibility, not the factory’s. We have a dedicated team of professionals near our factories that help to ensure exceptional quality and have spent a lot of time and effort to create standards and train staff. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but we’re always working towards that.
Isn’t there a quality difference because of better craftsmanship?
Five or ten years ago, the answer may have been yes. If Welder A was excellent, but Welder B was so-so, quality could vary greatly depending on who worked on your equipment. Now though, at any larger equipment company (including ours), your power rack or bench is no longer hand cut, hand welded, and hand painted. It’s manufactured predominantly by robotics.
For example, a power rack is made by a robotic laser tube cutter, a robotic laser plate steel cutter, a robotic welder, and a robotic powder coating machine. With that level of automation now typical with a modern factory, the difference in quality today from even 5 years ago is huge.
There is still some hand-welding done, but it’s becoming less of a factor every year, and all the other robotics have taken over most aspects of production.
I’ve heard that companies importing are just re-branding the same products made by the factories. Is that true?
Yes and no. Re-branding is more common in cases of “commodity” products such as dumbbells and plates. However, there are dozens of factories producing these types of equipment, so you rarely have any idea if two companies use the same factory. The larger the company, the less likely other companies carry the same re-branded product because the large company eats up most of the production capacity of the factory.
In our case, we are typically a very large percentage of production for any given factory, from 50-90%.We also require exclusivity for our unique products such as benches, racks, etc., and these cannot be sold to any other company because they’re our designs.
But I saw some other XYZ product from ABC company that looks really similar to yours. Is it from the same factory you use?
We design our products such as benches, racks, and other unique items in-house with our own engineering staff in the USA. If you see a product that is clearly a recognizable REP design that we sold first, it’s because we designed it. Other companies may seek to copy us with a knock-off, much like what happens to many well-known brands in other industries. Vote with your dollars when you see behavior like that and contact our staff to let us know when you see this happen. That product isn’t made in our factory though. We have agreements in place with our factories, and our own full-time staff there every day.
I prefer to support American companies and jobs. Why don’t you manufacture more in the USA?
Firstly, REP is an American company. It was started by two brothers in Colorado and has grown to employ over 100 people in the USA and growing.
Secondly, the jobs at REP are some of the highest paid and highest skilled jobs in the value chain that brings you our products. Jobs such as our leadership, finance, engineering, customer service, sales, logistics, marketing, and IT are all located in the USA. When you pay for a product from us, the majority of the purchase price is going to support our company, and the minority is going towards manufacturing costs.
Finally, we are always exploring opportunities to diversify our manufacturing base. If our customers are telling us they want the option to have locally made products and are willing to pay a premium for that, we will listen and potentially offer a line catering to those customers.