On April 10, Klein held a ribbon cutting ceremony at its new heat treating plant in Mansfield, Texas. I don't normally attend this kind of event but when I heard it would include tours of the heat treating plant and a nearby factory where pliers are made, I decided to go. Except for a single machine concealed by tarps, nothing in either plant was off limits and the journalists on the tour were free to take photos and shoot video. You can see what I saw by clicking the slideshow on the left side of this page. Be sure to read the captions, which describe the production process and contain links to video shot in the plants. Read on if you are curious about how Klein came to be making tools in Texas.
Klein has been manufacturing tools in the Chicago area since 1857, and is now in the process of moving most of its U.S. production to Mansfield, a suburban town in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The first thing they built there was the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center—which in 2011 took over the production of pliers and wire-strippers from a 60-year old factory in Skokie, Illinois. The Skokie plant has since been torn down and a shopping center is being built in its place.
The idea behind the move is to consolidate production in a single area because it's more efficient than the current setup, where forging, machining, heat treating, assembly, and packaging are performed at various plants in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Arkansas, and New York. Klein could have relocated to just about anywhere; cheaper land, lower wages, and tax incentives probably played a role in the decision to go to Texas.
The new heat treating plant is located a short distance away from the Advanced Manufacturing Center on a plot of land with plenty of room for expansion. Over time, the company will move additional operations to Mansfield, though the plant where forgings are made will remain in Illinois, as will corporate headquarters. Screwdrivers, nut drivers, and various accessories are currently made at a plant (click here for a tour) attached to the headquarters building—though the plan is to eventually shift that production to Mansfield.
According to Klein officials, when they closed the plant in Skokie they offered employees jobs at other locations. Some workers retired, some looked for new jobs in the area, and some moved to Texas. It's unlikely there would have been jobs at the Advanced Manufacturing Center for all of them, because like most new U.S. factories, the plants in Mansfield are highly automated. According to a story in Contractor Supply, a Klein official said of the tools made in Mansfield, "In 1998 we had nearly 900 people producing these products; today we produce 25 percent more product with approximately one-half of the people we had then."
Klein's primary focus is on the U.S. market, but it is pushing into other countries—most recently, Australia. The company does not sell tools in Europe. It has factories in Mexico, Brazil, and China—though according to the folks at Klein most of tools produced in those plants are sold in the countries where they are made.