Small Businesses Embracing MADE IN THE USACarolyn Crummey
Litchfield International – Makers of HangerLoK
31 years ago Litchfield International, a small company based out of Connecticut, opened their doors as a construction product importer. The focused on a patented infrastructure product used in the installation of conduit and radio frequency systems. From day one, their business was a struggle, as the introduction of thermoplastic engineered plastic into an industry dominated by steel products was a radical move and neither quickly nor widely accepted. But then owner, Charles Hungerford, knew the Swiss product he was bringing to the market could replace the more costly steel products being used and forged on. Eventually he penetrated not only his initial market, but found success in the plumbing, electrical and industrial markets that were looking to move to a lighter, less expensive construction product. To complement the imported products, Litchfield International also began manufacturing accessory products in the USA.
Fast forward 25 years, and Charles’ children, the second generation of Hungerfords, have inherited the business. They face challenges of a different kind. Importing and distributing the Swiss product for twenty-six years, Litchfield was weighed down with currency exchange costs, high freight and duty charges, quality control issues, and additional costs attributed to importing from Europe. In order to stay in business and in the construction industry, Litchfield replaced three of the most popular sizes of the imported product with their own product, manufactured right here in the United States. Their own HangerLoK product line is proudly “Made in the USA” and now represents their sole business.
“Moving from being an importer to a U.S. based manufacturer was a huge step for Litchfield International,” says Stuart Hungerford, president of Litchfield International. “While we had decades of experience manufacturing some of our accessory products domestically, creating an entirely new product line that met the specifications our customers came to expect was a long and challenging process. Beyond that, we had to get our customers on board with the changes we were making. Not all of them were agreeable, so we knew we were going to lose some business. But in our minds, we knew that we would be offering a better product, domestically made, offering a better value. We felt that eventually our customers would come to recognize that.”
Litchfield International now produces all of their products in two manufacturing facilities in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Torrington, Connecticut. They also employ Pittsfield-based Zip’n’Sort, a distribution and fulfillment company that handles the product packaging and distribution. This facility is proudly part of the Berkshire County Arc, a human services organization that offers community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Be diligent in your search for the right manufacturer to partner with, because their services are crucial to your overall operation and ability to get product to the market”.