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Company moves toothbrush production to Michigan from China

Jun 17, 2015

These toothbrush heads are now made by machines in Grand Rapids, instead of by workers in China.
Credit Courtesy photo / Ranir

A company near Grand Rapids will make toothbrush heads here instead of China.

The move is indicative of a trend; some manufacturing jobs are coming back to Michigan, especially when machines do most of the labor.

Inside the Ranir plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood, it smells like plastic and mint. Ranir's senior vice president of marketing, Greg McCormick, shows reporters and a few state officials a line of new machines.

“They're actually putting together the brush head right here,” he said.

Credit Courtesy photo / Ranir

By “they,” McCormick means a machine. In China, people made the toothbrush heads for those battery-operated toothbrushes. In Michigan, robots will do most of the work, churning out about 400,000 replacement heads a month.

In all, the move will create about 20 jobs.

But it’s part of a trickle of manufacturing jobs coming back to Michigan.

“We’ll have more as we bring production back as the economics and the technology allow for us to do automated production,” Ranir CEO Christine Henisee said.

“It’s easier to offshore (the production work). But at the end of the day, if you look at the economics of it and can develop the skills to do it, it’s best to do it here,” she said.

The move shortens Henisee’s supply chain and gives her better quality control. She says the concept is catching on. 

“It establishes the security of a U.S. manufacturing site and doesn’t have you wondering all the time whether you should be here or not,” Henisee said.

Henisee says the company didn’t lose manufacturing jobs in Michigan. The company has grown from 250 employees to 500 in the last decade, according to Henisee. But it has grown overseas too, and still has plants in China and Germany; 500 of the company’s roughly 750 employees are based in Michigan.