Rockline returns facial wipe production to the U.S. as part of Wal-Mart initiative

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 303 views 

Rockline Industries and Wal-Mart Stores announced a re-shoring effort that creates 50 jobs and brings production of facial wipes from Germany and Italy to Rockline’s Springdale manufacturing facility. The celebration with both companies and area dignitaries was held Thursday (Oct. 1) at the Springdale facility.

According to a press release from Rockline, the company invested $15 million in capital toward expansion of the Arkansas-based production capability and construction of a new facial wipes line. By on-shoring additional production of facial wipes, this initiative will support the growth of more than 50 Arkansas manufacturing jobs over the next year. The company recently opened a 240,000-square-foot plant in Russellville, allowing increased production for the facial line at the Springdale plant.

This re-shoring effort supports Walmart’s ongoing efforts to source an additional $250 billion in products that support American job creation. The 10-year initiative began in January 2013 and is progressing better than expected, said Cindi Marsiglio, vice president, U.S. sourcing and manufacturing at Walmart.

The company is already seeing new items across all categories, she added. Three ways the initiative is showing results include existing suppliers growing existing product lines, suppliers such as Rockline re-shoring some of their production from overseas, and new suppliers selling to Walmart.

Wal-Mart’s U.S. manufacturing lead, Michelle Gloeckler, told The City Wire in June that the retailer had more than 150 projects underway with various suppliers. She said reaching out to suppliers with some U.S. manufacturing in place is one of the areas where the retailer has been able to make progress.

Suppliers are finding that re-shoring their production is profitable because of the United States’ lower energy costs and wage costs. Combined with a shorter supply chain, manufacturing in the U.S. is becoming an increasingly appealing option. Part of Walmart’s efforts include working with suppliers to navigate the various challenges they might face in their re-shoring efforts.

“We help them navigate the supply chain,” she said. “It’s part of our role to help facilitate.”

Marsiglio and David Deising, director of marketing at Rockline, said Arkansas is increasingly business-friendly and officials understand the impact manufacturing can have on the state’s economy. A few years ago, the state legislature reduced taxes on manufacturing to help attract more to the state, said Mike Malone, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Joel Slank, general manager at the Springdale location, said Thursday that perceptions are changing about what manufacturing jobs are like.

“Not all manufacturing jobs are dark, dirty and dangerous,” he said.

Manufacturing sector employment remains far below historic numbers in Arkansas and the region. The Northwest Arkansas manufacturing sector employed an estimated 27,200 in August, down from 27,300 in July, and below the 27,400 during August 2014. Sector employment is down 19% from a decade ago when August 2005 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 33,600. Average annual employment in the sector hit a high of 35,900 in 2000.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during August totaled 152,700, below the 153,400 in July and below the 154,400 in August 2014. Employment in the manufacturing sector fell in 2014 to levels not seen since early 1968. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in February 1995.

Rockline employs more than 800 hourly employees in the state. Rockline employs approximately 2,000 people worldwide and has manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin, Arkansas, New Jersey, England and South China.