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Why Stanley’s Plan to Reshore Craftsman Failed

The company’s big plans — and big budget — to automate its factory fell flat.

The timeline of the ill-fated Stanley Black & Decker plant in Fort Worth, Texas — once tasked with manufacturing tools under the Craftsman brand — lasted about six years.

READ MORE: Stanley Black & Decker to Close 2 Plants

In 2017, Stanley bought Craftsman from Sears for about $900 million. Two years later, the company broke ground on the 425,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

The $90 million factory opened in 2020, and Stanley estimated it would eventually reach a staffing level of 500 employees.

However, in March, Stanley announced it would shutter the plant and lay off not 500, but its workforce of just 175. 

When the company began constructing the plant, then-President and CEO Jim Loree said the Craftsman purchase was made to “bring back [the brand’s] American manufacturing heritage” after Sears had shifted production to China.

Stanley intended the Fort Worth Craftsman plant to automate most of the processes for making mechanics’ tools. Those methods sought to increase efficiency to the point that its costs would be comparable to China’s. 

But according to former employees, the pandemic threw off the timetable, and the system did not receive proper testing before being scaled up, the Wall Street Journal reported.

One former operations leader said adjustments to a rolling machine would require new tooling from overseas, a process that could take weeks. Other former workers said ratchets and wrenches would become misshapen in the press. 

Other problems included sockets arriving at the heat treating section with metal that had not been fully punched out or without the Craftsman name stamped on them. The company’s global tools and storage president left his role in 2020 and has since been succeeded by four executives.

The factory still made thousands of sockets, but customers did not want them without ratchets and wrenches.

In 2022, Stanley said that its core tool business suffered a drop in demand after a pandemic boom, and that the company planned to reduce its facilities by 30%, lower the number of products it sells by 40%, and cut $2 billion in costs.

The cuts thinned the Craftsman factory’s workforce despite some ex-employees claiming the production problems were nearly solved. 

While the Fort Worth plant failed, Stanley still hopes to reduce its manufacturing presence in Asia and recently revealed newly opened plants in Mexico to serve the North American market.

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