For over thirty years, REI has been manufacturing its entire product line in-house. “We have people behind our products,” says Production Manager Derek Lane. “A team of individuals work together, each an expert on the component for which they are responsible, to assemble every product before it makes one last stop.”
Tony Parsons is one of those last stops. “I’m the ORION specialist,” says Parsons. He has been overseeing final assembly and quality assurance of REI’s ORION product line for the last seven years.
According to the Associated Press, over fifty percent of U.S. manufacturing jobs are being outsourced. So why does REI continue to produce each item under their own roof? There are several benefits of operating in this manner; benefits that are then conveyed to customers:
REI sees, touches, and tests each product before it is shipped out. With complete control over the manufacturing process, REI does not have to be concerned with whether a third-party company is dedicated to the quality of their products.
Unlike many companies, REI does not have a standalone repair department. If a product has been damaged and needs to be fixed, it returns to the individual who assembled it. “No one knows more about the product than I do, because I built it. I’m the most qualified person to repair it,” says Parsons.
REI does not batch manufacture products only to have them sit on a shelf. Low volumes are maintained to allow for adaptability to change. “We can make manufacturing changes in as little as twenty-four hours,” says Lane. “If an adjustment is needed to improve production, we can make that happen almost immediately.”
REI’s engineering and production departments work in tandem, making software and hardware that are specifically designed for each other. If either function was outsourced, REI could be forced to make compromises to ensure compatibility. From beginning to end, REI knows that each element is going to work together seamlessly. Each time a customer orders an ORION from REI they can be confident that it meets the highest standards (and Tony assures it).