Starting in March, U.S.-based Element Electronics will open a new flat-panel TV assembly factory in Canton, Mich., producing LCD TVs measuring 46 inches and larger for its growing retail base.
Some hope the move will spark a return of TV manufacturing to the U.S., since the last remaining TV makers shifted production to Asia and Mexico over the past decade.
The company, whose founder, Mike O’Shaughnessy, was at one time CEO of Polaroid electronics line when the brand was controlled by the infamous and defunct Petters Group, has been serving mostly value-oriented consumer electronics products to retail outlets, including Target, Walmart, Costco and QVC since 2007.
Element also was a resource for Circuit City before the chain’s closure, selling CE goods sourced from Asia.
Element Electronics said it will begin assembling large-screen TVs from a oneline operation, owned by Lotus International, to shorten its supply chain and lead times. In time, the move is expected to reduce costs, as production and shipping expenses in China continue to grow and Element’s production gradually ramps up.
“Utilizing an American factory will allow Element to get the right products, at the right price, to the right place at the right time — as well as reduce waste and increase the quality of the consumer’s outof- box experience,” the company said.
O’Shaughnessy said the decision to manufacturer TVs in the U.S. was an emotional one: “We have watched for years as jobs have left America for other countries. We have wanted to and planned for producing TVs here, at home. Element Electronics wants to pioneer a resurgence of creating quality manufacturing jobs in the USA.”
Element plans to acquire component parts from Shenyang, China-based Tongfang Global, which Element has used as an exclusive contract manufacturer for TVs for the past year. U.S. assembly will focus on larger-screen-size CCFL and LED LCD TVs, which due to rising shipping costs and other issues can be produced at equivalent costs to having fully assembled products shipped in from China, depending on screen sizes and feature sets, according to the company.
Requests for model specifics were not answered as this went to press, but Element and Harmen International’s JBL announced plans to develop and launch premium sounding flat-screen TVs using JBL drivers. The sets will incorporate patented designs that reduce the size of the speaker while maintaining premium audio quality, the companies said in a joint statement.
Element said its products “will be supported with comprehensive warranties and an after-sales support network that extends through the life of the unit.”
Only a handful of manufacturers have operated TV assembly operations in the U.S. in recent years. Silo TV assembled certain LCD TV models at a facility in City of Industry, Calif., as late as last year, but is opting to ship fully assembled sets in from Asia for 2012. A company spokesperson said that Silo may still resume some U.S. set assembly here in the near future.