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Got it Made

I have a white board in my office.  Right now it is just that — a white board.  Stark white.  Pristine white.   A 6’ x 4’ foot wall-mounted board of gleaming melamine (my grades not withstanding, maybe I did learn something in my 10th grade chemistry class).  Soon, possibly even tomorrow (but probably not), I will write on the board a brilliant solution to one of the world’s greatest problems...But today it will remain white.

Earlier this year I wiped away all vestiges of 2012.  Top-to-bottom I erased what amounted to my 2012 to-didn’t list.  I wiped away all written proof of what I didn’t do, and it felt good.

The purging process went something like this:

1. Reach for white plastic tub (high-density polyethylene, as signified by the #2 inside the 3 arrows forming a triangle on the bottom of the container) of Expo cleaning wipes for dry erase boards. (I may not have liked or excelled at chemistry, but I appreciate its value in my life for moments like this one.)

2. Lose valuable erasing time reading the product label on the wipes container.Expo is simply the brand of wipe that was stocked in our store room.  It seemed natural to me to read the label.  Why not?

The Expo brand is owned by Newell Rubbermaid, a conglomerate headquartered just outside Atlanta, GA.  Newell Rubbermaid was formed in 1999 when the Newell Manufacturing Company acquired Rubbermaid.  Other brand names under the Newell Rubbermaid banner include: Graco, Levelor, and Calphalon, among others.

Newell Rubbermaid, I discovered, goes to the trouble of listing where everything (and I mean everything) about the container and its contents was manufactured.  Word-for-word the package reads, “Towelette Made in Israel.  Cap Made in India.  All Other Components Made in the U.S.A”.  Fascinating.  Also fascinating, but a little less so… Why did they capitalize the word Made every time?

3. Send an email to Newell Rubbermaid and ask why they bother listing the origin of manufacture for each component.

4. While waiting for a reply (hoping really) from the corporate office, begin a new internet search on where to buy things business-to-business.  It turns out, finding this information is easy.  To buy towelettes from Israel start at  To buy plastic caps from India visit,

5. Wonder which other countries have “made in” websites, and start Googling for the answer. Made in China?  Yes. Made in Japan?  Yes. Made in Mexico?  Yes. Made in Poland?  Yes.  Made in Vanuatu?  Maybe.  There was a bad link.

6. Give up searching for other countries’ “made in” websites and read newly received response from Newell Rubbermaid.

Hello Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail us and for your support of Newell Rubbermaid Office Products. We list the country of origin of every component of the product because they all come from different countries. We do this so that you can be sure of where everything that your product is made of is coming from.

We universally label all products with the Country of Origin, no matter where they are sold in the world. 

Newell Rubbermaid Office Products

7. Take a sip of coffee and appreciate what I just learned.   In that instant I also learned my coffee had gone cold.

I then realized, in a way I never have before, that “made in America” more and more means involving the the rest of the world.  Newell Rubbermaid is an American company.  They are headquartered here.  Many of the brands that they own are also headquartered here.  Goody, Graco, and Dymo are all in Atlanta too.  Lenox is headquartered in East Long Meadow, MA.  Irwin Industrial Tools is in Huntersville, NC.  And Sharpie (fair warning: never ever write on a white board with a Sharpie… though I think most of us learn that one from experience) is in Oak Brook, IL.  They are an American company, but one that is globally engaged.

From a business standpoint, the company is integrating into a global supply network and trying to open up new international markets with improved access to millions of potential new customers.  In order to be seen as a global player, they need global presence. It’s logical to be where the market is.  Newell Rubbermaid clearly spells out goals to “extend beyond our borders” in the Growth Game Plan published on their website.

From a personal standpoint, I appreciate knowing where everything was made.  I buy “made in America” when I can and when it makes financial sense for me to do so.  I was going to use the Expo wipes regardless.  But I did feel just a little bit better knowing what I was using and where in the world it came from.  That, my friends, is what they call “user experience”.

8. Finish erasing the white board in 2012.

9. Done.

About the author

Mark Schmit

Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), since 1988, has been committed to strengthening U.S. manufacturing, continually evolving to meet the changing needs of manufacturers. As division chief for regional and state partnerships, Mark is the lead for division policy and has assisted in the development of programs supporting manufacturing and industrial extension technology-based economic development, and entrepreneurship practices with state elected officials and policy makers, including the MEP policy academies, which were designed by MEP and partners to help states build upon existing strategies, leverage available resources, and spur creative new ideas about how to address major challenges or leverage opportunities around the manufacturing sector.  Mark is responsible for developing partnerships with both the public and private sector entities. He was an MEP co-lead for the creation of MFG Day, an outreach program held on the first Friday in October to show students, parents, and the public what modern manufacturing is all about, with growing annual participation across the United States. Mark was a 2001, 2005, 2014, and 2020 recipient of NIST’s George Uriano Award.  The George Uriano Award recognizes outstanding achievements by NIST staff in building and strengthening NIST extramural programs and partnerships.

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I really like the way you bring to light the fact that the everyday items we use or see or are just simply exposed to, are manufactured. From the simple wipe to the complex automobile, your blog entries really drive home how very important THINGS are to our existence and in turn, how crucial manufacturing is to our lives and economy. Thanks Mark, great blog!

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