Ranir brings production line back from China


Ranir, a Kentwood-based manufacturer of store-brand consumer oral and personal health care products, is hosting a major event here Tuesday that reflects its new investment — one that was strongly encouraged by Walmart.

The event will include Walmart and Ranir executives at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and factory tour of Ranir’s expanded manufacturing line. The investment in new manufacturing equipment covering 7,500 square feet of its East Paris plant floor is enabling Ranir to bring its monthly production of 400,000 power toothbrush heads back to Kentwood from China.

Ranir did not release the dollar amount of its investment but said about 19 new employees were added as a result.

Walmart, listed at 16th on the Forbes list of the 20 largest publicly held corporations in the world, had FY2015 revenue of $486 billion.

It states on its website it is “committed to American renewal,” and in January 2013, Walmart announced its “Made in the USA” initiative, a commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in U.S.-made products by 2023, “in an effort to grow U.S. manufacturing and encourage the creation of U.S. jobs.”

Walmart has an “open call” each July in which it invites potential suppliers to come to its world headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to pitch their products made in the U.S.

Industry Week reported there were more than 800 meetings between Walmart officials and potential U.S. suppliers at the first open call last year. Deals that came out of it ranged from companies as large as GE to as small as Chef Jenn seafood products.

GE added 150 new jobs as a result of its light bulb deal with Walmart and opened three factories — one in Illinois and two in Ohio.

CEO Christine Henisee said Ranir will be at the 2015 Made in the USA open call as a special guest of Walmart — an example to the potential suppliers of what can be accomplished here in the United States.

Ranir already was selling Walmart the power toothbrush heads it made in China, but Henisee said her company had actually been considering moving that production to the U.S. even before learning how strongly Walmart would encourage it.

“We wanted to simplify and shorten our supply chain because we value customer service a lot,” said Henisee.

She said the expansion will also strengthen the job security of everyone at the plant in Kentwood.

Ranir had been looking at possible opportunities to bring more of its Asian production to Michigan or to its German plant, which serves the European market. In addition to shortening and simplifying the global supply chain, Henisee figured it would “help to control our total cost position, with all the things that go on in the world to take costs up and down.”

Ranir, founded in Grand Rapids in 1979 and owned by a private equity firm, makes manual toothbrushes, teeth-whitening compounds and dental floss — lots and lots of dental floss — at the East Paris Avenue plant, which employs approximately 500 people.

The company does not reveal its annual revenue, but Henisee indicated it is more than $200 million.

Two years ago the Business Journal reported that close to 70 percent of all dental floss sold in the U.S. is made at Ranir’s plant in Kentwood. Its annual dental floss production is enough to reach the moon and back about six times.

Most of the array of products Ranir makes is under contract for major retailers in 40 countries around the world, including Walmart — but also such significant players as CVS, Rite Aid and Meijer, to name a few.

“The megatrends are suggesting that a manufacturer take a look at in-sourcing, maybe more than we used to — at least for things that can be automated — in both the U.S. and Germany,” said Henisee.

She said Ranir had been considering “an automation concept on this (automatic toothbrush head) product line” that represents a product improvement at the same time. Consequently, she said investing in it seemed like a good, long-term idea and would add value to the Kentwood plant.

Walmart assured Ranir it has the retail giant’s support to bring its manufacturing back to the U.S. “to help us have the courage to take the leap” and make the investment, said Henisee.

“They really have a very serious interest in this, and it’s very sincere,” she said.

Ranir was named one of West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For in 2014.

It is a technology- and development-focused company, which also owns, manufactures and markets the Plackers brand of dental flossers and other oral hygiene products.

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