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General Consolidates Operations, Closes its Canadian Factory

comments (29) June 11th, 2012 in blogs

Tom Tom McKenna, Managing Editor
thumbs up 20 users recommend

***UPDATED 6/22/2012***

The number of woodworking machines made in North America is about to get even smaller. General Mfg., the Canadian woodworking machinery manufacturer that has been in business since 1946, will be closing its main factory in Drummondville, Quebec, this fall, essentially ending North American production of its tools.

According to the company, the plant closing will allow the company “to increase efficiency by combining all Canadian operations under one roof and by eliminating non-profitable SKUs from our product mix.” The closing means General will focus its business resources on the General International, General CNC, and Excalibur lines of woodworking machines, currently made overseas. It’s not clear at this time if any machines from General Mfg. will be appear under any of these umbrellas. The company says warranty service and replacement parts for General Mfg. tools will be available through General International.

General International will be at IWF in Atlanta this year (booth #5053), so we'll get a firsthand look at what is to come, this August. We'll also update the story as it develops over the summer.

posted in: blogs, General International, general

Comments (29)

Cadabra Cadabra writes: Don't hate the Asians for shabby quality. Japan was that way until Demming and Juran from the U.S. educated them after WWII.

The tool companies themselves are 100% to blame for bringing this crap into the US & Canada with their name on it! They should be ashamed, not only of their company's low quality ethos, but they should be ashamed of being at the bottom of the "value" flagpole where Europe's flags fly high.

Same old, same old............companies who are caught up in the profit chase sacrifice quality. It's easy to pass off inferior products to many consumers who don't know/don't appreciate properly designed and built equipment. Only when discriminating reviews (e.g. Fine Woodworking, trade show reviews, consumer advocates) expose the low quality that it becomes worthy of newsprint again. We wring our hands for a few days, write comments in a blog like this one, and then we continue on the same old path. We are Alice in 'tool land'.

The majority of North American tool consumers are willing to pawn their quality principals and then accept shabby tools for a ("seemingly") lower price. Tool companies merely conjure their advertising and load up a couple of gimmick features, or free shipping...........then, like magic, the heart of the quality matter has been disguised again! North American consumers have been swallowing one illusion or another since the late 18th century.

Today, when companies do their sourcing plans; their business case analyses; their investment decisions, these cold hard facts of consumerism (read: "the market") play on the ignorant consumer. Every well thought-out design gimmick, marketing plan, advertising scheme, and design "improvement" has Mr. Consumer in it's cross-hairs.

And the victim is always the ignorant consumer! Ha!

Posted: 9:09 am on March 9th

shopfan shopfan writes: During the mid 90's, as a mfg. consultant, I assisted U.S. businesses in moving product mfg. offshore, mostly due to reduced labor rates. It was never to save taxes. Quality was a major issue with the overseas products, especially in China. However, as someone noted, the level of quality was directly proportional to the amount of money my client was willing to spend in the Chinese factories. There were factories that produced better quality products, but they offered a "sliding scale" of quality with a corresponding scale of price. This wasn't like a menu, it was the result of the price negotiation. U.S. companies negotiated to get the absolute lowest cost of goods, and they got what they asked for, including minimal quality controls.

Customer complaints escalated right away, and some customers bolted. The solution is, and always will be, to spend the money to park a U.S. employee (or several) to manage quality control and factory technical performance (calibration of machinery, training of employees, etc.), full time, to achieve better quality. The U.S. company almost always rejects this idea. The same company would have gladly supplied such support to its own factory in the U.S., but they always seemed to think that just throwing the product line overseas with minimal hands-on involvement would be more than enough, with no oversight. That is "magical thinking". When a bad product arrives on our shores, you cannot send it back, its too expensive and would be a wasted effort at any case.

Recently one of my clients has been moving these factories back to the U.S. with great success. Wages in China have escalated a lot, shipping costs are several 100 percent higher now, and there are plenty of skilled, non-union laborers available to man the factories. Raw material costs (steel) is no longer cheaper overseas (China is buying our steel, driving up our prices in the process). Some cities are giving incentives to companies reviving old factories or bringing in work. Seeing people moving factories overseas at this time just makes no sense to me. They are 10-20 years too late. They will regret this move very quickly.

Regarding current Asian produced tools, I was mostly working in tool factories when I was working in Asia, so I think I can speak with some authority on what it takes to produce a good product. I have been impressed with Grizzly quality (cost vs.quality), though their product is mostly coming from Taiwan, a completely different mfg. environment than China. I can tell that they do invest in their overseas factories and are not cutting too many corners in the process. I have not been impressed with too many others. It has a lot to do with the Corporate Personality of the company, and Grizzly has one of the better ones.

Posted: 2:31 pm on June 23rd

RobertPrevost RobertPrevost writes: I was to change my old General Mfg purchase about 20year ago for a new
General made in Drummondville Quebec. That is where I live. i have always
made it a duty to purchase machineries not made in that crappy China.
Shame on General Mfg, it shows the respect this company has for their
customers by offering only crappy tools made in China.
Posted: 11:17 am on June 23rd

Blue_Rocco Blue_Rocco writes: Take the highest price and the lowest priced tools and toss them out, choose from those in the middle. That is how I have chosen tools for years. I love my ShopSmith. I know a lot of you turn your nose up at them, but they are good American made machines .
Posted: 10:32 am on June 23rd

evandene evandene writes: I completely agree with `Kevin90`his comment.
I disagree on the assumption that Canada or the USA would not be able to compete against the crappy Chinese machine stuff on the market today. I run a Company in Canada as part of a multinational and we do very well in competing against the crappy import products from China etc.
It`s all about the inability and laziness of management and unwillingness to install proper LEAN manufacturing processes. Companies moving to the LCC (low cost countries) should shame themself leaving the home country instead of rolling up their sleeves. Thumps down for them.

But as so many times prooven in the past, The Customer has the biggest power! Simple block all that Chines crap, don`t buy it, it`s simple enough.
If the runaways are still supported by customers than we should no longer complain, than we are lost.

Ed van den Enden

Posted: 9:07 pm on June 20th

Kevin90 Kevin90 writes: As an avid General tool user I am sadden to hear that General Canada is discontinuing the better products of General. The General Canada products were distinct from the General Internation and in my opinion made to a much better quality. It is sad to think that it is acceptable to people to pay people poorly and reduce safety and environmental regulation all so the corporation can increase their profits and we can purchase cheap knock offs.

Tiawan, Japan, and China all make decent products but with low paying salaries that most of us would not be able to live on let alone buy a woodworking tool. Not to mention the lack of environmental and safety measures these companies take to make the products off shore.

So are we gaining by buying cheaper products, I think not. Personnally I did not mind paying the extra dollars for a product of quality. Lee Valley and Lie Nielson and other tool makers all know this, you get what you pay for. Afterall Lie Nielson sells a remake of the Stanley plane for over $400.00 it is worth it, so too is a General Canada product. The joy of working with quality made tools is like playing a well made guitar, there is much more joy working with a tool that responds the way one thinks it should and is easy to set up and repeat the same set up.

Of course Black and Decker now owner of Dewalt, Elu, Porter Cable and until recently delta, make all sorts of tools of varing quality and prices. Today I would not buy any of these tools as the quality has gone down so much that one is constantly replacing them and that is how Black and Decker stays in business and is able to buy out Dewalt Elu etc who made tools that last. This also creates more land fill and in the end higher costs tot he consumer. I hope Festool can survive.

I guess the economics of North America now is to move off shore to avoid envirionmental and safety regulation and paying labourers (who buy the products) low salaries and no benefits. Saddly governments are allowing this to happen without reservation or thought.

Posted: 12:21 am on June 20th

Bored_Cutter Bored_Cutter writes: In the last few years, I don't really recall any particularly positive reviews of *any* of General's woodworking products.

As far as I'm concerned, their shutting down a mfg plant is translatable as follows:

"If you think our products aren't that great NOW, well... Hang on to your hats!

We can't afford to pay any more bloated Canadian (and U.S.!) union wages anyhow.

Because of these ridiculous wages we've been bleeding, our revenue stream has been evaporated by our (necessary) high prices, C- quality and eroding customer loyalty so....

Coming soon: a 'Made in China' tag on all our stuff, with even still lousier quality-control!"

Pardon me for not caring about this company's 'plant closing', but I would never have bought anything made by General anyway. If I ever might need badly-made, or unreliable tools, I already know where Harbor Freight and Craftsman-brand tools are sold; at least there I can save *some* money.

I do somewhat sympathize with their now-out-of-work employees, but they can thank their bloated union's demand for ridiculous wages for that calamity. I feel NO desire to subsidize yet another corrupt and bloated workers' union with my hard-earned funds.
Posted: 6:37 pm on June 18th

srjaynes srjaynes writes: Ouch. As consumers, we need to quit settling for 2nd or 3rd best.

I remember when "Made in Japan" meant JUNK. Then the Japanese got their act together and now "Japanese" designed and built means Lexus or better. BUT, event their consumer goods are being made elsewhere. Take a close look at where your new Nikon or Canon camera was made. 50% or better chance it wasn't Japan.

All my major power tools until recently were "Made in America". Now, even my old standby American Companies are manufacturing overseas. My 14" Powermatic Bandsaw and Delta 18-900 Drill Press were both made overseas. And of course from Jet Vortex Dust Collector, and Grizzly jointer, I'd expect overseas manufacturing.

Here's the Killer data: The Jet Vortex dust collector and Grizzly 8" jointer were "perfect out of the box. The Delta 18-900 replaced a returned Powermatic PM2800 who's pulleys were so out of round, they shook the whole drill press. What a hunk of junk... and I wanted to LOVE that drill press.... The Delta has turned out to be flawless.

I've turned to mostly German hand tools and power hand tools as their DIN standards pretty much insure what you're going to get.

I love my Porter Cable routers of 20+ years ago, but with the company changing hands with the tides, I'm dubious regarding their continuing out-of-the-box quality.

My first impressions of the recently revived Stanley Sweetheart line is "they ain't what they used to be" I hope I'm wrong.

Bridge City, is pricing themselves out of everything but the snob and collector market. Too bad, their early squares and measurement tools are my favorites. I DO NOT need a $1500.00 smoothing plane....

I evaluated General each and every time I invested in major new power tool. I found their local support lacking, and their products typically have one or two deal breakers on either features or ergonomics. I never saw poor quality.

People are people and we always want more for less. My father was a poor DIYer, but his dad was a natural born craftsman. Grandfather told me, "Bubby, you buy a good tool only once. You buy a cheap tool over and over, and I guaranty it will let you down on your most important job. IF you buy a good tool and only use it once, you are only out the difference in price. If you buy that cheap too, and it fails, you're out the price of that tool, its replacement, and your time and reputation. Get the good stuff from the start. It's worth it."

His advice has served me well. The tough part has become sorting out the good stuff in the first place. That's why forums like this can make or brake a product or company. Nothing like the word-of-mouth of real owners and users to sort out the truth...

Sorry for the Soap Box. Just gets my hackles up...

Posted: 12:17 pm on June 18th

joe4liberty joe4liberty writes: Look, there are many reasons why goods can be produced overseas cheaper, and yes unions driving up wages beyond what the market can sustain was/is a big part of that. As is US manufacturing regulations that makes the cost of running an operation in the US (and to a nearly equal extend Canada)prohibitive. But the largest factor in the reasoning for manufacturing fleeing to foreign shores is simple - taxes. The US corporate tax rate is second only to Europe (notice that no American companies are going there).
In 1900, the total tax burden in the US (at all levels), was 7% of the GDP. By 2000, that number had reached 47% or 49% depending on which accounting method is used (remember the Clinton Administration changed the way accounting is done in Washington - resulting in a 'surplus' on the books).
If you want manufacturing to move back to the US, you must realize that we cannot tax our way out of our problems, And Republicans and Democrats know nothing else.

Posted: 11:56 am on June 18th

chris_goris chris_goris writes: I see this closing as just another in a long line of companies who must downsize because we as consumers want something for nothing, and that goes for American workers as well. Everyone (from the CEO to the floor sweeper) thinks he or she is worth 4 times what they really are. That is what society has become. A 4k Sq Ft house on 5 acres, 2 new SUVS in the driveway and all the furnishings that go along with it, on a floor sweepers income. Imagine if Powermatic continued to make everything in Tennesse?. A PM2000 tablesaw would cost $15k.Thats why they get pushed offshore and thats why we have no jobs left in this country.
Posted: 7:14 am on June 18th

oldbeachbum oldbeachbum writes: Everyone seems to want Lie-Nielsen quality for Harbor Fright prices......

My tools are an investment, though I am not a pro. Choose wisely, take care of what you buy and buy the best you can afford even if you have to "save up" (remember that term from childhood? - geezer here).

Your standard of living will eventually reflect your standard of buying.

Be mindful/patient and aim for quality in your purchases and support as many home brands and service people as possible.

Posted: 4:26 pm on June 17th

mobile mobile writes: rbarnold - Thank you for refreshingly accurate comments on imports. One thing to add is the tide is turning on these imports and there is growth in US and Canadian manufacturing due to it being cheaper to make items here now. Since woodworking equipment is large and expensive to ship I would expect to see more made here rather than less. So maybe General is not going to close completely here just consolidate. Lets hope they see the light!
Posted: 6:12 am on June 17th

Leighon Leighon writes: There sems to be a great deal of assumptions here. General did not specifically say they were moving mfg. off shore. Perhaps they are, but shouldn't we wait and see. Then you should boycott their products if you don't like them.
While you are at it, go to your closet and look at the labels on your clothes.
Don't just bitch about foreign woodworking machines. Spend a little extra time and money and buy American made every time you can, on everything you can. You will help yourself, your neighbor, and your country
Posted: 1:11 am on June 17th

rbarnold rbarnold writes: Sorry typo, should read: Eastern countrys
Posted: 1:08 am on June 17th

rbarnold rbarnold writes: Everybody seems to be knocking China and the rest of Western countries for Generals cut backs. If a company continues to be uneconomic due to one or more factors will collapse if something is not done, General at least have only cut uneconomic products and cut back on costs so that it can survive, continue to employ workers in the country it is in, and make a profit to keep them employed.
They also knock China and Asia saying that all that comes from there is cheap and therefor crappy products. If you go to an Asian country and China in particular and actually ask about a product from someone that knows, you will be told that the quality is depended on the Purchaser, you will get excellent quality if you are willing to pay a higher price and crap if you aren’t even from China, it's just that China has such a large workforce where millions upon millions of people need work or starve that you get hundreds of factories all making the same identical product that price and quality go out the window. He who sells more makes more even at little mark-up and tiny wages so to survive quality goes out the window. If quality is demanded the importer and purchaser they will get quality but at a higher price even from China. It’s not China that gives everyone crappy tools at impossible to beat prices, it’s YOU and the company you work for and their shareholders right up to the importer that places General in the position it’s in, but most of all YOU for not demanding high quality products at higher but affordable prices (and maybe taking a Chinese man’s total monthly income as a pay cut to donate to companies like General) about US$10 and keep them and their workers in business

Posted: 12:56 am on June 17th

peetor peetor writes: I don't get why some people are crying over this? The USA and a lot of developed, Capitalists countries absolutely CRAVE cheap goods and boy did they get it in droves with companies like Walmart, Target etc. You can't have high quality products/tools AND low prices. Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too. And all semi-racist talk about jobs going overseas to China/Asia makes me sick. Yeah, they produce a lot of crap BUT that also manufacture high quality products like nearly every Dell PC/server, Apple device, HP computer, LCD/LED big screen tv, smart phones out there. Soon, it will be cars.
Posted: 3:41 pm on June 16th

professorss professorss writes: General should take a lot of the heat. Their distribution network in the US is imperceptible. Their prices were outrageously high. Even their General International was priced above Powermatic. Very few nonprofessional woodworkers could justify or afford the outlay. Too bad for the elitists who yearn for the good old days. They're not coming back. Live with it.
Posted: 12:57 pm on June 16th

MGR421 MGR421 writes: Sorry for the typo that should say "WOULD NOT" trade
Posted: 10:12 am on June 16th

MGR421 MGR421 writes: My answer to this trend was simple. I bought old vintage equipment and restored them. I have an entire shop of all vintage USA made equipment that was built back when things were made to last. I would trade one of them for a newer model. They are solid pieces of USA equipment and will last well past my lifetime.
Posted: 10:10 am on June 16th

airman1 airman1 writes: The article didn't say that production was being moved to China. Most of these posts are assumptions based on little more than jingoistic hooey. In the U.S., at least, with the exception of two deep recession years during the past 30, manufacturing output has increased every year. My business serves the manufacturing sector and we've grown every year over the last 50 except for 2009. We live and work in a global marketplace. Placing production where it is most efficient allows us to buy the tools we use in our crafts at prices we can afford so we have some money left over to buy wood. Not everything made in the past was better than today. Most of the old "antique" hand tools are junk compared with what we can find today. I'll take a modern Lie-Nielsen or Veritas or even Wood River hand plane or Saw-stop table saw over and old Stanley or General any day.
Posted: 7:21 am on June 16th

triumph72 triumph72 writes: As a Canadian and a retired high school shop teacher, I am saddened to hear of this news from General. I have used many General products in my shops with great success. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of many of the 'offshore' machines that I and my students have used. Another sad day for north American manufacturing.
Posted: 6:55 am on June 16th

Lawrence Lawrence writes: If General was based in the US they would still be in the business of making shop equipment.

When the great recession began, our government decided not to print money as the US did...which caused our dollar to rise roughly 15 percent when compared with the US. That and tax increases and sweeping increases in the cost of fuel, power and everything else they need to make their products have taken away their ability to compete in their main market, The US.

I won't even start on corporate taxes or cost of labor. Nearly everything we buy in Canada costs 2x what it does south of the border, from vehicles to print cartridges to groceries. This directly correlates to the cost of the product they produced.

Here in Ontario Canada, Hydro is nearly 10 cents/KW hour. Gasoline at the pumps is nearing $6.50/gallon. Politicians do not understand this correlation with competitiveness.

Agreed, they were a great company, making a great set of products and they will be missed.

Have to agree with MDCustom, China is well known for taking over markets at a loss, then bringing profit back into the game once they have killed the competition. They have been doing it for centuries...same game, different time.

Posted: 5:35 am on June 16th

vicweast vicweast writes: ACtually, I'm on business in Sydney Australia and today when I looked through a local hardware store ("Mitre") I spotted a few Made In USA products -- notably a STANLEY hammer!
Posted: 3:14 am on June 16th

MDCustom MDCustom writes: The current trend of moving manufacturing to China reminds me of the Industrial Revolution. People of the time were enamored with the ever cheaper products being mass produced. Hand produced products, like how many of us make our living, fell out of favor.
It wasn't until the very late 1800's when the Arts & Crafts movement started as a rebellion against cheaply made, machine made products (among other things) that people came around to value hand work.

I think time will tell. Sooner than you think, once the majority of manufacturing moves offshore, the costs of goods will start to increase- the Chinese will demand a raise- and goods will get more expensive. There will be a tipping point where companies can no longer supply goods at a price the unemployed local workers can afford to pay. Then manufacturing in our own countries will return. Or better yet, we return to putting value on local made products!


Posted: 2:05 pm on June 15th

Mwascom Mwascom writes: This sucks!
The corporate bottom line strikes again!
How many "made in the USA" tools still exist now? Not Delta, they sold out as well.
Hard to find quality tools these days.
Posted: 6:42 pm on June 12th

Periodcraftsmen Periodcraftsmen writes: What a shame!!! This was the last company that you could buy quality modern made equipment. All that is left is to buy good old American made equipement.
Posted: 11:45 am on June 12th

hbowern hbowern writes: Yes we loose again. Jobs leave, technolgy is skimmed off, and best of all we get plastic low quality tools in return.

Posted: 7:53 am on June 12th

jacko9 jacko9 writes: Another corporation going to communist china to take advantage of reformatory housed slaveish labor. Great news for preferred corporate share holders but, bad new for the middle class in Canada. It looks like this scheme for enriching the elite class has spread throughout Western civilization and IMHO, we are about to witness another World Wide Great Depression.
Posted: 10:25 pm on June 11th

thebigvise thebigvise writes: I receive this news with disappointment. After purchasing a 3 HP cabinet saw and a 3 HP double drum sander two years ago, I have been very happy with General. I am hopeful that their products will be available in the future, even if they're made in Southeast Asia.
Posted: 4:41 pm on June 11th

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