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Monday, November 28, 2016

The "A Tour Of Bollman Hat Company - Part II" Story

Workers at the Bollman Hat Company gather for a photograph.
It was an ordinary day.  My brother Steve and I are looking at the 80 knitting machines that were installed about a half year ago after they arrived from China.  Seems that Kangol "504" hats debuted in England in 1938.  The wool hat was introduced in 1954 and shifted from England to China in the 1990s.  Then in 2001 Bollman Hat Company, from Adamstown, Pennsylvania, acquired the license to design, produce and sell Kangol headware.  
The Kangol "504" signature hat.
Seems that manufac- turing costs in China were beginning to rise so either Bollman would lose their hot-selling style, or move it back to the USA for manufac- ture.  Buying new equipment wasn't an option, since it was no longer made, so the specialized machinery from the 1930s and 1940s had to be purchased and moved to Adamstown.  Unfortunately it wasn't as easy as I may be making it sound, since the cost to purchase the equipment and ship it to Adamstown was close to $1 million.  Bollman received a state grant and tax credits and added a sizable amount of their own money, but still had to raise an enormous amount of money which they did by way of a Kickstarter Campaign.  
Company President and CEO Don Rongione.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson was the spokesman for the campaign which finally raised the money at the last minute.  This past June the first 10 knitting machines arrived in Adamstown.  After a problem with the electrical systems, changing them from Chinese to American voltage, five new employees were hired to run the machines.  Now all 80 are in operation with more employees added to the workforce.  The machines are interesting to watch run, since they use large spools of wool thread.  Now, before I give you a visual tour of these machines, I should tell you about a new venture that Company President and CEO Don Rongione has begun due to the loss of so many jobs to overseas manufacturers.  Program is called "American Made Matters" and functions as a Trade Association and has member companies who manufacture products in the USA.  
Sign in front of the company.
They are attempting to educate consumers that buying American made products strengthens the American dream.  There are now more than 375 American Made Matters members and sponsors.  You too can shop and become a sponsor by visiting their website at AmericanMadeMatters.com.   Bollman Hat Company, the oldest hat maker in the USA and nearly 150 years old is a testament that American made products can be successful and profitable.  The Bollman Group now provides headwear industry's top brands that include Bailey, Betmar, Borsalino, Country Gentleman, Eddy Bros., Helen Kamiski, Jacaru, Karen Kane, PANTROPIC as well as the KANGOL trade name.  Bollman products can be found worldwide in speciality stores, department stores, major and regional chain stores and prominent catalog and e-commerce retailers.  I will tell you they are not in the real cheap retail market, since the product they produce is top-of-the-line and is not in the throw-away category.  Bollman Hats are great quality and will last a lifetime. Follow along as I take you with me as I tour the KANGOL "504" production line.  And, if you get a chance, pull up the AmericanMadeMatters.com website and see how you too can help America bring manufacturing jobs back to the USA.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Spools of wool thread feed the KANGOL machines.
Some of the 80 manufacturing machines used to produce the KANGOL "504" hat.
Bringing the hat to life!
Another look at some of the equipment.
A worker is preparing the hat for the next procedure.
This is one piece of equipment that had to be designed for the assembly line.  This is an embroidery machine used to add the logo and stitch the label into the hat before it is shaped.
You can see the logo being stitched into the hat at this point.
Shapes to form the hats.
A worker is placing the sewn hat in place for forming it.
A pile of the KANGOL "504" wool hats.
Inside of the hat shows the label.

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