Richard Campbell visits China every year to examine a New Jersey product in the making.
Ever since Newark Wire Cloth Co. began a joint-venture weaving operation in China in 2000, Campbell has been taking the long flights and train rides to Hebei province.
There, Campbell inspects the factory where wire is woven into rolls of wire cloth. The cloth is sent back to the New Jersey plant for the production of household, automotive and pharmaceutical items.
The company’s wire-weaving component moved to China at a time when that country’s economic potential was emerging in the global market.
With foreign countries developing into industrial powerhouses in recent years, cheap labor and limited government regulation made it difficult for American businesses, like Newark Wire, to compete.
Even as foreign importers made the wire-weaving industry “less and less competitive,” said Campbell, Newark Wire’s president, the company “couldn’t find qualified weavers.”
Newark Wire employs about 150 people, 70 of whom work in the company’s China factory. Due to the downsizing of domestic production, the company relocated to a smaller location in Clifton in April.
“All we did was weave,” Campbell said of the former Newark operation. “Now we don’t weave at all.”
At the company’s new headquarters, employees take the wire cloth from China and transform it into everything from food strainers to vent screens on the 30,000-square-foot factory floor.
Newark Wire began in 1911 with one weaving loom in the hands of John C. Campbell. The company was family-owned for three generations before Richard and James Campbell teamed up with Ed Phillips and James Gebhard to buy Newark Wire.
Today, the company is owned by the Campbell brothers and Robert Lucki, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the wire cloth industry.
“We’re a closely privately held company,” said Richard Campbell, who began his career as a welder in 1970. His brother, James, started in the shipping department of Newark Wire in 1976.
It has become more difficult to be price-competitive, Campbell said. “We find small niches within large industries, and the small niches [are] where we excel.”
Although the company moved to Clifton, Newark Wire does not plan to change its name anytime soon, officials said.
Rather, the company prefers to maintain its brand recognition. And Newark Wire says it aims to maintain its reputation of excellence by emphasizing its quality.
Annually, the company brings in nearly $4 million.
The diversity of its products – ranging from test sieves to basket strainers – has become more and more important.
Rolls of wire screen are made into parts for the aerospace, architectural, automotive, chemical, food, pharmaceutical and medical industries.
Newark Wire has been known to take on more difficult fabrications without an emphasis on quantity. Air bag filter components are the only products that the company produces in high volume.
Newark Wire’s quality production has been noticed: The company recently won a certification for its management system and an aerospace standards certification.
“Quality is key,” Campbell said. “[We supply] good parts the first time.”