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5 Manufacturing Brands Made to Last

Ashton Belk
19 January, 2022

This year, we’re celebrating the diverse and vibrant world of manufacturing, starting with a look at 5 iconic manufacturing companies that have remained relevant for 100+ years. 

Why manufacturing? 

We’ve had the honor of working with hundreds of manufacturing brands over the past 30 years, and we’re kind of obsessed with them. We see them as HEROES, powering not only our economy but the daily experiences that give our lives meaning, like exploring the outdoors, traveling with family, or powering our next adventure. 

Yet for all they build and make possible, manufacturers rarely get the spotlight we think they deserve. So, we’re shining it – first on a handful of manufacturers who’ve made it through the ups and downs of the last 100 years along with some observations on what has kept them relevant for so long.


Cummins Inc.

Engine Manufacturer – founded 1919

Cummins diesel engine innovation has powered much of the 21st Century, from steam engines to race cars to commercial trucks, busses, and RVs. Ever forward-thinking, the company established their first distributorship in 1933, paving the way for a sales model many would replicate. 

Longevity lesson: Deep patience (and pockets) are often needed to get started in manufacturing. It took Cummins 18 years to turn a profit for the first time. They would reach $1 Billion in sales in 1976.

Colgate 

Consumer Goods Manufacturer – founded 1806 

Topping the list at more than 200 years old, Colgate began with a starch, soap, and candle business in New York City. Now Colgate-Palmolive, the company has expanded to personal care, cleaning agents, and pet food, but remains one of the world’s “Most Trusted Brands.” 

Longevity lesson: Innovation is the name of the game. In their core product area of toothpaste, Colgate evolved with the times and the consumer from selling toothpaste in jars to plastic tubes to, recently, the first recyclable tube made of High-Density Polyethylene.

The Orvis Company 

Outdoor Clothing and Equipment Manufacturer – founded 1856

With a history more than 160 years long, The Orvis Company is a great example of growth in and around a core manufacturing niche. What started with an interest in making the world’s best fly reel has now grown to produce everything needed to embody the adventurous outdoor lifestyle including home furnishings, sportswear, luggage, and even dog beds. 

Longevity lesson: Even the strongest manufacturers have to be careful to remain relevant and connected to their customers. As Orvis grew, they acquired a number of brands and with them, a bit of an identity crisis. By 2000, they embarked on a rebrand to align with their focus on distinctive, outdoor living.

Corning

Glass and Ceramics Manufacturer – founded 1851

Perhaps best known for the PYREX® and CorningWare® in every well-stocked kitchen, Corning glass has become synonymous with quality across industries. Out-of-this-world uses include the glass used in the Hale Telescope in 1935 and the Hubble, Gemini, and Subaru Telescopes in the 1990s.

Longevity lesson: Flexibility is a must for manufacturing giants. Over the years, Corning has pivoted to be an indispensable resource for consumers and other manufacturers, playing a role in everything from early light bulbs to the Gorilla Glass used on mobile phones. 

Century Boats

Boat Manufacturer – founded 1926

While we’re fudging the rules a little on this one, it only seemed fitting to mention Century Boats, who will officially turn 100 in just a few years. Their 1950’s claim to be “the Thoroughbred of Boats” is a perfect example of understanding what matters to their end customer, anglers looking to master the sea. 

Longevity lesson: Century teaches us that it’s important to work your network, and to work for your network. By the 50s they had almost 350 dealers around the country, more than any other boat manufacturer around, many of whom are still loyal to the Century brand.

Who will be next?

The world of manufacturing isn’t slowing down any time soon. Younger brands can learn a great deal from these centenarian companies who remained in business for all these years. One thing they all have in common is a commitment to evolving along with their customers, and remaining top of mind by remaining relevant year after year.

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