📦 A Soap Maker Cracks the Code to ‘Made in America’
Bath & Body Works decided it needed to get new products to market more quickly. The result was a production initiative with little parallel in corporate America.
Now every step of production occurs at plants just feet from each other on the company’s dedicated “beauty park” on the outskirts of Columbus. One factory makes the foaming pump and mechanism. Another makes the bottle itself, a third makes the label, a fourth makes the soap, fills the bottle, attaches the label and screws on the top. A fifth packages it. Getting a bottle to distribution is down to 21 days and a few miles. A majority of Bath & Body Works products, which are sold in its own stores, are made on site.
One challenge to replicating BBW’s model is that factories don’t operate in bubbles, but rely on networks of suppliers, parts and expertise—and moving those networks is costly. Once such a network has been established, it tends to get stuck there. Semiconductor manufacturers and raw steel producers require massive upfront investment and economies of scale. The BBW model is better suited to exploiting economies of scope, in which a manufacturer produces a variety of products. Bath & Body Works can roll out around 7,000 new scented products a year.