Ailing Oscar maker looks to lamps for future

February 28, 2012 3:36:19 PM PST
The Chicago company that produces Oscars for the Academy Awards looks beyond the business of award making.

R. S. Owens is located on the city's Northwest Side. The company has made the Oscars for three decades. Due to weak demand and foreign competition, the company says it is fighting to stay competitive and sees some signs of improvement.

Just days after the 2012 Oscars were handed out at the Academy Awards, craftsmen at the R.S. Owens company where the golden statues are made started to work on Emmys. The company creates hundreds of statues and trophies. To stay viable, R. S. Owens owner Scott Siegel said he looks for new clients and cuts back on costs. He said they even started using manufacturers in China.

"At one point I was hoping China would be the answer for us," Siegel said. "I found out we were constantly having problems, we were constantly refinishing product from China. We would have an order that they would say, 'Oh, we're going to ship this thirty days late.'"

Siegel says the overall cost of manufacturing overseas isn't paying off. Instead, they are looking increase production by attracting other clients and making things besides awards. For instance, the company is considering making some lamp bases.

"I'm also hoping that more Americans are becoming interested in saving jobs in the United States," Siegel said. "All the lamp manufacturers were closed so they ended up with an award manufacturer. We are metal casters and we're polishers and we're electroplaters so we fit in perfectly."

Maciak Nowak is the director of the Supply Chain program at Loyola's School of Business. He says companies are re-evaluating overseas production because of rising gas prices and the possibility intellectual property could be copied.

"The labor costs in China are starting to increase so that competitive advantage that they had is slowly disappearing," Nowak said.

R.S. Owens has had to laid off employees in the last three years. But so far this year orders are up. They are decreasing their manufacturing in China and hope to start making lamp bases this summer.