In today's security market, nothing is really “Made in the USA” – or is it? Most components of security systems today are manufactured in places like China and Korea. Even products that are technically assembled (“made”) in the United States contain many components manufactured overseas. In the global marketplace, does it really matter? Is it fair to characterize goods manufactured overseas as somehow lower in quality?

I was thinking about the variables of “Made in the USA” when I visited Morse Watchmans' office and factory in snowy Oxford, Conn., recently. Morse Watchmans designs and manufactures KeyWatcher key control and management systems, helping customers around the world keep up with a multitude of keys. The company makes the products, writes the software and handles sales and service – all from the same facility in Connecticut, just an hour or so drive from downtown Manhattan. The company manufactures every component except the touchscreen – including CPU boards and various modules. The metal cabinets are supplied by three fabricators and delivered to Morse Watchmans' factory.

But does “Made in the USA” really matter? George Lawson, Morse Watchmans account executive, is involved in selling the product and says the subject comes up occasionally, but isn't a big issue. He says “Made in USA” tends to resonate more in some regions of the country than others, typically more in the South. Bigger factors in customers' minds tend to be price and proximity of the manufacturer to the customer. Companies in the Northeast appreciate that the Morse Watchmans factory is in nearby Oxford, Conn. “The products are designed in the United States and made right here in Connecticut,” says Lawson. Proximity translates into responsiveness, and the factory can turn out products in a matter of weeks; if there is an urgent need, products can be sent in a couple of days.

"Made in USA” tends to resonate more in some regions of the country than others, typically more in the South. Bigger factors in customer's minds tend to be price and proximity of the manufacturer to the customer"

U.S. manufacturing also provides Morse Watchmans more flexibility in product design. “The products are very market-driven,” Lawson says. Every system that goes out the door is “customized” to a specific customer, each choosing among variables such as six cabinet sizes, a unique combination of modules for keys and lockers, use of a fingerprint reader or keypad, addition of a touchscreen and new networking capabilities, etc. “The factory is literally downstairs,” says Lawson, who led me on a tour of the whole operation. The company can customize each unit and react to specific customer requests if they need something new or different. If an idea has broader appeal, it's easy to incorporate it into the general product line.

Here's an example: There are eight different colors of SmartKeys, but an airport customer needed a different color SmartKey for each of its many KeyWatcher systems – more than eight. To respond, Morse Watchmans offered dual-color SmartKeys – combining different combinations of molded plastic tops and bottoms to create blue/white keys, black/red keys, etc. – a total of 64 combinations is therefore possible. SmartKeys contain microchips that interface with KeyWatcher systems.

Although manufacturing is in the United States, Morse Watchmans serves the whole world, with distributors on all continents and in most countries. Software is available in 14 languages. That's the way it is in a global marketplace.