If you have been looking around at spa pools or swim spas, you may have heard that it is important to understand where the spa is made.
As CEO of a group that manufacturers spas and retails different brands of spas from around the world, I feel I am fairly well qualified to comment.
Over the last 20 years, I have dealt with manufacturers from many different countries including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the US, Mexico and China.
What I have come to realise is that where a spa is made, is far less important than how a spa is made, what materials are used in a spa’s construction, and the quality of the manufacturer’s quality control systems. For example, there have been some great spas made in Australia and some awful spas made in Australia. Likewise, some of the best spas in the world are made in China (including Vortex Spas), and some of the worst spas in the world are made in China.
This is very similar to many other products in the world. Most people would have no issue buying an Apple product (all of which are manufactured in China), but may have less comfort in buying a phone or laptop made in Australia (which doesn’t have a manufacturing industry for electronic goods).
Why have many Australian spa manufacturers moved to China?
It will not be surprising to hear that labour cost is the biggest reason. For the same reason, most American manufacturers have moved their manufacturing to either Mexico or states with a lower labour cost such as Tennesee.
What you may be surprised to learn, is that the lower the labour cost, the higher the quality of the product can be.
"labour cost makes up approximately 30% of the total cost"
Spas are a very labour intensive product to manufacture. In fact, labour cost makes up approximately 30% of the total cost of manufacturing in higher labour cost countries such as Australia and New Zealand. As such, and talking from personal experience, when manufacturing in Australia and New Zealand, you are trying to minimise the number of hours that are spent in manufacturing.
Conversely, when manufacturing in lower labour cost countries such as China and Mexico, you can afford to apply the appropriate amount of labour to ensure that you are producing a quality product.
Back in 2006, I had the first-hand experience of a brand moving from Australia to China. Not only did the cost of the product reduce, but the quality of the product (in this particular case) increased.
The secret with manufacturing a quality product in lower labour cost countries is implementing high quality, quality assurance systems. At Vortex, a top-quality product that is made in China, we have quality control personnel embedded in the factory who are supported by quality control management that visits suppliers on a monthly basis.
Moreover, the systems used are equal to, or even superior to, the QA system used by manufacturers in developed countries, ensuring that any products that don’t meet the stringent benchmark, do not leave the factory.
Does this mean that local jobs are moving overseas?
I am not a politician so I can’t put a political spin on my answer to that question, but I can give you my personal experience.
In the case described above, the manufacturer in question would have gone out of business if it had not moved its plant to China. However, all of the Australian’s employed by that business in administration, customer care, retail, delivery and service were able to keep their jobs.
So yes, some jobs were lost, but many jobs were kept.
Since that time, however, the company has grown to employ as many Australians and New Zealanders who were previously employed in the whole operation when it was solely based in Australia.
Are spas still made in Australia and New Zealand good quality?
For the most part, absolutely. Signature Spas™, Sapphire Spas™ and some Endless Spas™ are made in Australia, and Trueform Spas™ are still made in New Zealand. Trueform are very basic spas compared to most, but the quality is good. The others mentioned would be equivalent to most other products of similar price.
It is worth noting though, that it would be more accurate to say that the above spas are assembled locally, not manufactured. The vast majority of the components, from the acrylic in the shell to the pumps, to the control systems are sourced from the same component suppliers used by all other manufacturers.
What spa brands should I avoid?
There are certainly some spas on the market that are not as high quality as others.
There are several things you should look for when selecting a spa or swim spa.
US made acrylic
A high quality control system - SpaNet, Balboa or Gecko are the best
Shells in particular should carry a 10 year structural warranty
Timber free, or treated timber frames. This is a big one so ask the salesperson to show you proof
Of course it is important that you choose to purchase your spa from a company that will support you for years to come.
I suggest a company that has been around for longer than the warranties they offer and it is always recommended to research the experiences that other customers have had through third party review sites. A few to check are:
Personally, I would not rely on reviews on Facebook as the brand can alter or delete bad reviews.
So in summary, yes Vortex Spas™ are made in China and are amongst the best spas in the world, but some very bad spas are made in China.
Many great spas are also made in Australia and New Zealand also, however it would be a mistake to make a decision solely based on where a spa is made. There are many other aspects to consider, so ensure you choose a reputable spa retailer who can guide you in choosing the perfect spa for you.
I hope this article has been helpful to you and if you want more information we have created a great buyers guide to help you make the best decision.
Download The Buyers Guide