And this is how it all started….
As I was scrolling down through TV stations during my morning attempt at exercise I stopped when I saw David Letterman being interviewed. I always enjoyed his show but rarely stayed up late enough to watch it on any kind of regular basis. The retired Letterman was told that Colbert, Kimmel and Fallen all consider him a mentor and they asked him to comment on that. While flattered he kind of admitted that he was just busy putting his show out and did not anticipate that he would one day be considered a mentor. And then he gave credit to Steve Allen for being a mentor to him. It was an entertaining segment, at least for me it was. I’m a fan.
How I drag this topic back to the fastener industry is puzzling even to me, but I have a linear connection from stuff that goes on daily back to the fastener industry. Well, maybe not directly to the fastener industry but back to work, daily life, etc.
As they talked about mentors I recalled that the NFDA launched a mentorship program a few years ago. For all I know the program might be thriving and churning out a host of well mentored fastener industry professionals. I suppose if there is one person enjoying that kind of relationship then it was a worthwhile program. But just like Letterman being a mentor, sometimes the person acting as a mentor or being a teacher, an example or whatever – sometimes they do not even know they are, in essence, being a mentor. I’m a “son of” from the industry. It is not like my dad would sit me down and say “OK, in the fastener industry you have to do this, that and the other”. I just kind of watched, repeated some of the stuff that worked (and was still comfortable for me) and through time he was, of course, a mentor. Lucky for me, I have had several other people I consider mentors and I value each of them. Lots of sons and daughters have this same experience. I’m lucky, I got along with my dad. Some people have mentorship experiences where they NEVER want to do it like their parent did it. I have a nephew who teaches who was raised by my brother, another teacher. When a cousin said to him “hey, a teacher, just like your old man” my nephew quickly and emphatically answers “NO!, nothing like him. I had him in class and I go to work every day trying to do the exact opposite of what he did”. It’s kind of hysterical because the two of them actually get along but my nephew does not budge on their approach to their line of work. So, was my brother a mentor?? I don’t know, but probably.
Mentors don’t always show up when your young or starting out in your job though that is often the case. I still am meeting people in our industry who are dealing with situations I have not yet encountered and they are, in fact, mentors. This is not my personal example but an example that apply might apply to other industry old timers. There are many owners of distributors who have run a great business for years who are now looking to sell because there is no family member there to take over the business. In that situation, a 65 year old business owner might need a mentor to help them sort out the questions of how to go about selling their business. OK, they need a mentor and accountant and a lawyer. But I’m sure it is helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of it they’ve been through the process already.
So, I’d be curious to hear feedback from anyone in the NFDA on how the mentorship program has worked out. I hope it has and is going well. But I’m not sure you can just sign up a mentor and say “OK, you’re going to mentor this person”. Like with Letterman, sometimes people just watching you do your job is the best form of education one can offer. Maybe someone is watching you, maybe not. It would be like a “best friends” program. “Hey, sign up and Joe will be your best friend for the next year”. Best friends, or even good friends just happen. You don’t plan them, and sometimes you simply end up being best friends just because you grew up together, or experienced college together or got in trouble as little kids together. Some mentors become mentors because someone watch what they do and how they do it over a long period of time.
This blog site is not really very good at getting people to respond or engage in conversations. That being said, I would welcome people to respond with examples of people you consider mentors. Feel free to share a story. Or even just respond with the name of someone you consider a mentor. Or don’t do it. Whatever suits you on this lovely Sunday morning.
Based in Toronto and NYC, Mark Robbeson is a designer, builder, Co-inventor and Co-founder of the 1 Shot steel stud anchor. A 1SHOT™ Steel Stud Anchor is a fastener designed specifically to be used with 25-gauge steel studs on interior walls of today’s condominiums, hotels, hospitals, schools and other modern buildings.
Their website is www.steelstudanchor.com.
TS: I was recently introduced to your product line by industry veteran, Mike McGuire who was very familiar with your products. 1Shot is interesting. Where do you see the biggest opportunity for this product? Where is it going to be used?
Mark: The biggest opportunity I see today is implementation in the installation of kitchens and bathrooms in steel framed High rise buildings so common today in the United States and Canada.
This simple device saves builders time and money. Plenty of both. I also see a great synergy alongside IKEA and have been discussing the possibility of licensing the use of our patented technology to them. This product works flawlessly with the Ikea Sektion rail used to mount all IKEA kitchen cabinets.
TS: Does it replace other products or is it a new solution to an old problem?
Mark: Yes, It replaces a couple of products. Typically the builders use solid plywood backing between the steel studs so they can mount cabinets and the mounting cleats to the walls with wood screws. This is done because the typical stud (by code) is 25 gauge. Something too light and thin to properly and securely thread in conventional fasteners.
Adding plywood and the requisite mounting hardware is expensive and time consuming when compared to the use of our simple product. Aftermarket installations necessitate cutting open the drywall, adding that wood inside, repairing and repainting the drywall and then mounting your millwork or TV or stereo set up or whatever else you’d like to wall mount.
Butterfly clips and toggle bolts were an answer to this but frankly they are pesky. They frequently cross thread, requiring a messy cleanup and they sink down the wall underweight, usually by and 1/8” or more. This makes lining up all that millwork somewhat more challenging.
Both of the aforementioned fasteners also take longer to install than a 1SHOT™.
TS: What is your background? Do you have background in the construction industry or do you have more of a product engineering background?
Mark: My background is thoroughly in construction. I went to Mohawk College here in Canada more than 20 years ago for steel stud construction. I remember asking back then “why we had to add in the plywood”.
After this I worked extensively in construction and also studied extensively in interior and industrial design along the way. One of my partners, Franklin has more of an engineering background and has run a machining and prototyping business for many years.
TS: When I first saw the 1Shot anchor and its simple, practical application my first impression was, “well, that makes sense”. But it is a new product. So, where did it come from? How did you develop it and what were the biggest challenges?
Mark: Being a long time resident of Toronto Canada and someone working in the construction industry I was constantly having to mount my millwork in steel framed apartments and condos.
(As you know Toronto is second only to NYC in its total count of high rise buildings, #2 in North America)
I had tried all the off the shelf solutions and all the things my boss had told me to use and frankly I just knew we could do better. I started sketching thread profiles on cocktail napkins and searching for something similar. As you can imagine I found nothing like this. Sitting in my shop one day, I wrote a letter to a fastener company detailing the specs and benefits of this idea explaining that if they made them I and I’m sure many other builders would buy them all day long.
I put the note in an envelope and started to walk to the mailbox. Somewhere along the way I had a brief lapse of sanity and said “to hell with this! It’s time to build a team”. It just didn’t seem right to give it away. I started looking for people that could get the job done and just put one foot in front of the other.
TS: You are rolling out the product to a mature construction and fastener marketplace. What are your biggest challenges introducing your products?
Mark: I think the biggest challenge was getting the word out and working through the intellectual property around the idea to properly protect it going forward.
Actually, it’s all been challenging but I’m now part of a team I love and trust that works alongside me to do better and be better at every step.
TS: I know you are just getting started with the 1Shot product line but do you have other product line ideas that you’d like to introduce down the road?
Mark: I’m glad you asked we do indeed.
Both myself and Franklin love getting our hands dirty and figuring things out. Simply put we thrive on problem solving via hard work and tinkering. We both come from a long line of makers (frankly I think we were both raised with a “can do” “figure it out” disposition). We have designed a line of products that integrate perfectly with or fastener to simplify mounting many things around the home and office. From mirrors to wire utility shelves.
We are also developing a rather exciting type of eco friendly sheet good to compete with or replace MDF commonly used in the manufacture of home and office furniture all over the world.
The time is upon us – the Vegas Fastener Show (International Fastener Expo) is next month. September 17-19 to be exact. The big show, at least in the U.S. Still finding myself getting used to the show being in September. Not saying I like or dislike the time, just saying I’m still getting used to it. In the past when the show was later in the year it almost felt like there wasn’t that much time left in the year when you got back from the show. Now, It’s like we have the entire 4th quarter of the year to act on stuff we discuss at the Vegas Show. Small difference, but there is something there I’m still wrapping my head around.
I recently has a very nice opportunity to join Eric Dudas on a Fully Threaded Radio episode interviewing Georgia Foley, the CEO of STAFDA. I imagine most of you know this already but just in case you do not know how to find Fully Threaded Radio, go to www.fullythreaded. com. Georgia is just a great person to talk to and interviewing her was a pleasure. I bring it up because of some of the big differences I see when comparing fastener industry trade shows to the STAFDA, construction trade show. One obvious difference is that in the construction market there is pretty much one show – STAFDA. Conversely, the fastener industry has a plethora of trade shows. We have Vegas, Fastener Fair, Fastener Tech and then there are a number of regional trade shows frequently put on by regional fastener associations. Then, there are a number of companies like Fastenal and Grainger that hold their own shows. With these shows the exhibitors are asked to occupy tables and the attendees are only from the companies holding the events – not open to the public. An industry friend recently told me her company attends something like 70 trade shows a year throughout various industries and locations. When I catch up with guys like Kameron Dorsey of Beacon Fasteners or Bryan Wheeler of Star Stainless I’m exhausted listening to all the shows they have to attend in a year. I don’t know how they get to all of them. I’m not bringing up a new topic here but, eventually, something will have to give. All of these events will not last. Or, they will change. This is not just MY observation, people talk about this all the time.
What are some of the differences between STAFDA and the other show? Technically speaking, no one owns the STAFDA show. STAFDA members own the show and the show is simply one of the products that STAFDA management operates for their members. The show isn’t free, you still have to pay to attend, but the cost/value proposition is very good for members. No need expound upon it here, you can go to the STAFDA website to read more, or better yet listen to the Fully Threaded interview. Another interesting thing about Georgia Foley’s involvement in STAFDA is that she has been involved with STAFDA since she was a kid. Her father was one of the founding members of STAFDA and he agreed to run the organization in 1976 until he passed the torch to Georgia in 1999/2000. Since its inception in 1976 STAFDA has grown from 18 founding members to over 2,500 member companies including 1,052 distributors, 1,130 associates, 22 publishing affiliates, and 305 manufacturer rep/agents. They seem to embrace manufactures reps/agents and even let them join as full members! Hmmm???
I continue to be a big fan of the fastener industry trade shows. Networking is a huge part of the shows and each one offers an opportunity to meet with customers, suppliers, and all kinds of industry peers. I tell people, if I get five good meetings out of a show it was probably worth my time and effort to attend. But, I’m attending the shows and walking the aisles and not generally paying for the booth. That investment probably requires a better return on investment than five good meetings.
The challenge of all the trade shows, national or regional, is to get people to attend and, in particular to get those people to attend that the exhibitors want to visit with. Exhibitors don’t mind visiting with other suppliers but who they really want to visit with are new and existing customers. If you do not get them to attend then the show will not be worth the money.
It can be a challenge to come up with a new fastener show format but that will be the challenge for shows in the future. How many seminars on hydrogen embrittlement do we have to have before that ship has sailed. For crying out loud, if you need to know more about hydrogen embrittlement just call Carmen Vertullo like the rest of us!! So, what topics do we want to see at shows in the future? That’s the magic question. What business topics do we want to see covered? Marketing to Millennials? Future trends in technology? Personal Branding?
At STAFDA there will be a “Speed Interviewing” event where STAFDA members have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with potential interns and employees. STAFDA invites upper classmen with industrial distribution, construction management or related majors from leading universities and they help to facilitate interviews between the students and potential employers. How often do we hear how difficult it is to find good employees? This seems like an idea worth looking into for fastener associations or trade show operators. Forward thinking!
Well, I’m excited for Vegas and I’m also excited for Nashville which is where the STAFDA show will be held in November. Like I said, five good business meetings or conversations and I’ve paid for the event!
TS: I recently had the opportunity to visit Wodin, Inc. during the North Coast Fastener Association plant tour you sponsored and was impressed. A lot of the attendees, which included many seasoned veterans, were not really aware of Wodin or its capabilities. Tell me a little bit about the history of Wodin.
KH: Sure! Wodin was founded in 1967. We were created to support the valve industry. The company started out with two small upset machines and manual machines. It was part of a larger corporation and then was spun off and sold to one sole owner.
TS: Is there anything unique about how you manufacture your products?
KH: Wodin uses upset forging equipment as our
main forging equipment we also do have some press machines. Our upset forging equipment go up to 8”
diameter bolts! We have custom made several pieces of equipment in our shop to
meet customer requirements. For the valve stem industry, we have created better
ways to manage the seat of the valve. Straightening long forgings is always an
issue. We have manual machines, but we are currently creating an automatic
straightener for items that have different diameters, where the press would
work off the centerline of the part. We run induction and gas furnaces
depending on the grade of steel to limit the scale and increase the pliability
of the steel. That gives us the ability to make extremely large products with
an upsetter tolerance and controlled grain flow. We have a knowledgeable staff
that researches the specification and reviews the best way to produce the
TS: What industries do you serve?
KH: We mainly service the military, oil and gas,
aerospace, OEM’s, Nuclear, commercial, and heavy truck industries.
TS: Your current title is “Vice President”, but during the NCFA tour it was clear that you are also heavily involved in quoting as well as operations. There are not many women who run manufacturing facilities. And I understand you are also in the process of buying the company. When will that sale be complete?
KH: We have a target date for the end of 2019.
TS: That’s an exciting development! Other than Wodin do you have any other previous Fastener industry experience?
KH: Yes, I worked for Textron Fastening Systems,
after they purchased Flexalloy. Now I believe it is called Facil. I was a
buyer, contract negotiator, and in sales for their structural division.
TS: What did that experience teach you?
KH: You can learn valuable lessons from anywhere
that you work. I learned the importance of working efficiently as a team member
in a demanding, high stress, fast pace environment. As a key team member, I
learned how to motivate others to achieve corporate goals. In addition, I
learned the importance relationships with vendors as well as customers, and how
to cultivate them both domestically and internationally.
TS: So now you are “all in” at Wodin! If someone asks you, “what exactly does Wodin do”, how do you respnd?
KH: Wodin is a hot and warm steel forging facility that also has full machining capabilities. For forging Wodin uses press machines and upsetters. We have a full-service machine shop that has CNC, Landis, roll threaders, drill presses, and several other pieces of equipment. We work in all grades of steel ranging from carbon to Inconel and everything in between.
TS: What is your product line? Are you a machine shop or do you have specific product lines that you promote?
KH: We sell an array of fasteners – hex bolts, double end studs, socket head cap
screws, nuts, and so much more. We do a lot of specials, especially parts that
require several processes.
TS: I know your company is ISO and AS certified and you also are certified to do nuclear parts. What is the most difficult thing about maintaining those certifications and serving those industries?
KH: You must always be on top of your quality.
Wodin has a very robust system in place and we are continually reviewing data
that has been gathered to improve our overall production and quality. We have
regular audits from outside companies as well as our internal audits. Several
great discussions come from these audits and we try to make continual improvement.
To work in a company like Wodin that serves so many different industries,
education is very important. For years I have made it a habit to take 15
minutes of my day either before or after work to learn something about the
industry we serve. Reading feeds the mind and then knowledge grows from there.
TS: What’s next for you and Wodin?
KH: If anyone ever feels that they have reached the top, they become too comfortable. I feel that there is always something new and always something to learn. My plan is that in several years Wodin will have internalized several outside services either through acquisitions or expansions of our own location. Also, to extend our capabilities with acquiring more equipment to expand and offer customers additional forging sizes. Once we have achieved this, we will look further to see what else can be achieved.
TS: So, clearly you are striving to learn new things. What have you learned along the way that has helped you in your current position? Or, let me say it this way…What mistakes have you made during your career and what did they teach you?
KH: Yes, we all make mistakes along the way. It really depends if you learn a lesson or if you keep repeating the same mistakes. I worked very hard for over a year negotiating with a specific Oil and Gas customer. There were a lot of technical questions, and we put a lot of work into understanding how to produce this specific part. In addition to the production side, I found it to be a good experience with relationship building. The product was a prototype, first item produced this way. There was a great deal of research and development put into the product. We were successful in making the product, but the R&D and initial development of the prototype took a lot longer than what we initially promised the client. After three years of development and making parts in production runs for the client, we lost the business to a competitor of ours. I felt that after we made the production parts, and had helped to engineer this product that it was a job that would never go away. We had become too comfortable with the relationship and errored in keeping up our communicative relationship. I learned you must work just as hard to keep a customer as you did winning that customer.
TS: That’s kind of a tough lesson. Thanks for sharing that one. One last question for you…In one word describe yourself?
TS: You help manage several of the industry Fastener associations. In a couple weeks the Midwest Fastener Association is holding its semi-annual Fastener Tech Show. How are things shaping up for Fastener Tech ‘19?
NR: We have a very nice list of exhibitors, these are all companies committed to the fastener industry realizing the heart of the industry is in the Midwest. This is also indicated by the large list of sponsors as listed on the show website. I encourage people to go to mwfa.net and click on the Fastener Tech ’19 logo to learn more about this event.
TS: Any new twists to this year’s show?
NR: Several new twists. At the entrance to the show will be a New Product Showcase where exhibitors can display a product they’d like to showcase this year. Company name and booth number will be provided next to the product indicating where attendees can learn more about the product.
We will have William Strauss from the Chicago Federal Reserve discuss current economic conditions. This will be at 9:00 a.m. prior to the opening of the show on June 5th. This allows exhibitors and attendees to join us for breakfast and receive an update on current and forecasted economic conditions. With the uncertainty of an upcoming recession, this will prove very informative. We’ve had Mr. Strauss in the past at MWFA meetings and the audience has always enjoyed his presentations.
On June 5th we will have an After Show Party featuring live music. This will be from 3:00-5:00 allowing exhibitors to casually take down their booth while enjoying music and grab a drink and something to eat before heading out. Everyone always enjoys the casual networking so why not give them one more chance before leaving the show after working hard for a couple of days.
And there’s one more new feature. We will have a social media kiosk where exhibitors and attendees can stop & take a picture for themselves or to share with industry friends, from the show floor. Three exhibitors got together and decided to sponsor this fun stop at the show.
Keeping with tradition, the MWFA Golf Outing will follow the show and be held on June 6th.
TS: There’s a lot of competition these days between Fastener shows. How is that effecting Fastener Tech and how is Fastener Tech different from those other shows?
NR: We work hard to produce a show that is economical for exhibitors. It’s a simplified show and we hold it in an easy access location and we put together a basic package for exhibitors saving them money and time.
It seems all shows are down the last couple of years but we all know there are many reasons for that. We are a little different than other shows as we limit overseas companies. Our show supporters prefer to see mainly domestic companies. We are also different in the aspect that the funds generated are put back into the industry for education and scholarships. Rather than trying to boast high numbers we strive for quality over quantity. We have a variety of exhibitors with a large range of products as well as industry services displaying. If decision makers attend, it’s a win. But there’s another factor that many forget about, the show is also an education tool. Besides the decision makers, others should be attending to learn what the various products are offered in the industry as well as to be aware of additional products they may not deal with every day as these products may end up a very profitable add on down the road.
TS: So, in addition to the Midwest Association you also manage the New England Fastener Association, the Southeastern Fastener Association and the Metropolitan Fastener Association. Did I miss any?
NR: That’s all of them.
TS: What’s going on with those associations?
NR: SEFA just finished their Spring Conference which was great. They also announced their scholarship winners, giving out $15,000. NEFDA just met to select their recipients so they’ll be awarding $20,000 at their June 13th Golf Outing. And, MFDA is in the process of selecting their recipients for this year so it’s a busy time for scholarships.
TS: You’ve been with the Midwest Association the longest. How long have you been involved with that group?
NR: I started when my 2nd child was born so let me find out how old she is and get back to you.
TS: How did you get started with Midwest?
NR: It kind of just happened, I was working part time at Cronin Fasteners, I was planning to quit to be home with the baby & Ken Ozaniec asked if I’d be interested in this little part time job. It sounded interesting so I thought I’d try it out. That little part time job sure changed over the years but it’s still interesting.
TS: What’s your favorite part of managing the associations?
NR: The people and the longevity of the industry. I’ve had the opportunity to meet fastener industry personnel across the country and have really enjoyed getting to know them. Every day is different and brings new challenges. Often people I meet, in other careers, tend to think association management is fun and easy. I’m not going to lie, it is challenging-much more as times have changed. But the key is if you enjoy your job and the people you work with, the job and its challenges always keep you interested.
TS: As part of my “10 minutes with…” series, I wanted to get the industry perspective from the side of a Manufacturers Rep. But when I thought of you, I realized that you have held just about every type of fastener position in the industry. We met in 1986 when you were the National Sales Manager for Precision Socket. I represented you again when you owned New England Bolt. Give me a rundown of your fastener career path.
RR: My first job out of Northeastern University 1971 was with Rhode Island Bolt & Screw, running their Tech Fastener division in Needham Heights, MA. Four years later, I joined Precision Socket Screw, Inc. as National Sales Manager. A decade later Gene Hendrickson and I formed a rep agency, Hendrickson & Rudolph Associates, representing fastener manufactures (including Precision Socket) in the six New England States. The owner of a Boston area industrial distributorship and I had the opportunity to purchase the oldest, continuing in operation hot forged bolt manufacturer in the area, New England Bolt Co., in Everett, MA, which we did. Unfortunately, the bank that held our mortgage was a victim of the National savings and loan debacle, as we, in turn, also became victims. Bad timing!
John Phalen and I then formed a rep agency Phalen & Rudolph Associates, covering the New England fastener and industrial distribution industry. In the mid 90’s I accepted a position as President of Wurth Eastern Fastener, Berlin, CT (now Wurth Revcar). I joined Lehigh-Armstrong Inc., North Billerica, MA, as Director of Sales, in October 2004. In June 2013, I formed Rick Rudolph Associates, LLC. I did so, as one of the very few reps that made face to face sales calls on a regular basis, retired. I am proud to say that I have remained friends with all of my former associates
TS: So, how many years have you been in the fastener industry?
In two months, it will be 48 years
TS: You were actually a rep, then left the rep business, then came back again and are having another successful run. You have had reps work for you. Talk about the rep business. What changes have you seen? What misconceptions do you think people have about reps?
I actually have left the rep business twice. I have often reflected on what if I had never left it. I try not to dwell on “what ifs”. Regrets, I have had a few, but, too few….etc. I would never have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and knowledgeable people. Or, had the opportunities to look at my industry from so many different perspectives. Rick Ferenchick, the former V.P. of Sales (now retired) for Arnold Industries, Canton, MA (now Bossard) calls me the “Swiss Army Knife of the Fastener Industry”. I guess that I am.
There are many manufacturers who have had horrible experiences with reps and will never entertain the idea of having reps again. I believe that those same people may not have done the proper “due diligence” prior to hiring the “bad apples”. I ask prospective principals to contact their existing customers, as to whether we make in-person sales, do follow ups on inquiries and as to whether we offer “lunch and learns”, are involved in regional trade associations, make sure that the customers have up to date literature and make joint sales calls with their salespeople. I have customers ask me, as to why the other reps in the territory are not seen by them regularly. I suggest to them that they should ask that question of their principals.
As a sales manager, I saw poor reps come and go and great reps soar. As a rep, I have always tried to emulate the “best practices” of the great reps. I have been blessed to know many of the great ones and I have tried to follow their direction. The R.L. English Co. and the R.A. Phillips Co. are but a few of these great agencies that mentored me on my journey. The beauty of the rep business is, if the principal is successful, the rep is successful, as well. If the principal is not successful in the territory, the rep should not be expecting a long term relationship with that principal.
There are some principals that have foolishly terminated successful agencies, because they thought the reps were making too much in commissions. Often they find that when they put on a direct salesperson in the territory the direct salesperson does not have the same long term relationships or the same work ethic Reps pay their own expenses, vacations, they do not get expensive benefit packages, etc. And sometimes there are trials and errors finding a direct replacement and in the end they might have ended up having lost profits, not gained them. And sometimes that turnover leaves them with a very negative corporate persona within the industry.
When my eldest son, Morgan, became my business partner in 2014, I told him that the life of a rep did not require a lot of heavy lifting. What it requires is that you just go put your pants on and go out and make sales calls. If you want a raise, sell more. The harder you work, the luckier you will get. Become a student of your industry and territory. To be successful you MUST have a passion for your industry. You can choose to be a bystander, but you will never have the satisfaction of growing a successful, long standing business.
TS: I’d like to hear your thoughts about fastener industry trade shows
RR: Trade shows are an important part of the fastener industry. It gives the rep and principal time to meet with each other and to be kept abreast of new products, policies and visions for the future. It also gives the rep a chance to introduce their customers in attendance to their principals. It also gives opportunities for reps to talk with other reps regarding best practices. The downside is that there is a problem with too many shows changing dates and competing with other full blown shows and tabletop shows.
TS: For a long time fastener veteran you still seem to keep up with most of the current technology available. You’ve seen the evolution from phone calling and mailing to faxing and then email. Today our phones have more power than was probably on the first space shuttle. What technological changes do you find most useful
RR: Yes, I have seen so many technological changes. From pay phones, 30 pound “bag phones”, Telex, TWX, fax machines where the thermographic paper would turn black if left near heat. I feel that most all of the advances in technology have been good. I really like the speed of what is happening in sharing industry news and the ability to receive a request for quote from a customer with an attached print, forward that RFQ to my principal, have the principal quote the customer and get the order confirmed, on my cell phone, while waiting for my sandwich to be made. That use to take 2-3 weeks. Again, everything has a downside. Some people forget that sales is a people to people business. I have customers and principals that I have known for 40+ years. In some cases I had known and called on their fathers, or grandfathers. Some of these people still send me faxes😊
TS: And with all you have been through, you went ahead and dragged your son into the business???
RR: Yes, Morgan, is my business partner. Morgan was a Master Sea Captain that captained ferries and charter boats in Boston for six months of the year. He did the same in St. Thomas, V.I., during the cooler months. What in the wide, wide world possessed him to give that up and become a rep? Wife, house and child. After a few months of working with me I made a decision to further his fastener education, by sending him to the Fastener Training Institute to get his Certified Fastener Specialist credentials. It was the best return on investment that I have ever made. Morgan is currently the Vice President of the New England Fastener Distributor’s Association. In the past, I have held that same position, as well as President, Treasurer, Chairperson, many times and many positions since the association was founded. I was also the first inductee in the N.E.F.D.A. Hall of Fame, of which I am extremely proud.
We strongly support and are members of the North Coast Fastener Association, the Metropolitan Fastener Distributors Association, N.E.F.D.A., and the Manufacturer’s Agents National Association. We also are able to support charities such as The Wounded Warrior Project, The Home for Little Wanderers, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the USO, Special Olympics and others.
TS: I’ve known you a long time and know that Rick Rudolph works hard but he plays hard too!! Especially Rugby! Fill us in on your passion for rugby.
RR: I started playing rugby in 1968, for the Boston Rugby Football Club. I have travelled most parts of the World playing rugby. In 1974 I was a founder of the Mystic River Rugby Club, which won the National Div1 Men’s Championships in 2016 and again in 2018. I was the President of the M.R.R.C. eight times and held numerous offices in the club. I retired from actively playing the sport at the tender age of 47, when I fractured two vertebrae in my neck, leaving me paralyzed for a few hours. I figured that it was God’s way of telling me to “knock it off”.
TS: Last year was your first Fastener Fair USA. Were you pleased with the results and the attendance? Can you share with us some statistics on the show?
Carroll: The inaugural Fastener Fair USA in Cleveland last year was a big success – with 30% of the exhibitors resigning for Detroit 2019 right at the show! All said and done, we had over 2000 fastener professionals from 20 countries participating in the first US event representing the whole fastener supply chain from aerospace , automotive, construction, machinery and other sectors.
TS: This year you are in Detroit. What will be different this year?
Carroll: Our attendees in Cleveland told us how much they appreciated the industry education sessions included with registration – so we doubled the number free education sessions and added a second stage in Detroit. The Tech Talk Theater will focus on specific solutions, new products and technology and the Distributor Innovation Theater will feature sessions on business operations and leadership development.
Also, we have over 125 first-time exhibitors joining us in Detroit. Fastener professionals who were with us in Cleveland will have a lot of new solutions and potential business partners to check out.
The theme of our May 22 Welcome Party — which is the must-do networking and social event of the week – is, of course, “It’s MoTown!” Networking, music, munchies, drinks and live music start at 5:00 p.m. at the GM Renaissance Center, a short walk from the expo floor. Tickets are available on-line at FastenerFair.com/usa or on-site at the registration area.
TS: Can you share with us a list of your breakout sessions and how you will be presenting them?
Carroll: I have to tell you about our great keynote: 5x business author and mid-market transformation specialist Steve Blue will open up the show with his 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning key-note called, “Transform. Ignite. Disrupt.” Steve is going to be giving out copies of his most recent book, “Metamorphoses: From Rust-Belt to High-Tech in a 21st Century World.”
And, we’ll have two education theaters right on the expo floor, making it convenient for attendees and exhibitors to pop in and out of sessions.
Tech Talk Theater sessions include Fundamentals of Threaded Fasteners, Specialty Dry Film Lubrication, Bolted Joint Consistency, Consistent Global Quality Assurance, Counterfeit Fasteners and the new SAE Standards, Flexible Fastener Automation and Torque-Angle Signature Analysis. I’m really forward to the excellent Tech Talk panel on Wednesday from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. – right before the Welcome Party – on “Fastener Technology in the Automotive Sector”
The Distributor Innovation theater schedule kicks off with a panel on “Disruptions Affecting Distribution.” Also, we’re are thrilled and so lucky to have FANUC America doing a session called “Automate or Evaporate” and global industrial marketing powerhouse Finn Partners will be doing a session on “The Nuts and Bolts of Industrial Marketing” about generating leads and winning business on value vs. pricing.
TS: The show is geared towards both distributors and end users. What was the mix last year and what does this year look like based upon current enrollment?
Carroll: Registration numbers are great for Detroit – running slightly ahead of Cleveland’s attendance at this point. What makes Fastener Fair so unique is that it’s really is a marketplace for fastener professionals from the whole supply chain. As we did in Cleveland, we expect to have great representation from the whole fastener community: distributors, end users, manufacturers, specifiers, purchasers and others.
Just about every day I get asked, “So, how’s it going out there? What are you seeing?” Good question. One morning last week I got my morning online post from Crain’s business and saw these two headlines posted on the same day:
“Honda suspending second shift at Marysville Auto Plant as it cuts back Accord production” and then,
“Truck builder to add 100 jobs as part of $139M Chillicothe expansion” – referring to the PACCAR plant there.
That about sums it up. Some end user companies are booming, some are just rolling along, not bad, but not as good as 2018. Same with a lot of distributors I call on. A few tell me they see it softening while others are very busy. Even booming. Just listened to Fully Threaded Radio with an interview with Kevin Chavis of Star Stainless and George Hunt from Brighton Best – and they essentially said the same thing from their perspectives. And Star and BBI have a national perspective unlike many other companies in our industry.
Additionally, if you get a chance to listen to Fully Threaded Radio, make sure you listen to Mike McNulty and Bob Baer discuss this past month’s FDI results. No kidding, this is one of the best discussions of the economy and our industry that I have heard in a long time. Lots of data and discussion of market indicators. Lots of great insights!! Great segment.
So, maybe it’s not 2018, but it ain’t too bad either!! Only thing that seems to be troubling us is “uncertainty”.
We have several trade shows coming up in the next month including Fastener Fair in Detroit and Fastener Tech in Chicago. The North Coast Fastener Association Distributor Social is on May 9 and an NFDA meeting will be taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio in early June. Between those trade shows and association meetings, there will be a lot of catching up and discussions about the fastener climate as it exists this year. I think people will come away with a better feel for what we’ve been seeing and what we should be looking for throughout the rest of 2019. But uncertainty remains. News of the LindFast group has come up on just about every call I make. People just wondering if they are combining systems, and what is next. A few people might know but the people answering phones and filling your orders don’t seem to know exact details. For the most part it is business as usual. Which makes the upcoming industry events that much more interesting. Whether or not answers are forthcoming, there will be questions asked.
Working on some more “10 minute” segments. Always welcome feedback or suggestions. Some of the people I would love to interview I do not even know personally but we’ll see where it goes.
The NCFA Distributor Social is the next event on the schedule. Hope to see you there. If you happen to get into town on Wednesday night, the day before the Social, there will be an informal gathering at the Winking Lizard. A little pre-Social practice session you might say. Feel free to join in.
Most readers of my “Fastener Talk” blog know Brian Musker as co-host of the popular industry podcast, Fully Threaded Radio (FTR), which is termed “voice of the FCH Sourcing Network”. As the technical mind behind the industry’s largest web based fastener search engine, he estimates he has processed nearly 10 million fastener inventory listings to date. This makes him one of the foremost experts in fastener inventory data, which is fascinating in itself, but anyone who has heard Mr. Musker’s musings on FTR knows that he commands a diverse range of knowledge that adds unexpected dimensions to the show. His commentary frequently touches on the future of technology, advancements in aeronautics and science, world travel and fine scotch whiskey. So when I heard the FTR boys were preparing a long-awaited interview for their podcast, I jumped at the chance to get in a few preview questions with Brian Musker.
Traveling Salesman (TS): Thank you, Mr. Musker, for spending 10 minutes with me ahead of your upcoming FTR interview.
Musker: The interview was Eric’s idea, OK? (Eric Dudas is Brian’s business partner, and co-host of the FTR podcast, available at www.fullythreaded.com) But I’m glad to talk with you, and I see you’ve blocked your number so I still can’t be sure of your true identity. All I know for sure is that you are the person who comes to the Las Vegas show each year in disguise.
TS: You’re introduced on your podcast as “lifetime honorary Texan”, but your accent makes me think you’re actually from someplace else. Will you explain?
Musker: Well, you have a very good ear Matey, OK? I’m originally from New Zealand, where I grew up on a sheep farm (What else…). I earned my engineering degree at the University of Auckland, and after a couple of years I moved to Aussie. I actually did my thesis in theoretical and applied mechanics in crack propagation in metals, and eventually I was assigned to Texas in the 80s. I was re-assigned to a project building submarines for the Australian navy, and eventually found myself working across Europe deploying IT systems. When I returned from Europe, I stayed in the Dallas area for several years, which is how I picked up the thick southern drawl that people hear (clears his throat, then pauses). I’ve since relocated to Chicagoland, but I still have many friends in Texas.
TS: How did you start working in the fastener industry?
Musker: Eric and I decided to start a web application development business in the late 90s. We both saw that business was going to move on-line, and we began creating database driven systems and search engines to work on the web, which was just beginning to gain adoption. We actually wrote the first on-line pizza ordering system for a Chicago chain, this was before even Pizza Hut had one. Eventually, we stumbled onto a book of fastener listings, and when we saw this data and discovered that the industry really needed help in the technology area, we knew we could create some much needed value here.
TS: You’re also known as the developer of FCH Scrubber technology. What exactly is the Scrubber and where did the idea come from?
Musker: FCH could not operate without the Scrubber, OK? It is software that’s been under development since we started the network over 12 years ago, and it keeps getting smarter with every upload. It recognizes fastener inventory data in its many forms, with all of its jargon, shorthand and even common misspellings, and it converts it into very clean and useful data. From there, we can do things like cross-reference part numbers, or index inventory listings for use on web-based shopping cart systems, helping fastener distributors faced with a really time-consuming and costly process. Data in this industry is in notoriously poor condition, OK? We built the early Scrubber because if we hadn’t, FCH would have been out of business before we’d made it even one year.
TS: So you’re doing work with the Scrubber for distributors outside of FCH as well?
Musker: Yes, we’re helping a growing number of them to get their data in shape for use with their on-line shopping cart systems. More and more distributors now see how important it is to be available on-line for their customers, and we’re supporting them in this process. Other vendors see this as well. INxSQL, for example, has built a solution right into its ERP platform that integrates seamlessly with a distributor’s enterprise data, and we’re working with those customers as well. We’re also helping some of the master distributors build part number cross-referenced lists for their customers to make on-line ordering easier. The Scrubber helps with all of these tasks and really speeds up the process.
TS: I know you could speak for hours about the future of the fastener industry from a technology point of view, but do you have any feeling about the coming role of blockchain in our industry?
Musker: Look mate, you’re right that we’d blow right past your 10 minutes on this topic by a factor of about a thousand, because this is going to be big. But let me just say that there is no doubt blockchain will be deployed in the fastener industry and it will help on the distribution side. It’s hard to grasp the concept, but we’ll be covering this on Fully Threaded Radio in coming episodes, OK?
TS: OK, I’ll look forward to that. Last question. Is it just kind of a joke on the podcast, or do you actually eat Vegemite?
Musker: Like most New Zealanders and Aussies, I grew up eating Vegemite on toast every morning for breakfast, along with plenty of real butter, OK? And I still do. I don’t understand why most Americans find it disgusting. Fortunately, I still have mates in Aussie and my sister who keep me well supplied. You should try it, it’s very good for you.
Contact Brian Musker through the FCH Sourcing Network at www.fastenersclearinghouse.com. That’s fasteners with an “S”!