TS: Before we talk about Frank Devito let’s talk a little Solution Industries. You had some exciting news at the end of 2020 with ISO certification and others. Update us on what is going on in that area of Solution.
Frank: Yes. 2020 was a high achievement year for Solution Industries from a quality stand point. Our Quality Management System received its’ (Aerospace) AS9100D:2016; ISO 9001:2015 accreditation. The next focus in quality is to get our lab ISO 17025 accredited in various scopes.
TS: I know during Covid you were doing a lot of Zoom meetings with customers trying to update them on your current capabilities and, candidly, where Solution Industries is heading as a company. Fill us in. Where is Solution Industries headed in the near future?
Frank: Solution Industries has always evolved and will continue to evolve to meet current customer needs, but over the past 7 years I have spent here our evolution has certainly accelerated from years past of just machined parts, hard to find standards and semi-standards, and zinc plated sockets. That offering is quite different from where we stand today. With our manufacturing and application partners overseas and domestically we offer a complete part from manufacturing (very inclusive of different materials), coatings (electroplate, mechanical plate, or dip spun), thread lock features (chemical or mechanical), testing (destructive and non-destructive), and customized packing. We still are a secondary processing machine working through distribution only, but the items we focus on are Non-standard, OEM specific, and Per printed specials. We absolutely stay away from standards, there is a big box importer in Brighton-Best International (BBI) that does standards very well.
TS: What about zinc plated sockets? Are they going away?
Frank: Solution Industries still inventories zinc plated sockets, just more of a selective range with higher volume usages aimed at meeting higher quality requirements. We are just not slapping zinc plating (or various coatings) on a socket (or various products), and throwing out buzz words in ads or different media outlets. Our above mentioned accreditation requires us to continually verify our processes and our supplier processes and products. Verification may include depending on process; material, heat treat, coatings, thread locking requirements, and certifications. As an example, we are currently and will continue to test and mitigate Hydrogen Embrittlement from our manufacturers and platers involved in our zinc plated socket products. Over the past six months we have tested nearly 150 lots in this study. I’m not aware of any “competitors” doing what we are doing. But there is a market for both “commercial” and higher quality required electroplated sockets, we chose the latter.
TS: Please tell me Solution Man isn’t going anywhere.
Frank: LOL!! Solution Man is not going anywhere. He is permanently tattooed on our owner Mr. Radel’s calf and very visible in various sections of the Solution Industries “Compound”. Oddly enough I’m not or ever been a comic book or super hero fan, but he works and has a couple of sidekicks to go along with him.
TS: You have an interesting regiment you follow. A lot of people know of the Frank Devito schedule but share with our readers a little bit about it.
Frank: LOL! Sure, I’m very disciplined. Every day starts with waking up at 1:00am (regardless of what time I go to sleep or even if I go to sleep), reading the Bible, prayer, listening to the preacher, two hour workout session, monitoring or researching global and domestic factors affecting Solution Industries or the Fastener Industry in general, usually a Starbucks run for my wife, and then off to the office. They say the “early bird gets the worm”, but I get the bird… LOL!!
TS: Also, health and fitness are a big part of your makeup. Were you always so conscientious?
Frank: Yes and yes. Still do hundreds and hundreds of push-ups every day, but not quite the 1000 a day I used to do a couple of years ago. I turned 45 this year and the body isn’t as capable as it used to be. I have always enjoyed pushing my body to its limits, you’d be surprise what the human body can accomplish. I was always active in sports as a child and much of my life into my mid 30’s, but when I turned 16 that was the turning point in my life when fitness really became my lifestyle. I’ve worked out a minimum of 5 days a week ever since the age of 16. Of course eating properly is a given!
TS: Let’s talk a bit about your career path. Where else did you work before you landed at Solution Industries?
Frank: I started at Parts Associates Inc. in Parma, OH packing boxes on the shipping line at 17 years old. A couple of years later after experiencing job functions in multiple departments I was asked to procure fasteners. In this role I had the pleasure of first meeting a Fastener Hall of Famer The Traveling Salesman as you called on me many years ago. I spent a little less than a decade there until the company was sold. Upon the sale I had an opportunity to join The Porteous Fastener Company. Within about a year I became the Branch Manager of the Cleveland, OH facility and over time added the Detroit, MI and Perth Amboy, NJ facilities to my umbrella as well. After 10 years at Porteous the company sold to BBI. Upon that sale I took advantage of the opportunity to become the General Manager of Solution Industries where I stand today.
The Lord has truly blessed me with the honor of working at great companies. The people in these companies provided a fantastic base of fastener and business knowledge that has allowed me to have a career in this industry.
TS: I’d like to have a full discussion sometime about Porteous. In business school we used to do case studies on companies and I personally feel their is a very interesting case study regarding the Porteous company. If Barry or Bob Porteous read this blog somewhere and would be interested in talking, I’m offering a personal invite right here and now. I’m sure there are things you would share and some you wouldn’t care to share. But give me a few of your thoughts on what happened to Porteous and your time working there.
Frank: I’m assuming you’re question is in the context of the competition between Porteous and BBI and the eventual sale to BBI. Well I’m sure everybody has their own perspective, and there was of course other contributing factors, but in my shortened version it just seemed to come down to timing, product mix, and resources.
In 2008 when Brighton-Best Socket Screw Mfg. sold to Taiwan investors headed by Mr. Shieh material cost overseas were at historic highs, and as a large import master distributor Porteous was procuring material at very high cost. In the first quarter of 2009 material cost overseas fell to historic lows just as BBI seemed to really start procuring product and push into Porteous’s markets. BBI had lower cost material and could sell at lower pricing levels and sustain profits while Porteous had higher cost material unable to sustain profits selling at price levels in a declined cost market. To me this was where BBI really got a stronghold into the market, selling the same quality products at lower price levels.
Throw in product mix. Porteous was mainly a low carbon product supplier (low price per/lb.) lower value lower profits. BBI had/has a lock on the socket product market which is a high price per/lb. product line, higher value higher profits so BBI could also off set overall costs in which Porteous could not.
Lastly resources. BBI just had more resources with the investment behind them. They could purchase better and sustain longer droughts. If you add BBI’s online platform for quoting and purchasing, it changed the industry! Over time BBI just became the stronger company.
But at the end of the day the only real perspectives that matters is Porteous and BBI’s. I have TREMENDOUS respect for the Porteous brothers and family. I was truly blessed to be a part of their company. And I truly admire BBI’s leadership and what they have and will accomplished in this industry. Jun and Peggy are very intelligent and deserve credit for having a business strategy and executing it. I wish them and the entire Fastener Industry much success!
TS: OK, let’s circle back around to industry related questions. You are a member of the North Coast Fastener Association board and Solution is a member of several different fastener associations. What value do you find in belonging to those groups?
Frank: Building long lasting personal relationships in regional and local markets. You get the opportunity to interact on a personal level with fastener colleagues in their environment, and you would never get the pleasure of meeting them all at a national show.
TS: You have been on several panel discussions, including out at Fastener Fair. You always seemed really well prepared and I’m impressed at how much factual data you bring to support the topics you discuss. You seem to enjoy doing those, am I correct?
Frank: Thank you! For the kind words. I’m so grateful and blessed to be asked to be involved in these discussions. And to that fact; the event organizers, panel participants, and audience deserve the right to have a well prepared panelist, so I better do my due diligence!
I really enjoy participating in the panel discussions. I truly enjoy hearing other panelist perspectives as well. I love the industry and an educated industry is a better prepared industry for the future. And if I can help aid in that education process I’m honored.
TS: Because you have participated in these panel discussions, I know you study the fastener industry. What changes do you see coming in the industry? What trends do you see?
Frank: There are definitely different short and long term trends in certain segments of our industry that do not affect us all equally. And not to bore your readers more than I already have at this point with my opinions, I’ll just touch slightly on a few influencing Solution Industries and stay away from the standard answer of “company consolidations.” A couple of trends that have been looked upon as nice to have or working towards are now requirements, a higher quality management system (not just ISO 9001) and you must be technologically capable to support customers (which our industry has been slow to embrace). Lastly the concern over the environment more so now than ever. Heavy dollars from the most valued and wealthiest investment companies in the world have been pouring into the global initiative to reduce environmental impacts. This has impacted industry markets many of us are selling into and impacting the entire product creation process, from raw materials themselves and how they are produced and processed, the manufacturing and application processes, packaging products, and of course transportation. This is already spilling into our industry now in certain aspects.
TS: Lastly, I know your faith is very important to you, probably the most important thing to you. I have never asked a question about faith but it is so integral to the makeup of Frank Devito I wanted you to feel free to share any thoughts you have.
Frank: Yes it truly takes precedence in my life. My faith is not just talk, it is how I live my life! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts! I gave my life to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 20 years ago and what a WONDERFUL impact it has on my life. It does not mean life will not have trials and tribulations, but certainly the Grace of God provides peace in all circumstances. The Lord is well beyond and deserves more than my few lines of commentary, so I would plead for any person reading this to pick up The Bible and discover The Lord for themselves. I will also add I’m always open for a discussion on the truth of the word of God. I can always be reached through Solution Industries and you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me a message, leave a phone number and I will absolutely call you back. I’m definitely not the only believer in this industry, and if it is God’s will someday “Faith in Fasteners” will be a thriving organization.
Note from TS:
I have a regular column in Fastener Technology International (FTI) magazine, called 10 Minutes with the Traveling Salesman, which can be read online at www.fastenertech.com. Subscriptions to FTI, print and digital editions, are free-of-charge for fastener manufacturers, distributors and users as well as suppliers to the industry.”