Global Fastener News

2011 FIN – Ex-TV Reporter First Woman to Chair IFI

April 02
00:00 2013

2011 FIN – Ex-TV Reporter First Woman to Chair IFI

March 28, 2011 FIN – In high school and college she worked summers at Mid West Fabricating Co. But Jennifer Johns Friel’s first career was as a news reporter for WKYT TV in Lexington, KY.
Her fastener manufacturer father, David Johns, had insisted she earn a business degree at the University of Denver so she could “make a living” in case the television news goal didn’t work out.
After nearly five years chasing – researching – news stories, Friel was looking at alternatives. Dan Hebert, then vice president of operations at Mid West Fabricating approached her about doing marketing research which company executives didn’t have time for.
She took on the role and three years later when the vice president left the company she succeeded him.
Friel became president in 1997 when her father developed health problems.
This month Friel became the first woman chair of the Industrial Fasteners Institute.
Founded in 1931, the IFI has had 61 men chair the fastener manufacturing organization.
Her television news background shows in one management area Friel emphasizes. “Communications are important to me,” Friel told “Most manufacturers don’t do a good job of communicating.” That starts with internal communications with employees. “That is probably the best impact I have had on my company.”
What have been the keys to her success as a domestic manufacturer?
“I had wonderful leadership examples in my family,” Friel responded first. “I have a terrific team of people who supported me in the beginning, and continue to make it very easy to be successful because they are all so talented and committed to the company.”
Another key factor to the success of Mid West Fabricating – especially during recessionary times and with automotive customers – has been a “very conservative position on debt. We had no debt load so we didn’t have the struggles with the banks” which have sunk otherwise good fastener companies.
Though her grandfather, Stanton Johns, is generally credited as the founder of Mid West Fabricating, she emphasizes that her grandmother, Jane Johns, was truly a co-founder.
Jane Johns had the business degree and front office knack. Stanton Johns had the technical knowledge, held patents and had the entrepreneurial spirit to start the company in 1945.
Friel’s father, David Johns, was the 1993-94 IFI chairman, and her husband, Michael Friel, was the 2005-06 chair.
The year ahead is already mapped out for the IFI. 
“The IFI has a strategic plan for 2010 to 2015,” Friel noted. “Our challenge is to live up to the plan.”
Friel credited IFI managing director Rob Harris for the financial health of the organization and director of engineering technology Joe Greenslade for “bringing technology to the Institute.
She envisions more technical services for IFI members. Greenslade has been using GoTo Meetings and there will be more technology applied to IFI meetings. For example, during breakout sessions a speaker may participate via Skype without the cost of traveling to the meeting.
Friel expects extra travel for 2011-2012. She al-ready travels from Mid West Fabricating’s two plants in Ohio and third in Southern California. Plus her husband is CEO of Haydon Bolts in Philadelphia and St. Louis Screw & Bolt. They have homes in both Central Ohio and Philadelphia.
Friel notes she has one IFI benefit beyond the meeting content, technical and educational pro-grams and timely information provided to members: “I met my husband at an IFI meeting.”
Editor’s Note: Mid West Fabricating specializes in cold forming of steel into special fasteners and formed rod. Mid West has plants in Santa Fe Springs, CA, and Lancaster, OH, and is headquartered in a 125,000 sq ft facility at 313 North Johns Rd., Amanda, OH 43102. Tel: 740 969-4411 Fax 740 969-4433 Web: ©2011/2013 Fastener Industry News.
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2011 FIN ? IFI’s Friel: Manufacturing ‘Brain Drain’ Hurst U.S. Economy
October 25, 2011 FIN – Long before she became the first woman to lead the Industrial Fasteners Institute, Jennifer Johns Friel had a dream.
She wanted to join the football team at her high school.
“It was the only thing in my life my parents didn’t support,” Friel told a attendees of the Women in the Fastener Industry meeting at the National Industrial Fastener & Mill Supply Expo in Las Vegas.
So while she never got to try out for the team, she credits her otherwise supportive parents with helping her make other dreams — such as becoming a broadcast journalist — come true.
That strong family background came in handy when she left journalism and joined the family business — Mid West Fabricating Co. — some years later.
“My mother was always my biggest cheerleader, insisting I could do anything or be anything,” Friel explained.
Now Friel is president of the company her grandparents formed in 1945, leading a business with three manufacturing facilities in Ohio and California, and a workforce of 275 employees.
“I was really lucky,” she noted. “There was no glass ceiling at my company, and I know that’s not the case for everyone else.”
Friel acknowledged that her talent is different from previous generations. While her grandfather and father relied on their mechanical knowledge of every machine in their facilities, Friel’s success has come from communicating a vision for her company.
But new challenges face Friel and other manufacturers in the global economy of the 21st century.
“We have a brain drain” in manufacturing, she explained.
Friel cited a recent finding that while most people believe that domestic manufacturing is critical for economic prosperity and security, younger people don’t believe manufacturing has a future.
Most troubling, Friel said, was the fact that manufacturing now ranks “dead last” as a career choice for U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 24.
“Retirement of skilled workers is a huge issue for industry in general,” she emphasized.
At her company, 75% of the prime workforce is over the age of 40, with 25% have between 21-30 years of service.
“What we have done is invest very heavily in in-house training… because we know we have an issue.”
Friel said the IFI is working to overcome this very issue by promoting training and technology in the fastener industry.
Working closely with its 70 manufacturing member companies, 24 affiliates, and 34 associate supplier division members, the IFI is promoting education in the hopes of building a skilled workforce and attracting more leaders like Friel to the North American fastener industry.
“The future that’s available in manufacturing is very attractive,” Friel concluded. ©2011/2013 Fastener Industry News.
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Related Links:

• Industrial Fasteners Institute

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