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2012 FIN – The ‘Shakeproof’ Success of ITW at 100 Years

December 21
00:00 2012

2012 FIN – The ‘Shakeproof’ Success of ITW at 100 Years

December 12, 2012 FIN – Illinois Tools Works marks its 100th anniversary in 2012.
The Glenview, IL-based manufactures highly engineered fasteners and other products for the auto, food and construction industries. But it was founded as a metal-cutting toolmaker in 1912.

During World War I the company expanded its production to include truck transmissions, pumps and other items.

The shift to fasteners came in 1923.

“A significant and highly successful departure from its specialized approach to tool making was the 1923 acquisition of Shakeproof Screw & Nut Lock Company,” ITW writes in Forging the Tools of Excellence, the company’s 131-page book of its history.

ITW president Harold C. Smith “recognized the twisted tooth lock washer as a revolutionary product.”

Invented by Richard T. Hosking, the device was placed beneath the head of a screw to keep it from loosening. And Detroit, which was converting from wood to metal automotive door hinges, was pleased.

“The product was a resounding hit with the automotive industry, which was struggling with ways to keep screws in their vehicles from jarring loose on the nation’s bumpy new roads.”

The success of the Shakeproof lockwasher, which inspired “an entire line of patented, innovative fastener products,” helped the Shakeproof division to become the largest in the company, outgrowing the original ITW tool division.

This shift in business during the 1920s led to ITW’s Customer Application Engineering approach that the company says “transformed the way the company not only invented new products, but how it went to market.”

Behind this approach was Jack Gribbie, a sales manager for Shakeproof.

“In the mid-1920s Gribbie was convinced that there were dozens of applications for Shakeproof fasteners in industries that weren’t using them yet.”

When the radio manufacturing industry expanded out of Philadelphia to Chicago, Gribbie worked to convince radio makers to use Shakeproof.

“He would painstakingly take apart radio units to look for new places where a Shakeproof product could be used to improve them and save the customer money in the manufacturing process.”

If he couldn’t find a place for an existing Shakeproof product, he would work with designers to create a new one.

“He would then take his findings directly to the customer’s product engineers, skipping the purchasing agent’s office, which was the way most salesmen sold products at the time.”

“Both techniques — the approach to design and the approach to sales — were revolutionary back in the mid-1920s. Today, these techniques are called customer application engineering, the backbone of how many ITW businesses create and sell product.”

In the 1940s ITW decentralized its operations to focus on specific markets.

The company relocated the Shakeproof business from Chicago to Elgin, IL, which continues to serves as the unit’s U.S. headquarters. In its new location, Shakeproof began manufacturing plastic fasteners and components.

Looking to expand success of Shakeproof’s plastic fastener and components lines beyond automotive applications, ITW created the Fastex operating unit in the 1950s to develop those products for other mass production industries.

In 1973 ITW was listed on the New York Stock Exchange with an initial stock price of $26.

The company further diversified Shakeproof’s capabilities with the formation of Buildex, a new business unit for the construction industry.

“Fueled by its product developments for the construction industry, ITW became the only company in the world to produce fastening systems for wood, metal and concrete/masonry applications.”

In 1996, former Shakeproof salesman and Fastener & Tool Group president James Farrell became CEO of ITW, a position he held until 2005 when he became board chairman and eventually retired.

ITW’s revenues totaled $17.8 billion in 2011, with more than half of these revenues generated outside of the U.S. Web: ©2012 Fastener Industry News
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Related Links:

• Illinois Tool Works

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