Global Fastener News

FIN Marks 40 Years

FIN Marks 40 Years
July 09
23:28 2019

Fastener Industry News is marking 40 years since it was first published on July 10, 1979.  

In marking FIN’s 20th anniversary, the founder, first editor and publisher Dick Callahan recalled that 1979 was dominated by a hostage situation in Iran, energy crisis, record federal expenditures, wrangling over the return of the Panama Canal to Panama, double-digit inflation and rising unemployment.

Commenting on his 1979 to 1994 tenure, Callahan recalled that the “once-intense name-calling rivalry between importers and domestic fastener suppliers evolved into a more harmonious, if not quite buddy-buddy, relationship.”

Callahan observed that Japan lost its spot as top fastener exporter to the U.S., first to Taiwan, then other Asian countries.

A sampling of topics from FIN’s 40 years:
 •  Acquisitions have been news throughout the decades. Famous fastener corporate names such as Russell, Birdsall & Ward disappeared after the 1994 acquisition by Park-Ohio.

Though RB&W was a multi-decade company, some acquiring firms became just a “flash in the pan,” such as Distribution Dynamics, which died in bankruptcy within a few years.

Other companies grew globally, including Würth Group and a consortium headed by Robert Shieh of Ta Chen International, which acquired Brighton-Best Socket Screw Mfg. in 2007.

 •  Women gained prominence in the industry, Callahan noted in 1999. In addition to leadership of companies, he pointed to their executive roles with fastener associations.   

Subsequently most associations have been headed by women. Among the last to have women leaders were the Industrial Fastener Institute with Jennifer Johns Friel of Mid-West Fabricating becoming chair in 2011 and Michelle St. John of Industrial Bolt & Supply Inc becoming president of the Specialty Tools & Fastener Distributors Association in 2018.

However, women in the industry weren’t altogether new. Bill Brewster Jr. trained his daughters, Katherine and Marguerite, to take over Brewster Washers upon his death in 1958.

 • Multiple fastener companies have reached the century mark. Industrial Rivet & Fastener Company, Chicago Hardware and Portland Bolt all marked their 100th anniversaries during 2012. Brewster Washers turned 100 this year.

Those are all topped by National Machinery, which turned 140 in 2014.

 • Individuals reached the half-century fastener careers. Tom Barrett of Earnest Machine retired in 2007 upon getting to 50 years in 2007. Bill Unferth of Lindstrom and Joe Soja of Durham Manufacturing both got to 50-years in 2011. Soja managed the New England Fastener Distributors Association until retiring in 2014, but Unferth remained active with Lindstrom in 2019.

When the Chicago Bolt, Nut & Screw Association reached the half century mark in 1996 it noted its founders – including Howard Langdon who was then still active in the industry with Fastron Co. He had founded Langdon Industry Supply in 1942.

 • Trade Shows: Back in 2000, a poll by AWP Research found 88.5% majority of fastener exhibitors wanted just one fastener trade show – and only 3.8% wanted more than one. The Western version of the once dominant National Industrial Fastener Show & Conference in Columbus, OH, started in 1997 and led to the demise of the Ohio show instead becoming a Las Vegas duplicate.

Multiple other trade shows have been attempted.  In 2004 the Industrial Fasteners Institute, Chicago Bolt, Nut & Screw Association and International Fastener Machinery Association announced Fastener Week for 2005. But they dropped it after one year. A biennial Fastener Tech was first held in 2007 but has never come close to Las Vegas size. Fastener Fair USA started in 2018 and it remains to be seen where it will fit in.

 • The Internet: In 2000, Ross Barnhill told the Western Association of Fastener Distributors that the Internet had grown to the point that a company without a website didn’t look real – like a company in 1990 without a fax line. Barnhill Bolt had launched its first website in 1994.

In 1996, FIN published an article, “What is a Web Site Home Page?”

Entrepreneurs were starting Internet companies – such as Jerry Chapman and Ben Benson launching

FIN started with a homepage and began posting news online in 2000.

The Industrial Fasteners Institute launched its online fastener technical data service in 2008.

 • Lightweighting of everything from airplanes to cars is not as new an issue as some today might think.  Back in 2000, Emhart Fastening Teknologies president Paul Gustafson talked about too many fasteners in cars. Weight and assembly were issues.

 • Mel Kirsner collected fastener memorabilia throughout his career and built Mell’s Fastener Museum in the mountains of Julian, CA.

But the lifetime collection was destroyed by a wildfire in 2003.

 • The terrorist attack on the 110-story World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 had fastener angles too: U.S. Customs Service agent Kathy Campanelli escaped from a lower building which was part of the World Trade Center. Richard Hagan of Pinnacle Capital Corp. was heading to his office in a neighboring building when the attacks happened.  Fastener distributor NABS was just five blocks north.

Bolts got mentioned in the review of how the Twin Towers collapsed. In 2003 fastener engineer David Sharp explained that engineers can take precautions, but there is a limit what designers can do: “Building Can Take Only So Much.” Investigators calculated the second tower struck by a Boeing 707 flying 180 mph was subject to an impact 11 times greater than its design load.

The Titanic’s rivets were cited a century after its 1911 launch. A Physics World article lends credence to research suggesting that “faulty rivets” contributed to the “unsinkable” Titanic sinking.

 • The U.S. Fastener Quality Act dominated FIN’s front pages throughout the 1990s. President George H.W. Bush signed the original FQA in 1990. President Bill Clinton signed amendments in 1995 and 1998 and the third and final – HR 1183 – on June 8, 1999. The FQA was implemented December 6, 1999.

Initially there were divisions within the fastener industry, but unity became necessary to pass those amendments. That led to the formation of the Public Law Task Force in 1994.

One 1996 FIN headline noted: “1,900 Attend FQA Workshops; Additional Training Being Planned.”

Despite the dominance in the 1990s, the U.S. FQA is rarely mentioned in the industry subsequently.

 • The industry received what is recognized as its first and only presidential visit when President-elect Barack Obama toured Cardinal Fastener in Cleveland en route to his inauguration 2009. Multiple fastener veterans interviewed by FIN at the time could not remember any other presidential visit to a fastener facility.

 • The future? “Robots to Install 50,000 Fasteners on Boeing 777s” was a headline in 2015. This year John Touhy of Fanuc America declared in a Fastener Fair USA presentation that “robots are coming.” Since 2012 robots have been increasing 20% to 30% annually, Touhy added.

 • Tariffs have occasionally been in the news, such as President George W. Bush’s steel tariffs in 2002, Canada’s tariffs on fasteners from China and Taiwan in 2002 and the EU’s antidumping tariffs in 2009.

In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump applied Section 301 tariffs of 10% to $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, including fasteners. In May, he hiked the tariff to 25%.

The print edition of FIN is currently published 15 times a year. Articles are posted on most days of the year.

The online edition includes hundreds of stories in the Fastener History section, a summary of each company in Fastener Stock Review, Product News and Obituaries as far back as 1979. The FIN Calendar was first published for 1996.

Dick and Harriet Callahan sold FIN to John Wolz and Ann Bisgyer in 1994 and retired.

Jason Sandefur became associate editor in 2002 and Carrie Sweet has handled advertising and subscriptions since 2014.

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