Located in the city of Medina, we recently sat with Operations Manager Tony Carmichael from AllFasteners to discuss their business and its evolution with Made in Medina County.
Q: Thank you for speaking with us! Tony, could you please tell us about the history of AllFasteners?
A: Happy to be here! AllFasteners was launched in 1994 in Melbourne Australia. After expanding across Australia, we came to the US in 2009 and have locations in New Jersey, Texas, California, Nebraska, Colorado and Ohio. In Ohio, we originally started in Oakwood Village, and then moved to Medina in 2015 when we expanded into steel fabrication.
Q: What product lines are those?
A: We have been a world-leader in general fasteners and concrete anchors. We’ve become a diversified company with our expansion into steel fabrication in our Medina facility, allowing us to become a complete materials resource for cell tower owners and contractors, as well as other industries. As we looked at a variety of markets, we realized there are unique field challenges in installing and modifying cell towers that we could alleviate. As you can imagine, modifying cell towers to add or replace structural members is a highly demanding task. Due to their height and makeup it can be impossible to access connection points. We were able to engineer new patented fasteners to meet those unique challenges, such as our NexGen2 blind bolt, and the Allfasteners split nut.
Q: Aren’t there many companies in that space?
A: Actually, no! The tower industry isn’t very large and we all know each other. For our part, having that specialization in fasteners first and steel fabrication second, allow us to innovate in ways those that started with steel fabrication can’t because we deeply understand the industry specific challenges of fastening in cell tower applications. We approach every problem from a different angle than a traditional fabricator might, with an added understanding and familiarity with the hot dip galvanizing process.
Q: Do you have an example?
A: On some poles, very difficult to reach once they are online anchor bolts are. After receiving field feedback, we developed a split nut product that allows the user to install a nut onto an anchor rod without access to either end of the bolt to thread it on. It’s allowed poles to be returned to full structural capacity in a way that was impossible previously. That kind of innovation is something we do all the time.
Q: That looks pretty clever! How do you handle research and development like this?
A: We are always looking for problems to solve. Sometimes our customers bring us the problems, like the split nut problem, and sometimes one of our team recognizes them. Our growth strategy has really been built around those two directions. We hold six patents, but we’ve always developed for a reason. Research and development for development’s sake isn’t our model. If we can sell it, we’ll figure out how to do it!
Q: How would you characterize your model?
AllFasteners is very entrepreneurial. We are always looking for the next challenge; the next thing to fix. And we prefer to do things in-house so we can assiduously control the process and the quality.
Q: Could you give us a couple more examples?
When a person needs to go up on a pole, they’re using a vertical lifeline system. That climbing system needs to have technology built in to absorb the person’s energy if they fall. At those heights, that’s a tricky situation because the fall is easy to stop, but the person can’t absorb the energy created in the fall. Even if they didn’t hit the ground, the sudden stop would still be very dangerous. The lead time on other available safety climb systems was very long and customers reached out to us to develop our own design. Through our international connections we were able to work with a partnering safety company and create something unique in the assembled here in the States to help get the safety gear to customers in a timely fashion. We market this product line through a designated site, https://safetyclimb.com.
Another example is the recent need for personal protection equipment. We’ve been distributing private-label N95 face masks for years as we use them in our shops and we prefer to use either things we produce, or private-label items. When we saw an opportunity to help other local companies get the PPE they need from a reputable source, we jumped at the chance. We are now selling PPE goods at https://af-ppe.com/.
Q: That feels like a quick reaction to the situation! How were you able to move so fast?
A: We are a very technology-focused company. When we had the office staff move to working from home, it was less than 4 hours to have everyone up and running as if they were in the office. We have had Zoom-enabled conference rooms for a long time so that wasn’t even a transition.
One of the reasons we moved to Medina was because we would be able to take advantage of the Medina County Fiber Network. Having that connectivity has made a big difference in our ability to work collaboratively with our other remote locations.
Q: It sounds like you have grown quickly. How have you managed that growth?
A: Growth has definitely been a challenge, but one we love to have. We have had the luxury of building the management team from scratch so we maintain our culture through each new product line. We have gone to market with different brands to help customers differentiate between products. But they are all AllFasteners at the core with the same great culture and employees.
Q: Speaking of employees, how many employees do you have?
A: We have about 40 in our Medina location, and another 160 around the world.
Q: What do you find are the reasons AllFasteners is a great place to work?
Because we are so entrepreneurial, there are all kinds of opportunities here. I started eight years ago in the warehouse and now I’m the Operations Manager. And we have a number of stories just like that. Also, the company is very family oriented. Although now a global corporation, it’s still a family owned and operated business, and when decisions are made, it is with the impact of the situation on the families of our employees as well as the individual. We also pay 100% of the health insurance and have a number of other benefits, including free lunches every Friday and snacks and pop. Every little bit helps!
Q: What do you see on the horizon for AllFasteners?
In the immediate, we are working to get everyone back in the office and be sure to manage our workload with the safety guidelines in place. Because cell towers are essential, this segment of our business has been larger than in the past so we’ll continue to focus there. Also working to get our PPE business meeting those needs as well.
In the long term, with the Sprint and T-Mobile merger happening, 5G towers and small cell poles will continue becoming more prevalent. As the construction industry comes back online, we’ll see an increase there as well so we are well situated for additional growth. We are excited about the future at AllFasteners!
For more information about AllFasteners, please visit: www.allfasteners.com