Ashley Parker has always been a go-getter. She has a degree in hotel and restaurant management and an associate degree in business management. At 22 years old, she successfully opened her own restaurant in Arizona. But what she did not have, until recently, were plans to work at her father’s company.
“My dad is a second-generation headman and grew up in the manufacturing industry, but he never pressured me to follow in his footsteps,” she shares. “He wanted me to get my own experience in life, and figured I’d join him if and when I was ready.”
Ashley’s father, Robert Parker, is the president and founder of Parker Fasteners, which specializes in providing high-precision fasteners to critical and demanding industries, such as aerospace, defense, electronics, medical, and others. He took decades of experience in machining and manufacturing and initially opened a cold-heading facility in Goodyear, AZ, about 10 years ago.
“At about nine years old, my dad began helping out his father, who worked at a plant by doing simple things like parts washing and organizing,” Ashley says. “Eventually, he worked on each machine, learning the ins and outs of every piece of equipment, so that’s been his career.”
Today, Robert Parker operates an ISO-registered (9001:2015/AS9100D) and QSL Manufacture status (for Class 2 & 3 Fasteners) facility with more than 250 pieces of equipment, including 28 headers and 11 thread-rolling machines.
The company recently moved from Goodyear to a larger, 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Buckeye, AZ.
“And this is where I come into play. I very much grew up in the fastener industry because of my dad’s work. Some of the employees at Parker have known me since I was in diapers,” she laughs.
Although Ashley was thriving in culinary and restaurant management, she was tired, and something felt off. “I wanted something more…or, at least, something that felt more meaningful to me,” she says. “I wanted to use my skillset more effectively, rather than what seemed like endless seven-day work weeks with little avail or signs of slowing down.”
However, it was not until Matthew Boyd, Parker Fasteners’ VP – National Sales Director suggested a role with the family business that Ashley began to seriously contemplate the opportunity. This was about three years ago. The timing was ideal because it was when Parker was readying to move to the larger facility in Buckeye and expand.
The move included updating tracking and management systems and a transition to an ERP (enterprise resource & planning) program — where Ashley could offer support.
“I’ve always been analytical with an engineering mindset that served me in the culinary sector, given it’s primarily work with numbers and measurements. But Parker Fasteners also entails numbers and measurements in terms of engineering. It’s similar business-wise, but just a different product,” she explains.
Ashley was able to evaluate all of Parker’s equipment and develop schedules for the ideal runtimes to maximize effective operations. She was also able to incorporate the latest ERP program and update all the company’s processing systems.
“I began in expediting and was able to draw from my previous business and management experience in analytics, scheduling, and just the mindset of knowing what works best when and where, so it’s worked out well,” she says. “Also, I enjoy the interactions and being part of a team. You really feel that at Parker.”
Ashley has since transferred from expediting to full-time sales, and she’s enjoying the challenge.
“So far, I love it. It’s challenging but in a good way. I get to meet a lot of new people. So, that’s where my background in hospitality is helpful because, at Parker, we don’t believe in just being a supplier or that a client is just another customer. We believe in partnerships and connecting…and, honesty, in becoming friends because we’re all in the industry together.”
Currently, Parker Fasteners has plans to grow those connections. Its manufacturing space can be tripled with a few simple additions to the building.
Essentially, the company has three parts: the NAS for aerospace (the National Aerospace Standard), the commercial products, and the per-print items, which make up about 60% of Parker’s business.
Customers are also encouraged to approach the Parker team with a specific print or just an idea, and its engineers will evaluate it, make suggestions, 3D print or fully manufacture it.
“What I think makes us stand out is not only the quality we put into everything we manufacture but that we can do so from a #00 socket head cap screw up to a five-eight inch. We also offer button heads, flat heads, socket head cap screw, and per-print items,” she says.
What’s more is that when moving to Buckeye, Parker took over an old Budweiser distribution plant, allowing for proper indoor cooling, which makes it an ideal environment for operating its machines and equipment. The company is also continually adding new product lines and new secondaries like drilling, grinding, and trimming.
Since moving to the new facility, the company has nearly tripled in growth (including in employees).
“It’s great to experience how we’re evolving and to be a part of this growth,” she says. “And one of the best things about us hiring is that we bring students from universities, and sometimes without a degree because we’ll train them from the ground up.”
What allows Parker Fasteners to do so is the company’s quality management team, which is constantly managing the machines to ensure the highest quality manufacturing.
“We train all of our new employees to check their parts every five minutes and to make sure quality is the number one priority,” she says. “Overall, we offer more than 250 years of experience in manufacturing screws here at Parker, but we’re now about 60% millennial workers. And this is preparing us for the future because of the number of people in the industry set to retire. We’re always looking 10 years ahead, and at what we can do to offer the most advanced solutions.”
It’s safe to say, Ashley found the “something more” she was looking for in a career.
“Parker Fasteners is really a unique company in that we offer more than manufacturing. We build relationships and offer a sense of family…because when it comes down to it, we are a family company. That’s what my dad, Robert Parker, learned from the age of nine, when he was helping his dad out at work. We’re able to combine quality manufacturing with a supportive, caring environment. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”