Months before the pandemic hit, Ken DeCrane felt it was time to digitalize a few of the services offered at Perlane Sales Inc., a distributor and engineered partner of fasteners and tools.
“The challenge in business is to continually be forward-thinking and to avoid complacency,” he says. DeCrane is the company president and he’s been part owner of Perlane since 1989. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll likely lose your edge over time.”
To stay ahead of the game, DeCrane’s creating a virtual studio in their Stow, Ohio location, which is about 15 minutes outside of Akron. Perlane also has offices in Philadelphia and New York.
“Now, if someone is interested in finding out about a tool or in learning how to properly install a rivet nut, we can easily and effectively offer a virtual demonstration,” he says. The timing for the new virtual office couldn’t be better, given the current requirements for social distancing and greater travel restrictions.
“I’m in that age bracket where we used to make cold calls. But there’s no way you do that anymore,” he shares. “Even before COVID, it became apparent that it was no longer possible to get the appointments we used to because so many people are busy or just pressed for time. So, we had to get creative.”
One reason offering demos and virtual experiences is so important to Perlane is because the company is more than just a distributor. It’s a problem-solving company, offering its customers support in finding the right design and installing the ideal components for an application.
“If you have a problem with a fastener, simply send us the material. We’ll identify any problems and now we can virtually show customers how to install it quickly and correctly,” says DeCrane. Perlane is an authorized representative and stocking distributor for several of the top fastener manufacturers, supplying to industries such as automotive, military, medical, construction, and many others. “We want to help solve application problems and provide important insight.”
Eventually, the goal is to offer small seminars and ongoing product demonstrations. “I guess what we’re trying to do is tell people we’re different. You know, there are a lot of people selling fasteners and we sell value-added relationships,” he says.
The company is well-known as the preferred U.S. distributor for Böllhoff’s blind rivet nuts — including the RIVNUT, PLUSNUT, and RIVKLE — with more than 50 years of design experience. Böllhoff, an international group that specializes in fastening and assembly technology.
The RIVNUT is noteworthy because it installs blind in sheet metal, plastics, and tubular materials without deforming the parent material. Additionally, it can be used as a rivet to attach two or more materials together. It acts as a nut for the attachment of a mating part with a screw.
Interestingly, Böllhoff acquired the RIVNUT brand from BFGoodrich in 2001. In the early ‘80s, DeCrane was a marketing manager for BFGoodrich before moving to Perlane.
“Four members of our sales team have more than 20 years of experience in designing and selling RIVNUT fasteners,” he says.
Part of the advanced services offered at Perlane includes the RIVETNUT-Original website (rivetnut-original.com), which offers videos, case studies, and an educational blog. “It brings us closer to our RIVNUT roots and shows a wide range of fastener solving products, which includes ways to replace weld nuts with hex shank RIVNUTs — or by using unique fasteners that are designed for lightweight composites,” shares DeCrane.
One example is in the automotive industry where several lightweight materials, such as composites and aluminum, are now commonly used in electric vehicles.
“We’ve really been pushing to find problem applications that we could help solve based on what we’re good at — which is the blind RIVNUTS. So, for instance, with these composite material applications, it’s critical the right fastener is used and that it’s mounted properly. Such materials will expand radially and crack if a fastener is installed incorrectly,” he says. “And this is one area where we can help.”
In fact, one of the most common issues related to the poor performance of fasteners can be attributed to the improper method of installation. In DeCrane’s latest blog post, he shares tips on choosing the ideal rivet nut tool.
“The rivet nut industry had introduced many new power tools over the last two decades,” he writes. “Making it difficult to determine how to select the proper installation tool.” The type and size of the fastener being installed is important to consider.
“With all of this digital information, we’re trying to take things to the next level for our customers. We want to ensure they have ongoing access to the latest insight and products,” he says. “We want to be able to provide product demos on demand.”
Deemed an essential business during the pandemic, Perlane has also been supporting the health care sector with components — one of which was unique.
“We have three major medical customers that required our parts. And apparently, some of the plastic hardware we offer was used in a purification system that could mount on a doctor’s belt. It then attached to a completely enclosed helmet, offering clean air,” explains DeCrane. “So, that’s definitely a different type of offering but we’re open to helping out wherever we can.”
Fortunately, Perlane was able to work around the COVID-19 restrictions without too many challenges.
“We all live locally and most of our employees were able to easily work from home,” he shares. “And it’s very much a family-like atmosphere here where we’re all supportive and looking out for one another. It’s a great company with an extremely knowledgeable team. We’re very fortunate.”
A brief timeline:
- Chet Perry opens Perlane Sales and becomes an exclusive manufacturing rep and distributor in Akron, Ohio, of the BFGoodrich RIVNUT, which is the original rivet nut design.
- BFGoodrich moves to Kendallville, Indiana to manufacture RIVNUTS.
- Ken DeCrane, who worked as a marketing manager with BFGoodrich, becomes the manager of Perlane Sales, marketing products throughout Ohio and Indiana.
- DeCrane becomes part-owner of Perlane Sales with Jim and Chris Seidell. The owners work to expand the product lines offered at the company to include ITW Nexus, Southco, Industrial Rivet, and Sherex Fastening Solutions.
- The RIVNUT brand is acquired by the European manufacturer, Böllhoff, but maintains USA production. Böllhoff also brings European-styled parts to the U.S.
- DeCrane and the Seidell’s sell their majority ownership in Perlane Sales to Ernie Riling and Components Solutions Group — which includes Al Fastener And Blue Grass Manufacturing
- DeCrane maintains minority ownership and remains president of Perlane Sales.