Chat with Frank Devito of Solution Industries for even a few minutes, and you’re a believer in the fastener industry. His energy and enthusiasm — not to mention his knowledge — are sure to draw you in.
Middleburg Heights, Ohio-based Solution Industries has been around for 15 years under its current name. Devito explained that the founder was a machinist; he sold his car for $586 to start the company in his garage. Solutions Industries was then known for doing hard-to-find parts … the owner would gladly machine five or six pieces for a customer. Then they started electroplating sockets — which was taboo at the time, Devito said.
Today, the services that the company provides is procuring the plain part or the base part material. It is in more of an importer role than domestically purchasing or procuring parts, but they have the capability to do both in the U.S. or overseas.
“Then we work with all the applicators, whether they’re electroplate or mechanical plate or dip spin,” Devito said. “We’ll put a coating on, and it can be as simple as a commercial zinc to an OEM spec by John Deere or GM or Ford or Bobcat or Harley Davidson.”
Solution Industries only sells through distribution, not direct to the end user, he noted.
“Then we’d apply some type of thread lock as well, or they might need a pellet or just a nylon patch or adhesive. If that were the case, we would private label it,” Devito said.
“The industry often says, ‘Here’s our carton, here’s our product. You’ve got to buy this many.’ We don’t do that. Our fit is whatever the customer wants, we do. If you want a million pieces packed one per with a bar code on it and your insignia, that’s what we do.”
Devito said that is where they have found their success, by creating a niche for themselves.
“A lot of these larger global companies have found it more cost effective for us to do this because there’s a lot of handling they don’t specialize in. The drive is for lean manufacturing. Everything’s lean. Well, we’re the opposite model of that, and we’re actually succeeding in this, so we’ve drawn some attention that way,” he said.
Solution Industries focuses more on the non-standard side of things. Devito said they can design a CAD drawing for a customer; a lot of the labs they use to test products are certified as 17025, so they can achieve all of the accreditations that would be needed. If there are certain PPAPs, or if there are certain requirements that a customer wants specifically for their PPAP, the company will do those things.
“I always tell people, ‘I’m going to fit in your box. I’m not trying to fit you in my box, so you tell us how it needs to be.’ We look at every customer individually — and every item specifically for that particular customer,” he said.
“We’ll continue to evolve, and we look to grow,” he explained. “We’re creating websites to be a little bit more friendly for the younger generation. Everybody says millennials in a bad way, but this new generation is not a bad thing. They’re already the largest living population and they’re going to change the industry — all industries — because they do things a little bit differently. We still need to cater to that. Then we have the old industry. It spans two centuries, so we have to gap the older generation.”
Devito is concerned about manufacturing losing its work force as people are retiring. Workers aged 45-54 represent the largest manufacturing age group, in the range of 3 million people.
“From 20-24, it’s like 1.15 million people, so how do you gap that?” he asked. “That’s one-third the number. Where is the manufacturer going to go at that point? It’s going to go overseas.”
The other issue is that some educators and parents think manufacturing is dirty and they push kids away from it as a career path. But Devito sees positivity in the end.
“Somebody has to do these trades. As the cycle goes, as those jobs become rarer and rarer, there will be more money coming to those jobs, so I hope it will start to cycle back,” he said. “In America, 80% of the GDP is service-oriented. As of 2017, only 12% was manufacturing. I know the current administration’s trying to change that, but we’re not going to be creating millions and millions of new manufacturing jobs. In my opinion, that ship has sailed. That’s just the bottom line.”
So how is the industry going to adjust? Instead of pushing away the younger generation, Devito thinks we need to embrace them. With youth comes more energy, he said. And future technology will change everything, he believes.
“They have better tools and technology’s there, the digital presence is always there. And 5G is coming. They’re saying in two or three years, that’s going to change the world,” Devito said. “Who’s to go against technology? It continues to prove itself.”