Thirty years ago, John Radel decided to take a chance on the American dream. Rather than accept a job as a machinist with a well-known original equipment manufacturer, he launched his own business — and it started in his garage not far from Cleveland, Ohio.
“Based on my understanding, John was a well-known machinist and was offered a position with a fairly big OEM but, instead, sold his car for $500 and set-up shop in his garage. He had a couple of saws, a sander, drill press, grinder, and eventually a mill and threader…you know, the basics. And that’s how his company got started,” shares Frank DeVito, General Manager with Solution Industries (originally named, Royal Fasteners).
Radel is still with the company and began his career in the fastener industry in the mid-70s at Modform, a manufacturer of precision parts and custom fasteners. This was Plan B. Initially, Radel was recruited to the army in high school but, it seemed, he was destined for a different life path. He worked as a machinist for about a decade (and was mentored by Frank Patck, who Radel claims is the best in the biz) before taking on roles at a few other fastener distributors over the years, which broadened his experience.
According to DeVito, Radel began by offering machined and modified parts to regional MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) customers in his home shop. Later, he added the hard-to-find components and semi-standard parts, and zinc-plated sockets. It was a unique sector fulfilling a gap in the fastener industry.
“It was a good decision,” says DeVito. “The company continued to evolve and expand and still does today.” Although Solution Industries has mainly focused on secondary operations and customized parts, it’s also offered some products outside of machining to meet its customers’ needs. One example is the company’s line of sockets.
“It was considered somewhat quality taboo when the company first started electroplating sockets, but we always mitigated risks and ensured proper protocols,” he says. Electroplating high-tensile fasteners, such as socket products, can induce hydrogen embrittlement. “Now, we’re an AS9100 accredited, which is the aviation and aerospace standards.”
AS9100 is the international quality management system standard for the Aviation, Space, and Defense industry.
Eventually, in 2004, Radel moved from his garage to a 1,500-square-foot unit in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Over time, it went from one to 13 units, totaling just under 40,000 square feet. Most recently, it moved to a free-standing building in Strongsville, where the company services OEMs through global distributors in several sectors including in the automotive, aerospace, agriculture, energy, medical, and other critical application sectors.
“The new complex is on eight-and-a-half acres in what’s known as Northeast Ohio’s fastener row because of the number of major suppliers in the area,” explains DeVito. “We call our new complex, ‘Home of Solution Man.’” This fits with the company’s value system as it has always prided itself on solving projects and offering solutions for the non-standard, OEM-specific, per-printed special fasteners and components. It’s unlike most manufacturers or distributors in the industry.
“The easiest analogy I can offer is we’re like the Starbucks of the fastener industry,” he says. “If you want coffee beans from Brazil, froth from unsweetened Indonesian coconuts, and chocolate shavings from Belgium, we — much like Starbucks — meet those requests, but for customized products and services. The customer completely dictates what’s required, from start to finish.”
For Solution Industries, no detail is too small. Depending on the customer requirements, this includes material selection, the manufacturer or manufacturing process, chemical considerations (such as coatings and thread-lock features), product testing and documentation, and the final kitting and packaging requirements.
“What this means is that if you want us to purchase material from a manufacturer in Taiwan, send it to a coater in Chicago, and package it in Cleveland with a private label, barcode, and matching packing slip, we’ve got you covered,” explains DeVito. “We’re open to OEM-specification packaging requests, even down to the pallet size used to ship the parts on. In fact, more often than not, we can reduce the vendor base tenfold.”
Although customers are invited to provide their exact specifications, Solution Industries also offers diverse products and services meeting established standards to ensure the ideal product and supply-chain choices. The company routinely matches products and services to customers who seek its guidance at an early stage of an application’s development.
“We look at each item specifically, focusing on the ideal way to manufacture a part for a project. For example, is hot- or cold-form or machined the best manufacturing process? Stamped or cast manufacturing processes are available as well.” he says. The typical material options available are alloy, carbon, stainless steel, non-ferrous, and superalloys.
“Then, we’ll match this decision with our global supply base to find out where we should manufacturer it,” add DeVito. “Next, we consider the coating application, and so on. Though we prefer to handle the secondary processes in the U.S. when possible.”
Of course, each project is different, so the steps are unique to each customer’s application and requests. Solution Industries is also committed to making the most sustainable choices possible.
“Importantly, we’re never omitting quality steps or inspections. We do whatever’s possible to ensure that we provide high-quality products and services that meet all specifications,” he says.
Given the diversity of services and options Solution Industries offers, there are challenges it faces as it aims to continually grow and evolve.
“We’re always evolving, ensuring that we offer the most current and future-relevant products and services,” he says. “This also includes how we interact with customers and suppliers, transactionally, during the realization of a product, and even after it’s shipped and in its intended application.”
DeVito says it’s also critical for the company to maintain its connections and continually ensure the highest quality for its customers.
“We offer such a specialized niche, and our entire company is based on offering high-quality specials and secondary processes. While there’s some overlap between manufacturing and distribution within other fastener companies, I don’t know of any others that offer the diversity or full-service supply chain options that we do,” says DeVito. He’s been with the company for a little under a decade, but in the fastener industry for 29 years. “It’s an amazing mix of people and talent that makes Solution Industries truly unique.”