and bolts of manufacturing
Owner: David M. Hirsch, president and CEO
Type of Business: Industrial fastener distributor and
Location: Headquartered at 327 Pine St., Pawtucket (with
locations in eight other states and a specialty manufacturing
location in Fall River)
Year Founded: 1882
Employees: 65 in Pawtucket; 100 in New England; 200 nationwide
Annual Sales: WND
Vertex Fasteners has come a long way in its 122-year history. The Pawtucket-based company manufactured nuts and bolts for weaving machines during the later years of the Industrial Revolution, supplied bolts for the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, and now makes fasteners for todays electronics and industrial uses.
Were the thing that holds things together, said David M. Hirsch, the companys president and CEO.
We are a true nuts-and-bolts company, added Mark Alperin, executive vice president and COO.
The company is one of the oldest continuous manufacturers of fasteners in the country. It distributes and manufactures nuts, bolts, screws and washers to exact standards, and manufactures specialty fasteners in a facility in Freetown, Mass.
Its still something that they dont do well overseas and needs American know-how, Hirsch said of the specialty division.
Vertex supplies customers with 12,000 corrosion-resistant and metric items, not including the custom orders. There are five industry applications for the corrosion-resistant products: petroleum processing (gas and chemicals), food processing, chemical processing, electronics and marine use and environmental control (wastewater treatment facilities).
With petroleum, we supply nuts and bolts for everything from the drilling rigs out in the ocean to the pipelines and refinery, Alperin said.
All of that is extremely corrosive, all of the oil and chemicals going through the pipes, so you need bolts that wont corrode, Hirsch said.
Through its acquisition of Zelenda Metric in 1995, Vertex now offers more than 50,000 metric fasteners, which are widely used in the global marketplace, through its catalog.
In his 32 years as president and CEO, Hirsch has seen lots of changes within the company and the industry, the company now imports the majority of its fasteners and makes a small portion, but one thing that has never changed is the companys focus on delivering the product in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
Reducing those costs (of shipping the product) gives us the competitive edge, Alperin said.
Its a long road for the fasteners. Products are manufactured in Taiwan, brought to port and shipped. The shipment has to clear U.S. Customs and have all the necessary paperwork, then it leaves the U.S. port and is trucked to Vertexs warehouses and distribution centers.
To manage that is quite a complex task, Hirsch said. One little element can delay all of that.
When Hirsch first arrived at Vertex, 95 percent of its business was manufacturing these parts. Now, the company imports 95 percent and manufactures the rest. Hirsch said the move was something Vertex had to do to stay in business.
We started to import in 1975. We only made the threaded product (like screws and nuts), Hirsch said. Japan was a major manufacturer and they were also expanding. The more we learned about it, the more we learned that as a company in a global marketplace, we had to adapt. We couldnt hold back the tidal wave.
The majority of the fasteners come from Asia, with a small portion from India, Hirsch said. Vertex supplies companies like Carrier air conditioners, Toro lawn mowers, Freightliner trucks, EMC disk drives and other electronics companies, municipal waste treatment plants, restaurants, fast-food chains and the marine industry.
In 2002, Main Street Resources, a private equity firm in Westport, Conn., purchased then-Pawtucket Fasteners with the plan to expand the companys products through acquisitions.
Besides its Pawtucket location, Vertex also has distribution sites in Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Fall River, Houston, Los Angeles, New Bedford and Tampa. The acquisition of California-based West-Spec fasteners last year added distribution centers in Atlanta and Dallas, and the company changed its name to Vertex to reflect its acquisitions. (The company also acquired Bell Fasteners in 1976 and Stillwater Fasteners in 1979.)
While Hirsch and Alperin said the company isnt impacted by overseas competition they see us as a good customer the company has profited from the increasing steel prices.
In the last six or seven months (the price has) gone up, but before that it was extremely low, and when its that low its below whats economically good for everyone, Alperin said. I think its gone back to a decent level to where everyone can make a return. Its good for the industry. (But) were in a different place because we import it.
Hirsch added that fasteners also make up a very small amount of the total cost when youre building something like a boat, so spending a few more cents on a bag of screws usually doesnt deter anyone.
As for outsourcing and overseas competition, Hirsch sees it as a plus for the national economy.
Its transferring jobs that can be done more efficiently over
there, he said.