New technologies are influencing the future of manufacturing. 3D printing is one of the many examples of opportunities for the fastener industry that exists within the 4th industrial revolution. 2016 was the year with most fastener acquisition deals in 9 years. Global and technology shifts in the industrial sectors are contributing to deals being made. Unless companies can find ways to adapt and grow, the deals wildly rise in numbers. Fastener organizations are playing an important role in educating professionals and furthering the industry as a whole.
Women in the Fastener Industry (WIFI) is one of the major driving forces in making a difference. WIFI is a non-profit organization providing mentoring, networking and educational opportunities for women within the industry. Advancing women in the industry is the priority of WIFI. Women provide a lot of opportunity for a new perspective and growth moving forward.
We spoke with Rosa Hearn, the President of WIFI, about the how to tackle the challenges in the fastener industry, the biggest concerns, the importance of change in business, how fastener associations can work together, and what WIFI is doing to cultivate industry growth.
What are some of the challenges that the fastener industry is currently facing?
Hearn: All industries go through challenges. The solution is to broaden your perspective and continuously reinvent yourself and your organization. Many generations were lured into the field by promises of stability. Everyone will always need fasteners, but stability makes you stagnant. Even the most stable fastener companies have to think beyond the basic fastener scope to see growth.
What do you think is the most influential trend, concern, or shift happening in the fastener industry now?
Hearn: There is a lack of urgency is this industry to diversify. Some fastener companies are viewed as transactional entities. There are a handful of companies who can see the trend of e-commerce, non-fastener sales growth and Vending programs. As an industry, we need the thinking and the platform to change. Otherwise, some generations of fastener companies will no longer be around in the next 10 years.
How is your organization preparing to handle the changes occurring in the fastener industry?
Hearn: WIFI realized it needs to invest in a customized solution that addresses four main types of work: leadership, collaboration, socialization, and education. This will become even more necessary when you have different types of women having contrasting needs. This coupled with the preferences of four generations in the workplace, means it is even more imperative for WIFI to invest and create strategic benefits for women adjusting to the changing industry. Understanding these realities and responding to them with solutions, creates a win-win for WIFI and its members.
A lot of acquisitions took place in 2016; do you believe this trend will continue in 2017? How does this trend affect fastener associations?
Hearn:The consolidation trend will continue. Consolidation is occurring because of many reasons, but among them is lack of generational interest in taking over the family business, or struggling to find growth. What has kept our industry insulated (low-risk / stable / continuously needed products), is also keeping our industry back. To attract the best talent and growth, we need to embrace change and innovation. The future belongs to those who are not afraid to change it. Women in the Fastener Industry (WIFI) are a non-profit association. Throughout the year we provide our members with events that accelerate and promote our mission. The association charges a small fee for inclusion into the association. However, we must recruit sponsors to help us with incentives and benefits for our members. As mergers and acquisitions continue to trend, we are hard pressed to find creative ways to obtain funding. As a result, WIFI has introduced “WIFI Wearables”! WIFI members receive a $5 discount. 100% of the proceeds will be used to promote the advancement of women working in the fastener industry. We also partnered with companies like Proferred.com & Tupperware where a percentage of the proceeds of the sale will be donated to WIFI.
What do you believe is important for fastener companies to do in order to stay competitive and maintain a successful business?
Hearn: Change! But change is a funny animal. Everyone talks about change in an inspiring “me-too” attitude, but in actual fact, people are terrified of change. Change threatens your self-value as it threatens your experience. Experience is as valuable to growing your business as it is detrimental in keeping your business from growing. Experience is inertia. The weight of 30-40 years of experience can keep you from seeing opportunities that otherwise an inexperienced person can see. In order to utilize experience effectively, you need to recognize the liability potential and work to mitigate it from your thinking. Reinventing is about asking questions. It starts with you. It starts with being curious. It’s no surprise that growth happens to people who ask questions. You need to hire different types of people, think of new ways to market and sell your services, and most importantly, deploy new methods for delivery. Customers will always demand great service, but their expectations about what that means are changing. Responsiveness and sound advice still matter, but so do effective uses of technology, defined and disciplined processes, explore new product trends, and comfort making decisions based on data.
How could fastener organizations work together to advance the fastener industry?
Hearn: WIFI is already a proud member of The Fastener Industry Coalition (FIC), an organization made up of regional, national and educational fastener associations. There is a lot of collaboration and partnering between associations thanks to FIC. WIFI and the members of FIC are proud to announce and sponsor our first combined event” The Fastener Summit”. It is being held in conjunction with the MWFA’s Fastener Tech Show in Rosemount IL and will feature industry related speakers.
What programs/benefits does your organization provide to members to enhance their experience?
Hearn: WIFI is a non-profit organization that provides mentoring, networking and educational opportunities for women employed in the industrial fastener industry. As a member, you receive a monthly newsletter, participate in our monthly book giveaway, and apply to our scholarship programs. Members also have opportunities to attend free or discounted events, be featured at our WIFI@Work series, and volunteer to be on the board of directors or write a blog post to enhance their leadership abilities. WIFI members are encouraged to participate in our member’s forum to connect with other WIFI members and receive discounts from online retailers at a discounted price and use WIFI’s Nonprofit Job Board to find their next position.
Can you tell us more about your organization’s scholarship opportunities?
Hearn: WIFI has two scholarships this year. The Ann Bisgyer Wolz Scholarship which provides tuition for the Fastener Training Institute (FTI) and the Edith Cameron Scholarship which provides funds to attend the National Industrial Fastener & Mill Supply Expo in Las Vegas. The board and its members are currently discussing adding two more scholarships (Fastener Tech and Fastener Fair USA) to our scholarship program. Members may sign in at the member’s forum to discuss the particulars and vote.
Tell us more about the programs you have scheduled for 2017.
Hearn: We are excited to announce a WIFI event at Fastener Tech ’17. Join us for an interactive session with Michael Simpson, ED.D., to get a look inside the art and science of talent development. This event is free to members on June 6th from 11am-12pm in Rosemount, IL. Also free to members is our event in Southern California on August 4th in Santa Fe Springs – stay tuned for more details on that event. You may also join us at NIFMSE for an interactive session with author and public speaker, Lanie Denslow. Recognizing cultural differences and how they play a role in business is critical to success in today’s global economy. Learn how to avoid costly mistakes and missed opportunities.
Be sure to visit the WIFI web site: www.fastenerwomen.com