The ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ cocktail party may not have been the best place to discuss one’s occupation, but she asked. I answered, diplomatically and technically, at first. However, in my work, the description eventually gets down to the basics and then things can go ‘off the rails’. “I sell screws’”
“So, then, you’re the screw man”, she replied with a wink and a snicker.
“Yes, I guess you could say that, I am the screw man!”
That brief exchange about sums up my ‘not so formal’ introduction to our new neighbors. Thirty years old at the time and with an immature sense of humor, I thought it was funny. My wife, not so much.
Let me backup a bit. I worked for a fastener (screw) manufacturer in a northern Illinois city, Rockford, known as the ‘screw capital of the world’. No, not that, I learned later. It actually earned its moniker from the bevy of fastener (screw) manufacturers operating there, many that sprung from the original, the ‘granddaddy’ screw man, so to speak.
These manufacturing companies thrived for years, providing fasteners and other special metal parts to industries across the US for their cars and big trucks, compressors and air conditioners, aircraft and appliances, even toys. Just about everything that is held together used a threaded metal fastener, a screw, to do it.
Walking the factory floor of a compressor manufacturer, a vacuum cleaner company or an automotive parts supplier of air bags, fuel systems, frames and other components was an education in the magnitude of our US consumer driven economy. All these companies used our screws, by the millions, and the competition was fierce. It always is in sales.
As fastener manufacturer sales reps, I and a cadre of salespeople and engineers, spent countless hours in factories helping customers meet assembly challenges with a potpourri of specialty screw products, problem solvers.
Over years, I witnessed manufacturing and assembly go from manual to automation to robotic ‘pick & place’, from dirty assembly areas to clean room environments, from Made in America to made around the world. Manufacturing is a fascinating environment driven by costs and whims of customer wants and needs.
But ‘change is the only constant in life’*. The number of fastener plants has declined either through attrition or consolidation. Technology has lessened the demand for sales personnel with the advent of the e-commerce and even the reliable company brochure has moved online. Business can be done via phone calls, Zoom meetings snd webinars.
I’m out of the business, now. And while I might be considered a ‘dinosaur’, I can still look back at my manufacturing experience with satisfaction, knowing that at one time, I was ‘the screw man’.
To sales reps everywhere who ‘walk the floor’ …
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* Heraclitus, Greek philosopher…Wikipedia