Lorie Russo tells how a company that started out by inventing the first camera for aerial pictures has grown in leaps and bounds, far outpacing its competition in the manufacture of fastener products.
No one can accuse Fairchild Fasteners of Dulles, Va., of being stingy when it comes to its product line. In fact, the company has developed the most extensive line of fasteners in the industry for markets such as aerospace, automotive, industrial and maritime. As its slogan says, Fairchild has a “passion for keeping things together.”
Sherman Mills Fairchild founded the company, which now enjoys a 40 percent market share and annual sales closing in on $630 million, in 1920. Fairchild was one of the major pioneers in aviation. He developed the high-speed, between-the-lens shutter for aerial cameras, making accurate aerial mapping possible for the first time, and built the first commercially successful cabin monoplane. Between 1927 and 1930, the company constructed more than 300 of its FC-2 series, becoming the nation’s largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft. Fairchild also was the first in the United States to produce a turbine-powered airliner for commercial service. By 1938, Fairchild had become a major supplier to the aviation industry. By 1960, Fairchild was also playing an integral role in building satellites for NASA.
First in Fastening
Fairchild was first in fastener design innovation and the first in advanced, dedicated fastener technology. In fact, the first submarine to explore the North Pole and break through the polar ice cap was equipped with a telescope that included parts now sold by Fairchild Fasteners. Fairchild also manufactured the first fasteners to help transmit space pictures and, during the course of the Apollo 11 mission, televised pictures were relayed back to earth through antennae attached by parts now sold by Fairchild Fasteners.
Through strategic positioning, Fairchild has set itself at the forefront of product precision, dependability and quality, setting the pace with an unwavering commitment to providing customers with the best value in quality service and products. Through carefully planned acquisitions of companies such as Simmonds, Mecaero, AS&C and SNEP in Europe and Kaynar Technologies and Special-T in the United States, Fairchild has continued to complement and increase the breadth of its broad product line.
In the aerospace and industrial markets, Fairchild has become a premier provider of specialty fastening systems. The company manufactures the strong, absolutely reliable fasteners crucial to the airframes and engines of today, and designs these products to operate in hostile environments. It is Fairchild’s mission to provide fasteners that possess even greater inherent dependability than called for by the most rigorous specifications. Fairchild’s carefully assembled teams of skilled craftsmen give care and attention to each phase of manufacturing. These teams perform constant checks to demanding standards, using sophisticated testing apparatus and unique quality-assurance methods.
Among Fairchild’s ever-evolving offerings of high-tech products is the Marson line of fasteners, the industry’s broadest collection of blind fasteners for industrial and automotive applications. The company’s easy-to-use Klik-Fast® rivets come in nine styles, and are structured from steel, aluminum and copper; brass combinations are also available for use in fastening two or more pieces of materials of varying thickness.
Fairchild’s Klik-Fast® rivets are widely used throughout various OEM markets, including assembly and fabrication operations, plant maintenance shops and design and development departments. These rivets have extensive applications, including aircraft, appliances, automotive, business machines, camping and outdoor equipment, construction, farming, furniture, HVAC, lighting, marine, manufactured housing, medical, plastics assembly, recreation, transportation and toys.
For the aerospace industry, Fairchild designs and manufactures fasteners with the strength and reliability vital to today’s racing chassis and engines. These products include Fairchild’s pin systems, such as the Eddie-Bolt® 2 fastening system, which provides a permanent, structural, high-performance fastening solution that contributes to overall structural integrity. Its elegant, simple design provides a positive, mechanical thread lock with no frangible parts, which is equally effective in interference and clearance fit holes.
In addition to a highly designed, state-of-the-art line of fluid fittings and adapters, studs, screws and recesses, blind-bolt fasteners, panel fasteners and its exclusive line of high-strength, multi-use composite thread inserts, Fairchild provides a family of ergonomically designed ratcheting and ultra-lightweight hold-down systems. These systems are built to resist extremes of shock and vibration, while allowing quick-change capability. Fairchild provides a variety of tension, pawl and flush-mounted latches, and also manufactures a broad range of aerospace tooling, including gauges, hand and power tools for installation and removal.
Picking up Speed
In the area of auto racing, Fairchild’s product line proves to be as tough as the open road. The company’s products designed specially for the auto racing industry include high-strength studs, with a solid one-piece design that provides strong, permanent metallic-threaded attachment points in all types of base materials. Fairchild’s CrimpRing® captive screws feature unparalleled design requiring only a squeeze to mount the retaining ring on the screw. The company also produces a wide variety of recess drives for standard, externally threaded products. These include the Torq-Set® recess fasteners systems, which provide torque-light, tamperproof screw or bolt performance.
Fairchild’s high-performance bolts meet and exceed the exacting requirements of racing chassis and engine environments. The company supplies very high-resistance bolts for connecting rods and crankshaft mains. Bolts manufactured from exotic materials are commonplace at Fairchild, which also offers special bolts to serve in critical areas such as hot sections of the engine, which demand high-temperature service.
For the racing industry Fairchild also provides secure, high-strength latches, nuts for high-speed efficiency, leak-free fluid fittings, adapters and tooling. The company can also provide custom designs to meet exacting requirements, both in inch and metric sizes. In the consumer automobile industry, Fairchild has developed many technical products, including “hardtop” fasteners, for many European vehicles.
Continuing to focus on meeting customer needs, Fairchild makes its products available and easy to order on the Internet. Its VendFast™ computer-controlled system streamlines stock inventory and procurement processes 24 hours a day. Through secure online chain management processes, VendFast™ dramatically reduces administration and floor time while increasing supply-chain security and control. The system offers significant cost reductions in personnel, inventory and, through improved data control, product wastage and billing errors.
For all of its clientele, Fairchild has strategically positioned customer-support centers throughout the United States and Europe, which carry a vast array of stock based on current and anticipated customer forecasts of need. Fairchild also offers the Direct Line Feed Program, an ongoing analysis and forecasting of part requirements and inventory replenishment forecasts, including spares. Customers are provided an electronic notification of all replenishment transactions. The program’s value-added logistical services include trolley systems, kanban applications, part warehousing, packaging at Fairchild facilities and the transport of parts through Fairchild’s network. Technical support is always on call to answer any question.
With cost-efficiency in mind, Fairchild has embarked on an internal program of lean manufacturing, which it sees as a highly effective way of rejuvenating its manufacturing processes. Through this innovative program, Fairchild adjusts or corrects situations that adversely affect the successful completion of a task. Each of Fairchild’s three North American facilities has a management team responsible for implementing the principles of lean manufacturing. Each team meets on a regular basis, and the company’s Guidance Committee ensures that all team members benefit from lean manufacturing. Vice President of Operations Greg Harwell says, “It aids the company in becoming an active shaper that defines the world of today and tomorrow.”
“Fairchild is setting a new standard that other companies will be benchmarked against,” says Fran Lampman, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. “We are constantly modifying and improving our products, support and services to allow our customers to satisfy their technical needs, and still drive costs out of their fastener system deployment.”
The company’s internal processes, in conjunction with its enhanced sales focus, are simply more steps in Fairchild’s constantly evolving drive to offer the best fastener systems in the industry, according to President Eric Steiner. “Our products are high-tech, but they are still a commodity. We have to consistently look at what we are offering our customers. The way the world does business is changing, and we have to be prepared to change what we are selling.”