April Terreri unlocks the story of MacLean-Fogg, which uses its engineering expertise and focused-factory approach to maintain its leading role in manufacturing high-performance fasteners and components.
For more than 75 years, MacLean-Fogg has built a reputation on carefully listening to customers and effectively providing value engineering that works. “Our principle focus is to offer our customers innovative product solutions,” says Tim Taylor, president of MacLean Fastener and Components Company. “We are principally a manufacturing and engineering company, and we take an engineered approach to design and manufacturing our products.”
Distinguished as the largest producer of female fasteners in North America, MacLean Fastener and Components Company is based in Mundelein, Ill. Its product line includes all-metal lock nuts, nylon insert lock nuts, locking fastener systems, shaft components, precision screw-machine components and specialty insert-molded components.
MacLean Power Systems Company is based in Franklin Park, Ill. It manufactures connectors, insulators, pole hardware and other components for the worldwide electric power distribution industry. MacLean-Fogg is the parent for both companies and is headed by Barry L. MacLean, chairman and chief executive officer.
MacLean-Fogg traces its roots to the early part of the 20th century. Founded in 1925 in Chicago by Barry MacLean’s grandfather, John MacLean, the company started by offering an engineered fastening solution to the railroad industry. MacLean-Fogg established itself around a single product vital to the railroad industry. The MacLean No. 1 Lock Nut was designed and engineered to prevent railroad car joints from rattling loose. This innovative product led to the further development of many patented locking fasteners still used today. The M-F Floor Clip, Water-Tight Bolt and MacLean-Fogg Whiz-Lock Nuts are part of this lasting heritage.
The MacLean-Fogg Whiz-Lock Nut outperforms any serrated lock nut found in the market today. Tests performed last year proved the Whiz-Lock Nuts to be the only nuts that required more breakaway torque than application torque. The key to any free-spinning lock nut is found in its breakaway torque. If the breakaway torque is equal to or less than the application torque, the nut is not locking. The Whiz-Lock Nut requires more than 30 percent more torque to remove than to apply. MacLean-Fogg’s attention to detail and quality is the fastening bond of this successful company.
Although MacLean-Fogg still manufactures these original products, the company is now solving problems for customers worldwide in such diverse industries as agriculture, appliances, automotive, heavy-duty truck, recreational, marine, lawn and garden, electronic and electric power distribution — almost everywhere in which loosening is a problem.
The company has maintained a leadership position in the fastener and components market due to a customer-based focus. Its philosophy is finding value-engineering solutions to customer problems. The company focuses on providing customers with opportunities to lower in-place costs, improve reliability and continuously enhance the ultimate finished product. The company’s reputation is built upon its ability to create technologically advanced solutions backed by low-cost production methods.
Today, MacLean-Fogg is one of the fastest growing companies in the fastener industry. It has the products, the people, the facilities, the performance and the technical expertise to do an excellent job for every customer, large or small. It’s an energetic organization of lively people, supported by a management commitment to invest in the ideas and equipment that enable the company to be a leader in product, service and quality at competitive prices.
In 1995, MacLean-Fogg acquired the Elastic Stop Nut Corporation of America, and created MacLean-ESNA. The combination created a powerhouse with the industry’s widest range of all-metal lock nuts, free-spinning lock nuts, nylon-insert lock nuts, military standard lock nuts, wheel nuts, component parts and precision screw-machine parts. Today, MacLean-ESNA offers capabilities unparalleled in the fastener industry.
Locking into an Idea
The ESNA story also began during the early 20th century. In 1927, a young engineer named Carl Arthur Swanstrom came to this country from Sweden with a license to manufacture and sell a unique new self-locking fastener. The inventor called the new fastener an “Elastic Stop Nut” because the nut remained “stopped” anywhere along the bolt threads. A non-damaging insert fitted into the top of the nut gripped the bolt threads firmly, holding the nut in position without seating against the work or using secondary locking devices.
Swanstrom spent his first few years in this country perfecting an automatic assembly machine to insert the locking device into the top of the nut. He achieved that goal in the early 1930s. Only four years later, the Elastic Stop Nut Corporation of America (ESNA) was founded. Manufacturers of every type of equipment had long been seeking a threaded fastener that was able to positively resist the loosening effect of vibration. The Elastic Stop Nut proved to be the answer, being totally reliable and able to reduce maintenance costs and prevent equipment failure. The outstanding performance of the Elastic Stop Nut was further substantiated in 1943, when the Air Force tested and issued the first approval letter to use ESNA fasteners on military aircraft, both in fuselages and in engines. During World War II, billions of Elastic Stop Nuts were produced for every branch of the armed services. A staggering number of applications followed, involving ground support and electronic equipment.
In the years that followed, the ESNA line of standard products expanded to more than 25,000 parts. “ESNA’s engineers wrote the book on red nylon-insert lock nuts,” says Nick Penney, director of industrial sales. “In fact, today the industry uses ESNA’s product specifications as the industry standards. The difference still comes through our manufacturing and engineering. Our red nylon products continuously outperformed the competition in vibration performance and breakaway torque.” The ESNA product sizes range from # 2 diameter to 3-inch internal diameter lock nuts.
New types of self-locking fasteners were engineered into the product line. Among the new products were the Eslok, a self-locking hex nut for low-cost commercial grade applications; and the Collarlock, a hex nut with 360-degree bonded nylon collars for high-speed automatic assembly techniques. ESNA also developed all-metal lock nuts for applications with high heat or weight-reduction requirements. The clinch and spline nuts were engineered to speed production and improve the quality of fastening in metal applications.
MacLean-ESNA is located in Pocahontas, Ark., and offers several unique manufacturing capabilities. Its most recent investments into manufacturing equipment are a Mitsubishi Super Dry Hob Cutting System, series GN10A, and a1000 QC Gear Inspection System. The new gear hobbing adds greatly to the new product capabilities the company can offer. The ESNA plant has 61 of the following precision screw machines: Davenports (including an oversized Davenport), 1-inch Acme, 15/8-inch Acme, 2-inch Acme, 25/8-inch Acme, 31/2-inch Acme and 4-inch Acme.
MacLean-ESNA’s diversified line of reliable fastener products has provided the company with a solid foundation for long-term stability and future growth. The ESNA product line is found in aerospace products, appliances, automotive products, agricultural equipment, heavy equipment, mining equipment, marine products, military products, recreational products and electrical assemblies of all types.
Using the strengths of all the MacLean-Fogg companies, each manufacturing facility is small enough to take a focused-factory approach while being supported by the greater strengths of all, so that the company can meet any engineering challenge. “Each of our companies is certified ISO 9000 and QS 9000, and is run as an independent profit center. We use the strengths from all of our manufacturing centers and use their combined capabilities to offer the broadest range of engineered lock nut products,” says Penney.
MacLean-Fogg’s combination of engineered solutions and efficient delivery from small focused factories is best illustrated by the example of an OEM customer. “The problem they faced was that the existing suspension link they had available was too heavy to meet their weight requirements,” Taylor explains. “They needed a lightweight yet cost-effective design for their application. We set our corporate engineers to the task in a skunk-works project. They designed an aluminum and plastic composite assembly that performed a function previously performed by a heavy, steel-welded assembly. We cut the weight of the product by 40 percent, cut the cost by about 20 percent and utilized the technologies of our various facilities. Each of the plants provided their focused product technology to this assembly.” In the end, MacLean-Fogg delivered the finished product to the customer less than 12 months after first receiving the challenge.
Investment in People
The company’s 1,800 employees are an integral part of the success formula. MacLean-Fogg is committed to providing continued education and training to its work force. Each facility invests at least 2 percent of the hours employees work in employee training and development. “It really pays off in productivity, profitability and retention of our employees,” says Taylor.
Flexibility is the key to success in today’s business environment. The combined facilities firmly position MacLean-Fogg to serve a wide array of customer requirements, from producing millions of manufactured parts for one customer to producing just a few thousand parts for another customer.
MacLean-Fogg plans to continue to grow in sales and in profitability through acquisitions, by creating partnerships and by expanding the range of product offerings. The company will look for new ideas and products to satisfy customer needs and requests. The foundation of an engineered approach to solve customer problems is as alive today as when the company began.