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Connecting With the Past

Consider: Ford Motor Company announces a not-significant loss.

Consider: Ford Motor Company announces a not-significant loss. A new management team is in place. Purchasing is working hard to reduce costs wherever it can, such as replacing die castings with stampings, coming up with less-costly wheels, and minimizing logistics wherever possible.

While this sounds like Ford circa right now, Jeff Steiner, executive vice president, Tinnerman (www.tinnerman.com; Southfield, MI), a company founded as Tinnerman Stove in 1870, hands me a color copy of yellowed magazine pages: It is from Time magazine, November 25, 1946. There are areas of the item titled “The Penny Attacks” circled in what appears to be pencil. “Those markings were done by George Tinnerman II,” Steiner says. He goes on to explain that the grandson of the company’s founder decided that they had a product that could help save Ford money. Steiner hands me a second copy, this one similarly yellow. It is a page from the November 1947 issue of Fortune magazine. It describes how George Tinnerman, having figured that his company’s fastener could save Ford money, went into the office of then-Ford vice president and director of Purchasing Albert J. Browning, and pitched the company’s product, the SpeedNut. Tinnerman argued that by replacing spot welds with fasteners for attaching the fenders to the vehicle the company would realize a savings—based on reduced labor, floor space, and inventory—on the order of $3 million per year. Tinnerman got the order and Ford achieved the savings.

Fast forward to December 2006. Once again, it is Ford. This time, rather than a fastener, the product is an anti-chuck striker that was engineered for the Ford Explorer. Although the piece cost for the striker is nearly double of what had been used, due to the elimination of several ancillary parts, reduction in the cost of some associated elements, and a lessened assembly labor requirement, Ford is saving 51% on the application.

Tinnerman, Steiner explains, is recommending companies take a systemic or wider-angle view at the cost of fasteners or fastening systems. When labor, warranty, engineering, and other aspects are taken into account, the actual piece cost for the fastener is but a small portion of the overall cost.

While the company has more than 2,000 standard fasteners (Palnuts, roof clips, stamped nuts, clamps) and is recognized by many interior engineers for the push nuts designed for instrument panel installation, the company is working toward more specifically engineered products for “attachment and closure solutions,” as part of the firm’s mission statement has it. Joe Ponteri, Tinnerman president and CEO, points out that while the company has plenty of stamping capability—as many of the clips and fasteners produced start out as sheet yet are transformed into relatively complex forms—but the objective is “not to sell press capacity.” Rather, they’re looking to provide money–saving solutions, in keeping with the precedent set some 60 years ago.

Here’s an interesting consideration: the SpeedNut was developed by Albert Tinnerman, the son and father of the two aforementioned members of the family. The company was experiencing a problem with over-torqued fasteners on the stoves it produced. Specifically, when the stoves were being shipped, there was no play in the connectors such that porcelain was cracking. The SpeedNut eliminated the problem.—GSV