Industry News

Cooling Inflation and Improving Supply Chains

Cooling Inflation and Improving Supply Chains:

Lessons from the Chaos


The latest inflation report from the Fed shows that inflation continues to cool. This year through May, overall U.S. consumer prices rose 4%, not including the volatile markets of food and energy (core CPI was 5.33%). This is the slowest rate of growth in more than two years. Still, it is twice the rate of what was considered normal growth before the pandemic. Steel prices, which matter acutely to companies in fastener industry and our supply chains, remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

But the good news is that inflation is trending in the right direction. And most economists predict that it will continue to moderate. Similar to cooling inflation, disruptions to supply chains, while still persistent in many sectors, are beginning, and should continue, to lessen. Given the cause-and-effect relationship between supply chain disruption and inflation, it makes sense that healthier supply chain would go hand-in-hand with inflation reduction.

Given these positive developments, it may be tempting to settle into a more complacent, less proactive mentality in terms of spending and supply chain management. While the Fed has not ruled out interest rate hikes and inflation is still a concern, we are looking toward a (hopefully) more stabilized economy. Here are some key lessons that we should take with us from this period of extreme disruption:

Quality Matters

To ensure a robust and healthy supply chain, you must have quality product. Sometimes, this means paying more money, but the return that you will get is worth it. The costs of poor quality are about more than just dollars; poor quality creates a timing disruption as well. It is important to have quality suppliers with meticulous control plans and fair labor practices, quality customers who are financially secure and share your values, and quality team members who care about the company and are engaged in the culture.

A team member inspects a part for quality assurance


Diversity is Paramount

It goes without saying that companies should not rely on a single source for any product they bring in. Diversity also matters in terms of customer base. A company serving many industries is more likely to survive a range of economic downturns because most economic slumps are industry-specific.


Invest in your People

Inflation has caused wages to go up as well. The average salary bump is now about 5%, as opposed to 2 or 3% previously. For employers, this may feel like just another rising expense, but paying your people fair wages that meet the demands of the time is important. A well-compensated, well-appreciated worker is more likely to be an engaged and loyal worker.

Fastco team members celebrate at a cookout.

Certainly, more lessons can be added to this list, but these are three that have mattered to Fastco, our supply chain, and our community. What lessons has your company learned post-pandemic?



Industry News

Fastener Manufacturing Growth

It has been a rough couple years, especially for many of us in the fastener manufacturing business. Is there a hope on the horizon?

Supply Chain Woes Led to Slow Fastener Manufacturing Growth

In the last five years, the fastener manufacturing industry has only grown 0.1% on average per year. Obviously, the global COVID-19 pandemic was a large factor in this decrease. In addition, the global chip shortage has crippled supply chains, particularly in the automotive sector. For many fastener manufacturers, automotive makes up a substantial portion of business. For Fastco, we have historically seen automotive make up more than 95% of our business. Currently, automotive makes up around 80% of our business.

With auto industry continuing to limp along, it is no wonder that fastener manufacturing growth has been much slower than the rest of the US economy and even the manufacturing sector as a whole.

Fastener Manufacturing Growth for 2023 and Beyond

But we are beginning to see a shift in the forecast.  The latest report on the industrial fastener market from Spherical Insights & Consulting projects that the industry will grow from $86.62 billion in 2021 to $146.3 billion by 2030. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%.

While a 6% CAGR isn’t fantastic, it is definitely stable. And for a large and established industry as a whole, it’s nothing to scoff at. The growth of industrial fasteners as a whole exceeds the 5 year projected growth of the auto industry itself.

So what industries are stepping in to fill in the gaps and help grow fastener manufacturing?

Some obvious heavy hitters are solar (20.5% CAGR, growing to a $223.3 billion industry by 2026) and construction (7.3% CAGR from now through 2029).

Within the auto industry itself, we are also seeing a forecasted annual growth of 25.4% from 2021 – 2028 in the electric vehicle sub-sector.

Diversification in Industries Served

While one could argue that it is always a good time to be thinking about diversification, the argument is particularly poignant right now. Companies should work to diversify the industries they serve, the products/services they offer, and the subcontractors they utilize in their supply chains. Diversification leads to stability. Sure, it may not protect a company from a global recession, but it will certainly help them weather industry-specific crises.

At Fastco, 82% of the new business we have won in 2022 is for industries outside of the automotive sector, including solar, construction, agriculture, material handling, and industrial equipment. We have also been able to provide solutions to customers looking to shore-up supply chains or dual-source products.

As we look to the future and the industry growth projected, we are excited to see more growth on the horizon.

Industry News Manufacturing

The Growth of Solar Manufacturing

For more than 50 years, Fastco’s primary industry has been automotive. As we look to diversify our products, we’ve moved into supplying fasteners for the construction, material handling, agriculture, and furniture industries. Now, we’re launching full-steam (full-sun?) ahead into supplying fasteners for solar panel manufacturing.


Renewable Energy

Renewable energy solutions are the future. The climate crisis has proved that reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable. Companies are working on energy solutions and setting target dates for net zero emissions.

In the solar renewable energy sector, there are both individual and corporate tax credits and other incentives available for people and companies that install solar panels. These incentives were enhanced with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Solar Manufacturing Panels Installed on a Roof

Solar Panel Manufacturing Growth

In the first half of 2022 in the US, solar accounted for 39% of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the country’s power grid. If not for ongoing supply chain constraints, we would be seeing even more robust growth.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will be a catalyst for continued growth over the next 5 years, with an anticipated increase of 40% in solar deployment from 2023-2027. As a result, there will be a tripling of the US’s solar energy capacity.


Solar Panel Fasteners

At Fastco, we are seeing a boom in the number of solar fastener requests for quote and new business awards we receive. For solar installations, austenitic stainless steels like 302 or 304 are often preferred due the durability. Other steels can be used, typically with a zinc-nickel or such similar coating as Magni 565.

rivet for solar manufacturing

It is clear that we are on the cusp of a big boom in the solar panel manufacturing field. Fastco is excited to be a part of this industry’s growth. Fasteners are essential components in almost all fields. They hold the world together (literally!), and we love seeing our fasteners used in ways that improve our planet.


Industry News

It’s a Great Time to Be an Employee

It’s a Great Time to Be an Employee

by Bruce Tap

Why is it a great time to be an employee?


Employees Rock - It is a great time to be an employee with 7 different award-winning employees.

Right now, there are rumors of a recession or a business slowdown. But unlike the Great Recession of 2008/2009, the unemployment and job outlook right now looks promising. In fact, most experts argue that the remainder of the 2020s will be an era of increased opportunities for employees. The importance of employee recruitment and retention in this era cannot be understated.  To give you a sense of the environment that most businesses are facing when it comes to attracting employees, let me give you a few statistics:

  1. For every person looking for work right now, there are two positions available.
  2. There are more than 11 million jobs available right now in the United States.
  3. In a recent survey, 77% of corporate executives surveyed indicated that hiring and talent retention would be critical to their company’s growth in 2022 and beyond.
  4. 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day, seven days a week. This phenomenon will continue until 2029.  At this time, almost all Baby Boomers will have left the work arena.

Are there enough Millennials and Gen Zs in the pipeline to replace the Baby Boomers?  There are not. As a result, the rest of this decade will be challenging for those employers looking for talent.  In other words, there is going be a war for talent during the next several years.  Employers will undoubtedly have to pay more to attract talent, but there will also be a focus on building organizations and cultures that will attract and retain employees.  Hence, as the title suggests, it will be a good time to be an employee.


The Three “Shuns” 

Three concepts will be important in solving the employment crisis of the 2020s:  Automation, Immigration, and Appreciation.


Many companies try to implement automation when there are worker shortages.  Many employees are fearful of automation because it leads to job loss; however, when there are not enough workers, it makes sense to look at automating some of the simplest jobs as well as jobs that involve lifting and other ergonomic challenges.



Immigration may also be a tool in the job shortage tool kit.  While this is a politically sensitive topic, many business leaders will probably make the case that relaxing immigration quotas will be a smart thing to do in the long run.  If there are both skilled and unskilled jobs that cannot be filled by U. S. citizens, it makes sense to make it possible to fill these positions with foreign workers.  This will also alleviate the imbalance that we have in some of our social service funding mechanisms.  Simply put, we need more workers to pay into social security and Medicare to take pressure off these programs.



Finally, there is appreciation.  Employees are going to stay with the organizations that treat them the best.  The best, however, will not be just wages, although they are important, but a whole gamut of benefits.  In addition to wages, these benefits will include health and other insurance, improved working conditions, paid time off, schedule flexibility, and a host of other privileges, perks, and incentives.  In a very real sense, there will be a war for talent and the companies that win this war will be the ones who appreciate their employees and show them that appreciation on a regular basis and through a variety of enhanced benefit packages.

Fastco team

As Fastco heads into this decade, we are ready to win the war for talent.  That is why we are trying to improve our health benefits.  That is why we are doing things like employee surveys.  That is why, finally, we are trying to increase our celebrations and recognitions of employee successes and contributions.  Employees are the key to our company’s success. And every day, we should let them know.

Industry News Manufacturing

The Benefits of Bulk Ordering

When it comes to buying in bulk, the old adage “the more you buy, the more you save” holds true across many industries. For cold heading manufacturers, the benefits of bulk ordering are especially significant.

That’s because cold heading is a bulk manufacturing process. But what exactly does that mean? It means we need to produce quantities of about 50,000 (although this can vary between 25,000 and 100,000 pieces, depending on the part size) or more at one time to be cost-effective.

There are two main reasons for this:

The upfront cost of cold heading tooling and development.

Our cold heading tooling averages between $2,000 and $6,000 to initially produce. If you are only making a one-time, low-volume purchase, you may end up paying this cost upfront or amortized over the smaller volume run. If you are ordering in large volumes for long-term jobs, Fastco does not charge for or amortize upfront tooling. The tooling is perishable and wears out over time, so there are ongoing tooling costs over the life of a long-running job. However, this is all part of the expense of manufacturing the part, and is not impacted by lot size or estimated annual usage.

Cold heading tooling in a shuttle in Fastco's tool room.
Cold heading tooling in a shuttle in Fastco’s tool room.

Initial development time is the other piece of the upfront cost. Our engineers have to work through how cold heading progression should work on the machine. This brings us to the next expense.


The machine setup time in cold heading.

While upfront costs are expensive, the biggest reason cold heading is considered a bulk process is the machine setup time. This is an ongoing expense that occurs with every order. True, the initial machine setup time on a brand new part might be longer than the average set up time for an established part. Still, the setup time will always be there.

Machine setup times are typically between 3 and 8 hours. Setup costs per hour, including labor, are between $100 and $120. This means a setup costs between $300 and $1,000 per job. If the job is 250,000 parts, the cost impact is negligible. If the job is only 10,000 parts, the cost of a setup will likely be higher than the cost of material. It could easily double or triple the overall cost of the part.

Senior setup techs work on setting up a cold heading job
Senior setup techs work on setting up a cold heading job.


Beyond cold heading, if a part needs to be thread rolled, the same setup cost factors would apply. In addition, if the part needs to be sent for outside processing, there are typically minimum lot charges. These can range widely, from $50 to $1,250 or more, depending on the process.

For all of these reasons, it’s obvious that bulk ordering is the most cost effective strategy for purchasing cold headed fasteners. So if your company is going to need 50,000 parts over the course of three months, we recommend placing an order for that full 50,000 parts. Don’t have space to hold all 50,000 parts? Let us know! We offer releases on blanket purchase orders. Talk to our sales team and we’ll be happy to help figure out how to get you the most and best product for your money.

Industry News

What is IATF 16949 and Why Does it Matter?

What Is IATF 16949?

If your company is not a part of the automotive supply chain (or even if they are), you may be asking this exact question.

The International Automotive Task Force, or IATF, is made up of a group of automotive manufacturers. According to Cheryl Simon, Fastco’s Lead Auditor, “This task force develops standards for  automotive industries worldwide so that every auto manufacturer works to the same standards.”

What is IATF - Fastco Quality Policy: Striving to meet customer expectations through continuous innovation
Fastco’s Quality Policy, displayed throughout our facilities.



You may be wondering how this differs from other automotive standards, such as ISO 9001:2015. Cheryl explains that the “International Organization for Standardization [ISO] focuses on customer satisfaction whereas IATF focuses on customer-specific requirements.  To be IATF certified you must also implement the ISO 9001 standards.” Both are needed “to support the automotive Quality Management System (QMS).” In other words, “IATF is an extension of ISO 9001:2015.” The two certifications work “to make sure that every automotive company is turning out quality parts for its customers [and] has a quality system in place.” It also serves as a stamp of approval, certifying that our company is a quality supplier of fasteners.


Becoming IATF Certified

It is not an easy or quick process. Cheryl outlines seven steps to becoming IATF certified:


  1. Evaluate your current quality system

  2. Add systems and processes to meet the requirements

  3. Develop the “Documented Information” for the QMS and your processes

  4. Implement and use the new quality system

  5. Select a registrar for the certification audit

  6. Obtain the certificate of registration

  7. Celebrate!


After you’ve celebrated, you still have to work to maintain the certificate. To do that, “the company needs to audit its own systems, processes, and products yearly to make sure that [they] still meet the requirements of the ISO and IATF standards.”


Continual Improvement

Another difference between ISO and IATF is their purpose. “ISO’s purpose is to facilitate international trade by providing a single set of standards that people everywhere will recognize and respect,” Cheryl states. IATF, on the other hand, “focuses on continual improvement.” IATF-certified companies always work to improve our processes through such things as “reduction of waste, decreasing variations, defect prevention, and improved operations.”

For companies in the automotive sector, having a rigorous quality standard and policy seems second nature. Since the 1980s, QMS has been a top priority as the industry works to keep up with competition abroad.

But what about those who supply other industries? You can argue that quality always matter. Cheryl says IATF 16949 certification “tells other companies that your QMS system is solid. You have good processes in place. Customers can rely on your company to give them good quality parts.”

As an IATF 16949 certified company, Fastco is poised to provide your company with top-quality parts that meet rigorous, globally-recognized standards. Give us a call today or complete our RFQ form.

Industry News

The Case for Buying American-Made Products

With increased insecurity in the global supply chain, the case for buying American-made products is stronger now than ever. Companies and consumers alike are seeing the rising costs of overseas products, while concerns about long-term sustainability and supply chain security remain central. These issues contribute to a growing list of reasons to shop domestic, including supporting local economies, job creation, and better quality parts.

Fastco team member
A team member inspects parts for quality assurance.

Here’s a list of the top six reasons we believe you should purchase American-made:

It’ll save you money.

The big driver to buy goods overseas used to be that they were cheaper. Labor and materials are often cheaper (but cheaper doesn’t always mean better – see #3 below). While labor and materials may still be cheaper overseas, those costs are offset by the rising costs of fuel. Not to mention extra fees for duty and tariffs. In addition, you can rest easy knowing that your purchase is contributing to the long-term stability of the American economy and U.S. workers.

You’ll get your product more quickly.

Lead times are on the rise everywhere. Even domestically, we are seeing fastener lead times of up to about 20 weeks (our current average is 8-10 weeks). However, this is nothing compared to the 6 – 8 month lead times we are seeing on imported goods. And that does not include time to ship, which is usually another 6 to 8 weeks by boat.

You’ll get better products.

The quality standards in the U.S. are higher than many other places. At Fastco, we follow the International Automotive Task Force (or IATF) quality standards, a global quality standard in the automotive industry that is even more rigorous than the ISO quality management system. We use U.S.-made steel, which has a reputation for being strong and high-quality due to the strict steel standards overseen by the EPA and OSHA.

It’s about the people.

And it’s not just about job creation. The United States has many labor laws and agencies working to protect our workers’ rights and safety. Low wages and undeveloped safety standards are one of the reasons that parts can be produced at such low costs in other parts of world.

It’s about the planet.

Global climate change presents an ever-growing threat to life as we know it. Purchasing parts from overseas can lead to higher use of gas, oil, coal, and other pollutants, particularly when airfreighting shipments. The closer to home the products you purchase are made, the less fossil fuels you’ll use to transport them. This has a direct positive impact on our planet.

You can feel good about your purchase.

It feels good to do good. Supporting local economies feels good. You’re helping build America’s future. Pat yourself on the back, give yourself a high five, and keep up the good work.

Fastco team member
A team member works on production tooling. Fastco manufactures 80% of tooling in-house.
Industry News

Reasons to Buy Direct from a Manufacturer

Fastco’s tradeshow booth
Fastco’s booth at the Detroit Engine Expo in 2018.

If you’ve plugged the phrase “fastener manufacturer” into Google, you probably already have an idea of why it’s better to buy direct than to purchase through a distributor. To validate your hunch, here is a list of the top three reasons to buy direct from a manufacturer:


Buying direct saves money.

This first one is obvious. If you take away the intermediary, you are removing their cut of the profits. If a distributor typically adds 20% onto the cost of goods, then your business sees a 20% cost reduction.


You’ll have more control of your product with better quality outcomes.

This one might not be as obvious, but if you deal directly with the manufacturer, then you have a much clearer idea of the quality of what you are buying. With fewer parties, process oversight is better managed and maintained, improving quality outcomes.

At Fastco, we encourage new and potential customers to come onsite to tour our facility and observe the manufacturing process. If a problem arises or a design change needs to be made, we are available and eager to work through that issue. There are no third parties or bureaucratic layers to work through.


Working directly with the manufacturer results in improved communication and service.

We touched on this briefly above in terms of engineering and quality communication and service. But working directly with a manufacturer results in improved service and communication at all levels.

When you ask a question, someone at our company has the answer; you don’t have to filter your questions through mediators. This results are that we can answer your questions more quickly and more accurately.

As we’ve seen over the last couple years, the costs of goods are on the rise, from raw materials to fuel. Lead times have also increased, disrupting supply chains. Buying direct is one way to help reduce your costs and control your product in an increasing expensive and unpredictable global economy.