IEN Europe: Posi Lock Puller just opened its first warehouse and showroom in Europe, located in Brussels. Can you explain us why it is so important for a US company to be physically present in Europe?
T. Somerville: Importing from the USA is barrier to international trade, not only because of the logistics but also because of the personalized customer service. Posi Lock wants our customers and distributors to know/realize that we are “here” to support them and build a closer relationship.
IEN Europe: Why did you choose Brussels, apart from the strategic geography at the very heart of Europe? Is there another specific reason?
T. Somerville: Brussels is the “center of Europe” and a solid travel, economic and transport hub. And then there’s the famous chocolate, great food and some dear friends. The choice was very obvious.
IEN Europe: Your pullers are used for a wide variety of applications. Can you tell us more about the product features and how you have improved it over the years?
T. Somerville: Pullers are used to remove gears, bearings, pulleys, sprockets, wheels and other press fit parts from a shaft. Posi Lock is the only puller on the market with the Safety Cage® design. The patented feature locks the pulling jaws firmly in place and prevents the jaws from slipping off the work surface and snapping back at the user. The T-handle opens and closes the jaws for a one-person operation. This substantially increases productivity, tool life and safety for the technician. Over the past 40 years, we have not amended the design as till date it remains relevant and quite “revolutionary”, but we have introduced new materials, new products and applications, and offered customized engineering services for our end-users. Our products are now used by more than 100 different industries, and that’s remarkable for a small-sized enterprise that grew out of the USA.
IEN Europe: You already work with a network of distributors around Europe. What’s the objective of having a showroom? Direct sales-approach? Or just commercial exposure?
T. Somerville: Posi Lock markets and sells products globally via a distribution network. The European warehouse and showroom will enable us to offer our existing and potential new distributors, and end-users, an opportunity to for a “hands-on / live” experience with our product. Our customers can visit the showroom to see our full product line of mechanical and hydraulic pullers. And with prior appointments, they can operate our world-famous 3-jaw, 100-ton hydraulic puller. We can also offer safety training to interested companies.
IEN Europe: With the recent changes in the geo-political panorama, the relationship between the US and Europe is becoming more difficult and tighter. Do you think that this could have a negative impact on your business? Is this one of the reasons why you chose to come directly to Europe?
T. Somerville: Every day, we read some new clever headline about barriers to trade internationally – as many leading world powers seem to be looking increasingly inwards. Personally and professionally, this strikes me as a sad step backwards.
We face so many global challenges in the world today, I believe the best way that we can make real progress - and protect our very precious planet - is by pulling together and becoming more, not less, international.
I am an international business. I do not let politics interfere with my business goals. Our company manufactures a product that’s recognized, appreciated and sold worldwide and we will continue to be where our customers are. And also be proud of our origins – Made in the USA.
Yes, tariffs, can be an obstacle for USA companies exporting to Europe and worldwide. However, I am determined to overcome and find a way to make our products available to the world. Europe is just the beginning of our global expansion plans!
IEN Europe: Posi Lock was founded by your father and is still a family-run business. This is a very common model of SMEs in Europe. But what about the US? And which are the main ingredients to remain competitive and successful?
T. Somerville: We are very proud of being a “family business”. And this family goes beyond a bloodline. We have a number of employees who have been with us for 15+ years. Our employees take great pride in the quality of product that we produce and are extremely proud of what we have achieved and what we are set out to achieve more, starting with our European hub.
Not one puller will leave our facility unless it has been approved and inspected and passed our “Positively Perfect” scorecard. North Dakota has a very low unemployment rate, so it is difficult to find and recruit new talent. Fortunately, Posi Lock has a great reputation as a “family oriented” employer which helps to recruit and retain our teams for a long time.
IEN Europe: You are a woman in leadership in a male-dominant industry, recognized as one of the top 100 women in manufacturing across the USA. Your talent as a leader was awarded with several prizes, such as the North Dakota Exporter of the Year Award. What was the hardest and the happiest moment of your carrier? What would you recommend to the next generation of young female leaders?
T. Somerville: One of my most memorable moments in my career was when I was in Washington DC being recognized as one of the top 100 women in manufacturing. This was truly a turning point in my career as I realized that it was not only “my family” that understood what milestone I was about to accomplish – it was my peers! It was also the moment that I realized what this could do for the future generations of female engineers and entrepreneurs.
Exporting is hard work! Living in North Dakota is hard work! Business travel across 5 continents, some 100 flights a year is hard work! Being a woman in industry is even harder work! There are so many excuses and reasons to give up. But there’s just one that keeps me going – If not me, then who? If not now, then when?
My one message to all future leaders – female and male – Never Give Up. The world is a big place and you need to find “Your Perfect Sweet Spot’’!
IEN Europe: Posi Lock will exhibit in Hannover Messe. Why is it important for your company to be out there and what do you expect from the show?
T. Somerville: It’s not our first time at Hannover Messe. I have exhibited here before and recognize the advantages of partnering with the world’s largest industrial fairs. This year, the “industry’s global hotspot” as defined by Deutsche Messe, is featuring some 6,500 exhibitors, organizing more than 1,400 events and expecting to facilitate some 6.5 million business contacts between its 220,000 expected visitors. I suppose it’s a perfect sweet spot for us to reveal the details of our new European hub, and we have a few more things up our sleeves to announce at the Messe.
IEN Europe: Any exclusive news you want to share with IEN readers?
T. Somerville: You will just have to wait till 1st April – this is not an ordinary fool’s day!