Pam Berry, Co-Owner, VP Advance Components and Founder of the Women in the Fastener Industry (WIFI), leads our North American special feature, where she discusses the founding of WIFI and milestones within her career at Advance Components...
How did you get into the industry?
In 2006, my father Doug Berry – who started Advance Components in 1972 – passed away, leaving Advance to my sister Suzy Cravens and I. We had other careers going – Suzy in corporate at Michael’s craft stores, and I as a photojournalist at The Boston Globe. But we accepted the challenge to join the company and are so happy that we did.
What does your day-to-day job involve?
Keeping up with industry news and trends; working with the sales and marketing teams to implement product and services campaigns on social media platforms and our monthly newsletter; working with our web and graphics teams on relevant and dynamic content for our website; co‐branding with our suppliers to promote products to new and existing customers.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry and/or the company since you started?
The amount of consolidation through acquisition that has taken place in the industry is staggering. Many of our best customers have been acquired by some of our larger customers. While this has been helpful in many circumstances, it’s presented some challenges in others. The speed at which innovation is taking place is very rapid, but we’ve built our company to deal with these changes. By hiring great people, providing lots of hands‐on training, and investing in state‐of‐the‐art facilities, equipment and technology, we continue to stay on top of things.
Can you share some of your career highlights and mile-stones so far?
I’m lucky to have had two distinctly different careers – so far! In my fastener career I’d say collaborating with a team of knowledgeable professionals is a daily highlight. Every day is different and I never stop learning. The connections that I’ve made with the women of WIFI are very rewarding and definitely a highlight.
What is your favourite thing about the fastener industry?
Hands down – the Advance Team! Being a part of a group that has a passion for doing their best every day makes me proud and happy. Also, the pros in the industry who have always been welcoming and full of great advice. It’s challenging finding ways to sell something as simple, and complicated, as industrial fasteners.
What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to get involved in the fastener industry?
Women continue to join the industry, but retaining them remains an issue according to a recent study about women in the supply chain field. There needs to be increased opportunities in advancement and development for women to stay in this industry.
What inspired the launch of WIFI?
Attending my first fastener Expo in Las Vegas, where I found myself wondering how can I connect to other women here, as we were (and are) clearly the minority in the field. I wanted to have a sisterhood of like‐minded women who I could connect with at other shows, share industry insights and support one another with the constant demands between work and home.
What is your ambition for WIFI?
That the opportunities for women to advance in the industry will increase through supporting one another, sharing information, promoting scholarships and education, and connecting with one another for the common good of the industry.
Can you give us a timeline of Advance Components?
Advance was started in 1972, so we will celebrate our 50th anniversary next year! During this time, we’ve relocated twice, added substantially to our product offering of domestically manufactured products, and have hired a lot of great people who are passionate about the industry.
How has Advance Components managed through the coronavirus pandemic?
We had been preparing for remote work for a while, so everyone in sales was ready for the challenge of working from home, but the warehouse had to keep moving. Safety measures were put into place to keep our distribution team safe – so we were able to keep our suppliers and customers happy with a continued flow of stock. We are lucky, as most of our inventory is domestically manufactured, so the supply chain delays on imports has not affected us too much. Having strong strategic partnerships with our suppliers is key to our business and to our customers.
Did the coronavirus pandemic bring about or speed up any infrastructure changes at Advance Components?
We were prepared to work remotely, but the pandemic did accelerate everyone working from home.
What is the business planning for the next 12 months?
We are partnering with manufacturers and distributors who need support with distribution, sales and inventory management. We are working to streamline and improve our fulfilment processes, and focused on adding new products to our inventory. We recently invested in our pick and pack operation with a new bin system, as well as some new bagging equipment.
Are there any new products being launched?
We always have new products being launched! We recently added IFE and Caillau clamps to our offerings, and just started stocking Gage Bilt rivet and lockbolt installation tools and components. For next year, we have several exciting product additions in the works.
What kind of trends are you seeing in the North America fastener market?
The supply chain disruptions in 2020 have had a huge effect on how we see some of our larger customers buying. To prevent line shutdowns and build more resilient operations, customers need to seek out domestic suppliers and secure long‐term contracts.
The North America fastener market seems keen to go digital, webshops, online meetings, etc. Do you think that’s fair to say?
Yes, the move to digital – whether Zoom meetings or online stores – is here to stay, but nothing beats in‐person meetings. It may change the landscape of the sales model, but I think the regional and national shows will still be popular for the industry. I do think the market lags behind many others in terms of its digital transformation. There are still quite a few large fastener companies that have no significant web presence.