Friday, October 20, 2017

The Story of Rotor Clip and Mr. Slass

Americans take pride in their work. It is what defines us and makes us grow in our society. We learn, educate and pass the torch to future generations, so that they may be endowed with the same values and ethics that previous generations held. This isn’t to say that every country doesn’t take pride in their work; rather it exemplifies the American dream and spirit. One man who resembled these characteristics perfectly was Robert Slass, founder of Rotor Clip Company. He was a brilliant man, who over the years shaped Rotor Clip into the world leader it is today-leader in the production of retaining rings, wave springs, self-compensating hose clamps and other related products. For those who knew him best, he was a man of passion and fiercely believed in American Capitalism being a force for good in this country. It is because of him that Rotor Clip stands today at 60 years old. Through the years, he implemented creative ideas and trends that established prominence in the manufacturing industry and helped expand his company. Through his hard work and dedication, he created a company that is now celebrating 6 decades of life.                                                                   
In today’s fast moving world, many companies are bought out, merged, or simply forced out of business: their identity and uniqueness taken from them and thrown into a melting pot. While this is common, it doesn’t mean it is right. Also, one thing is for certain; if Robert Slass were still around today, he would have none of it. He believed in everyone coming to work happy and feeling secure in their job. He encouraged employees to do their best work and be passionate about what they were doing. Though he was described as a little demanding, he inspired his workers to take pride in the company they worked for and encouraged them that everyone had a function in the machine. His establishment of Rotor Clip is capitalism at its finest; providing meaningful jobs for a variety of people with varying skills and educations levels and give them the opportunity to live the American Dream. Bob wanted his employees to feel like he felt; a man with purpose and total devotion to the company he built and the vision to expand and do better.                                                                                                                                                                          
When Rotor Clip opened its doors in 1957, it was in a small 2000 square foot facility in Farmingdale, New York. Bob bought used equipment and refurbished it and he bought broken stamping presses and replaced them with custom models, using parts from other machines. For a majority of the first few years, Robert experimented with retaining rings from strips of steel and determined they would produce little waste and help the customer save on costs. Back in the 1950s, it was common for men to start businesses in garages and American corporations would buy from them. After World War 2, these open spaces and garages were the foundation of innovation, where ideas could be tested and perfected with minimal amount of investment. Some of these companies that originated in small spaces would end up becoming leaders in their industries, like Rotor Clip. Robert Slass was one of those lucky men who created something out of this small work space. 


If you analyze the story of Rotor Clip Company and Robert Slass, it is one of innovation and vision. Robert understood that in order to stay in business, he had to adjust to the times. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were many movements in the automotive industry; Toyota, Honda and Nissan emerged as leaders, overtaking Ford and GM, and companies like Samsung were producing and selling more electronics than American brands like Magnavox. The world was becoming more global and Bob knew that as an engineer, he had to demonstrate to manufacturers why Rotor Clip’s retaining rings, instead of traditional fasteners, could result in significant savings without sacrificing quality and reliability. The response was very positive, as many automotive manufacturers began to use retaining rings on several of their part components. Our company has been at the forefront of this trend for several decades, and the product and process improvements that were pioneered and implemented by Robert Slass are still serving the global marketplace today.                                                                                             
Looking back at the 80s, Japan was emerging as an economic powerhouse and an innovator of products and services. Japanese companies had a strong advantage in selling everything from automobiles to consumer electronics and these greatly threatened American companies. As all of this unfolded, Bob Slass watched closely, as he was concerned by companies who had been in business for several years in America suddenly sell out or go bankrupt. He knew then that Rotor Clip had to adjust to the Japanese manufacturing process. In 1980, he bought a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) vertical machining center to speed up production of die sets that held the tools to stamp retaining rings. With the CNC machine, retaining rings were produced with high accuracy in a much shorter time. Also, in 1987, he utilized Wire EDM machines, so that his retaining rings could be produced at incredible accuracy. All of this was done in an effort to compete with the Japanese market and Mr. Slass always had a plan in the back of his mind. He managed to find ways to produce rings at a much faster rate and also with immense precision and accuracy. Robert Slass eventually began construction on the facility that is now the company headquarters in Somerset, NJ. It still stands strong today; a testament to Bob’s life’s work. 


For those who knew Mr. Slass, they wouldn’t have a bad thing to say about him. He was a man with vision and passion for his work. He built things with his bare hands, and was always there with his workers through it all. He encouraged his employees to be innovative and ask questions and always be involved in what he was doing. He resembled all the qualities of a great leader; similar to the company he created. Rotor Clip stands today at 60 years old, as one of the last great manufacturing leaders in the United States. Just like manufacturing was at the forefront of the American economy during the Industrial Revolution, Rotor Clip still stands based on that foundation and hard work. I think we all owe a special thank you to Mr. Slass for a wonderful 60 years.

Justin Arbadji is a Marketing Assistant for Rotor Clip Company Inc. 

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