Let me take you back to 1970s in the US, Dean Somerville was a farm mechanic who owned a farm shop in North Dakota. Whilst working with a traditional puller on one occasion, it kept slipping off the application and he thought to himself, “if someone invented a puller that actually worked they would sell a million of them,” so that is exactly what he did.
Tamara Somerville, his daughter, and now CEO of Posi Lock Puller, explained: “He started to design, putting his ideas down on paper and tinkering around his shop. He came up with a number of different prototypes, and eventually came up with the safety cage design.”
In 1977 Dean received his first patent, and in 1978 the company Posi Lock Puller was born. Last year saw the company celebrating its 40 year anniversary.
Today the company is a woman-owned business that specialises in gearing and bearing pullers. It offers mechanical pullers from 1-40 tonne capacity and hydraulic pullers from 5-200 tonne capacity.
Pullers are needed to remove the gears, bearings pullies, wheels and sprockets from the shaft to allow objects to turn. Obviously, as with any component, at some point the gear or bearing may become damaged and need to be replaced, or maybe there is something behind the bearings that needs replacing, so therefore the puller is used. Posi Lock also manufacturers internal pullers as well.
Although there are a number of companies out there that manufacturers gear and bearing pullers, Posi Lock has a USP in that it is the only company to have the safety cage design. “What sets us apart with the safety cage design is the fact that it makes for a one person setup in operation, whereas traditional pullers takes two people. But a Posi design allows one person to do this as the cage holds on at all times.”
Tamara agreed that the company has seen a lot of success, but there has been a number of setbacks, and it has not all been plain sailing. During 1984, just as the company was experiencing a growth in business, a massive fire broke out and destroyed the entire facility. “The company burnt to the ground, just as we were starting to sell more pullers, expand and were introducing some new sizes - everything was gone.”
Tamara herself has not always been involved directly in the company, she was studying in her first year at university when the facility burnt down, and although her parents decided to move 30 miles away to rent a space and build the company back up, she decided to stay and study. From here Tamara went to Florida and became a stock broker for nine long hard-working years, before returning back to Cooperstown in 1993 with a drive and passion to make the family business global.
Tamara explained: “When I came back to the company, the first question I had to ask myself is why are we not exporting to the rest of the world, so that is what I did and now we export to every country in the world.”
Still determined, Tamara said there are still people she is yet to reach, but plans are in place to change that. “I need to educate people on the features and benefits of Posi Lock Puller.”
Tamara was named as one of the top 100 women in manufacturing. When asked about the whole experience, she said: “I felt like really? Me really? I just sat there stunned looking at the email.”
When she went to collect her award, she described the day as feeling like Miss America surrounded by 99 other Miss Americas. “It was amazing to be surrounded by such talented and amazing people.”
Most of what Tamara does now is working with distributors, showcasing the Posi Lock products and performing safety demonstrations. “I do spend a lot of time with men, and that sometimes can be quite awkward especially in certain countries where the culture is different such as Mongolia and Russia, where it is not exactly very receptive.”
Tamara continued: “When people learn that I know what I’m talking about they become more open to learn. I am starting to see more and more women in the industry, but there is still a shortage.”
It is essential that we continue to push to get more women on board in the industry as Tamara explained: “There are a lot of programmes to help with this in the US, and I have personally been into local schools to show and encourage both boys and girls that there is a big world out there.” Tamara said it is important to talk to people and find out what they do and how they operate.
As previously mentioned Posi Lock is a women-led manufacturing company, which essentially means the majority of the workers are female. When asked if this was intentional or coincidental Tamara replied: “I think it’s a little of both. Originally it was probably coincidental as we were in a rural area with a lot of agricultural work, so we hired a lot of the farmers’ wives. Then we found in the field area women were actually making a better impact, as in the earlier years it was sort of a novelty having a women talking about hand tools in a man’s world.”
She continued: “Then when it comes to the assembly of the product, women are a lot more particular. They take great care - at Posi Lock a puller doesn’t go into the box until it’s perfectly straight, it’s polished and the label has been applied. It has a women’s touch – every puller is perfect when it goes out.”
It is clear to see Posi Lock has come far over the past 40 years, especially with the passion and drive from CEO Tamara, and as we recently have celebrated International Women’s Day, to see a company that is not only women-owned in the sense that so many females make up the work force, but that such a strong inspiring woman, and one of the top 100 women in manufacturing, is now behind it all.