How Steeves Agencies Began Working With Southco
Steeves Agencies began working with Southco just over 30 years ago. At that time, we were primarily selling basic fasteners like nuts, bolts, screws and rivets. Wilf Steeves, (my dad) found Southco’s line of drive rivets and reached out to them to see if we could sell this unique product to our customers in Western Canada.
During one of Southco’s initial visits to Winnipeg (to meet their new customer), we discovered that rivets were only a small part of their product mix. My dad saw great potential for Southco’s access hardware in Western Canada, and very soon our Southco sales outpaced all of our other product lines combined. It was a pivotal moment in our company’s history and paved the way for us to become the specialized company that we are. We’re proud to be one of Southco’s longest-running distributors!
You could say that most of my career has involved Southco. By the time I started working full time in the family business, we were an established Manufacturer’s Agent for Southco, but we were also becoming a stocking distributor. Most of my product training, if not all of it, came from Southco. We were invited to attend product training sessions in Concordville, tour the factory and meet with their product engineers. What a great experience! Now, when I go to visit Southco, it’s just as much about catching up with friends as it is about learning what’s new… and there’s always something new!
How the Relationship Has Changed Over the Years
We initially wanted to sell Southco’s line of aluminum drive rivets. They seemed to be an innovative product because they were unlike other types of rivets available in the market. We had another line of nylon (plastic) drive rivets that was very popular, so this seemed like a natural fit. We sold hundreds of thousands of rivets to manufacturers all over Western Canada, to boat manufacturers and trailer manufacturers.
These days, our best sellers are things like Lever Latches and mechanical latches for lids and access doors. These are older, industry-proven latching solutions that have been around for years, and have a reputation for being rugged and durable.
We are invited to Southco’s US headquarters in Concordville, PA regularly for training. Southco does a wonderful job of training all of their salespeople, agents and distributors so that they can answer technical questions and be excellent resources for customers. Training isn’t even limited to “on-site” at Southco. There are online resources for training and refresher courses for older products too. A long time ago, Southco committed to “ongoing training”, and that really sets them apart from any other manufacturer.
What makes Southco so special?
In terms of “Hardware Manufacturers”, Southco is quite unique. They make great products, but they also invest in other areas, too. They invest in their people, and have a pretty amazing customer service team. They have engineers that you can actually talk to when you have questions… and they go to great lengths to train their front-line staff (and distributors) about their products. It’s pretty impressive.
Southco is a name that most people don’t recognize unless you’re a manufacturer or an industrial distributor. Southco’s products are everywhere. They’re in electronics and servers all around the world. Southco’s latches and components are in nearly every commercial airplane we fly in, every bus or train we ride in, and more. Southco makes many of the “touch points” we use everyday, but never really think about.
Southco has manufacturing facilities in several countries, where they can best serve their markets. Southco has manufacturing locations in North America, Asia and Europe.
Southco just recently announced their UL Certification project, in which over 200,000 individual part numbers are now UL Certified right from the factory without any additional testing needed. This is an ambitious project that means huge savings for manufacturers, in terms of cost and time.
Recent Southco Innovations
We’re excited about the new electronic latching solutions that Southco is developing! Whether you’re designing something new that requires an electronic security option or if you’re retrofitting an older latching mechanism to make it “electronic”, Southco has a solution.
We have smart hubs that can actuate one or many locks simultaneously, automotive keyfob style remotes for locking and unlocking, keypads, proximity cards, Bluetooth capable devices… and that’s just for the interface portion of the system. There are also many types of actuators and latches with microswitches that can tell you if the door is open or closed properly. It’s a lot to learn, and our staff are regularly attending Southco training webinars to learn more about this technology. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Finding the Right Parts for Manufacturing
Often, the best place to start is with an email or phone call to our office. Our staff can help you narrow down your selection in minutes. Our goal is to help you find the right part, not just to sell you any part. Product Handbooks are great tools, but our staff, along with Southco’s engineers can usually answer all of your questions and help you pick the perfect components for your application.
If you prefer to go online, then Southco’s website is also a great resource, and has an amazing blog post section full of useful information and design ideas. You can visit them at www.southco.com.
Getting Southco Part Samples
We are firm believers in the value of samples for prototyping. Sure, a 3D CAD model looks great, but you can’t really tell how it feels in an image. If you need a sample of a product, you can have it for free, you just pay for the shipping.
Southco Parts – Fast Delivery
Generally, lead times are pretty short for most things, but for parts that have longer lead times or high production minimums, we can work with our Distribution partners to find stock quickly. In most cases, lead times are “days”, but in some instances where a product is manufactured primarily overseas, lead times can be “weeks”. We try our best to work with our customers to minimize any lead times by stocking their parts in Winnipeg, and by managing lead times behind the scenes.