Editor's note: Due to a technical problem, MacLean-Fogg's name contained a typo in earlier versions of this story.
How to build a better lug nut?
That was the question that sent MacLean-Fogg Co., a 93-year-old suburban Chicago supplier of fasteners and metal components, on a journey to recreate an age-old part.
Now that the journey is over, MacLean-Fogg has an innovative new wheel fastener that can best be described as a smart lug nut. But more important, the supplier has solidified a new way of developing products.
AlarmLok, which the company is marketing to automakers for upcoming vehicle programs, features fasteners embedded with sensors that notify the vehicle if they are moving when they shouldn't be. The sensors can trigger the vehicle's alarm or turn on security cameras to alert police.
"On the surface," said Ryan Ripley, MacLean-Fogg's vice president of business transformation, "this is a project about making a better security wheel fastener, and people want that because their wheels get stolen."
To MacLean-Fogg, a company with 2017 automotive sales of about $450 million and 40 plants around the world, the product represents potential business growth. But inside the company, AlarmLok really represents a new way of innovating.
Traditionally, supplier product development has come at the direction of an automaker customer, Ripley said. The supplier asks what the customer needs and then works to develop a product.