I understand that you’re the sole U.S. distributor for Dragon Precision Tools. How did that come about?
My first exposure to Dragon was in 1989. I was working for a company called Cleveland Cutter and Reamer, and we were making hobs and shaper cutters. But there was a capacity issue in the industry at that time, and we, as well as our competitors, had a hard time fulfilling demand, so I started combing the world to find other manufacturers. Here we were in the United States, the largest gear market in the world, yet we only had two or three primary suppliers, and I thought “you know, there has to be other companies that can furnish quality tools.” I heard about a company called Dragon Cutting Tools back in 1988, and the president and founder, Mr. Chun, and I decided to meet. He didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Korean, so I invited my Korean dry cleaner to have lunch with us to facilitate the discussion. So that’s when the relationship was formed.
What happened between that time and 1996, when you officially formed the Greg Allen Company?
The company I was working for was acquired by Pfauter back in 1992, and I was regional sales manager with them for about four years. But I’d never let go of the idea of introducing U.S. gear producers to an international gear tool supplier base. I left Pfauter on good terms, and once my non-compete clause had run out, I contacted Dragon to get the ball rolling again. The following September, Mr. Chun and I got together at the IMTS show, and he had Young Jong Chun with him, who handled international sales and spoke very good English. It was clear to me that Dragon was very keen on the U.S. market.
Sounds like that’s when the two of you really started making some progress in your relationship.
I’d seen his tools, of course, and I was impressed by the quality, but I’d never visited their plant. While we were at the show, though, he showed me the list of equipment that he had in his factory, and what he had on paper was as strong as any manufacturing capability you could find in this country. So I went to Seoul about a month later to visit his plant, and I was very impressed with what they had. You could’ve put that plant anywhere in this country and it would be a premier facility. And I was also impressed with their customer base, which includes automakers like Kia, Hyundai, and Daewoo. They do their own heat treating, and their raw materials come from the finest steel companies in the world. They had five Reishauer grinders and more on the way, which is more than anybody else in the entire Pacific Rim. We’re now the sole distributor for Dragon in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, in fact.
It appears that you really did your homework before deciding to take them on.
I don’t want to just import tools, put my name on them, and mark them up. The way I see it, every hob, every shaper cutter that I sell has my name on it, literally, and that’s something that I don’t take lightly. So I’ve got to sell myself on the product first before I’ll sell it to anybody else.
Apart from Dragon’s sophisticated manufacturing facility, can you give me an example of something that impressed you about their operation?
What impressed me the most is the way they go about making their hobs. Dragon uses a uniquely configured form grinding wheel that can stay in the threads longer, which translates to greater precision and leaves less of a heel on the hob itself. It takes a little longer to grind a hob, but it’s worth it, because it adds so much service life to their product. Astute end users recognize this feature right away.
I know that all of the manufacturers you represent are found outside the United States. Has that presented a challenge?
I have a relationship with my customers and suppliers that’s based on trust. So when I ask a company to try a Dragon hob, or a shaper cutter made by Transmecanica–which is based in Buenos Aires–they know they’re not going to be stuck with it if it doesn’t perform. But these tools don’t break, they last longer, and they meet or surpass our customer’s expectations.
Beyond Dragon and Transmecanica, do you have plans to pull in any additional lines?
Absolutely. We are lucky to have Jan Thomas managing the office. She’s been in the business since 1978, and she spent 10 years as U.S. sales manager for David Brown gear cutting tools out of the United Kingdom before she joined the company about a year and a half ago. We also own an in-house gear tool sharpening division, Index Technologies, Inc., which services everything that we sell. What makes it all worthwhile is when I identify a quality tool and get it in the hands of my customers and hear them say “man, these tools are really good!” When we accomplish that, I feel like we’ve had a hand in helping our customers reach their goals.
MORE INFORMATION Contact Greg Allen Company at (440) 331-0038 or visit their website, www.gallenco.com.