Dial Tool Industries’ Steve and Mario Pagliuzza

ADDISON – When Steve Pagliuzza started working for his dad in the early 1960s, Dial Tool Industries’ toolmakers wore shirt and ties to work each day.

“It was very different from the way things are today,” Steve recalled. “And one of my first jobs was to take a cart around the shop floor and deliver coffee to the guys. It was expected.”

Steve says he remembers that he always wanted to work for the family business.

“When I was 10 years old, I could read blueprints. I always wanted to be here. Even when I went to college, where I studied business and math, I still always wanted to work here,” he said.

But Steve’s four years younger brother Mario had other career ideas in mind.

“I was going to make my own mark, so I went into pre-med,” Mario said. “I took my first couple of chemistry classes and decided medicine wasn’t for me.”

Steve and Mario are now the co-owners of DTI in Addison, where they and 94 employees make up a team focused on providing their customers with quality metal stampings, injection molding, insert molding and assembly.

In 1955, Leo Pagliuzza and Fred Bianchi launched Dial Tool in a 620 square foot shop behind a woman’s clothing store on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago.

As the company’s services expanded, DTI moved and added on until they landed at their current location in Addison.  Then their father turned the company over to his sons Steve and Mario.

Everything went well and then in 2007, when the Pagliuzza Brothers say they began noticing automobile makers cutting back, using old programs.

“Using old programs means no new tooling, and into mid-2007, volumes started going down,” Mario said.

Like most others in the industry, 2007 through 2009 were gut-wrenching years for DTI. As a company among leading indicators DTI felt the slow down first and come out of it ahead of others, Mario said.

But it wasn’t easy. “We have to layoff people and cut our own salaries,” Mario said.

“We had to throw personal funds back into the company. We had to reinvest during those years.”

“It was the worst recession I’ve ever seen,” Steve said. “But we made it. Some others didn’t.”

Both brothers agreed that without the government bailout, the country would have been in much worse shape.

“Those people that said don’t bail them out absolutely had no idea of the repercussions. That would have plunged us into a depression, not a recession. While GM builds the cars, all the companies that make the small parts they put into the cars, the truck drivers that transport the parts from here to here to here, all of them would have been out of business,” Mario said.

“If the bailout had not happened, we would have been looking at four to five million people out of work.”

Like others in the industry, finding skilled workers to fill the jobs they have is a big challenge.

“Back in the 1990s, manufacturing lines went to China. Prior to then, we had skilled workers and apprentices.  We had a supply of those wanting to do the work we do,” Mario said.  It’s started coming back, but the problem is that few people want their kids to work in manufacturing.”

Now, as the work back here starts picking up, DTI looks to training schools like the Technology | Manufacturing Allied’s courses for their company’s team members.

“That’s the model now,” Mario said. “Companies are making parts where they will be sold. CNC is replacing the need for as much labor, but we still need people to run the machines. “

And it’s those people that make DTI what it is today, Steve said.  There’s no way they would leave their location in Illinois, although neighboring states may welcome businesses like theirs more.

“We’ve never wanted to leave DuPage County. We’re here directly west of O’Hare Airport, where we’re accessible to out of town clients,” Mario said. “We have a labor pool and access to highly skilled workers. We have to absorb what the state’s doing, but hopefully that will change soon.”

It’s those team members that make a company successful, Steve said. “You need the whole team to make the company successful. If they’re learning, they’ll make mistakes and we just start over.”

And the two both had advice for others considering manufacturing for their careers.

You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing,” Steve said. “The hours may be long, and sure they’re going to be long days. If you don’t love what you’re doing, then get out. You do what you do because you love it.”

Mario agreed with Steve, and added another piece of advice – work on building good relationships with your customers.

“Build an honest relationship, even a friendship. If you have confidence in them, they’ll trust your judgment, too,” he said. With emails, voice mails and cell phones, I’ve seen personal relationships diminish in business. That’s not good.”

“We try to meet face to face as much as possible, even if it’s traveling around the world,” Steve said. “It’s worth it.”

Celebrating 50 years, DTI is located at 201 South Church Street, Addison, IL 60101 and on the web at www.dialtool.com .

Written by Fran Eaton. First published by TMA June 2015.