The Beauty of a Well-Made Widget

June 28, 2023

I’ve always had an affinity for folks who make stuff, particularly stuff that is hammered out in loud, dust-filled manufacturing facilities. My sense of appreciation was first acquired in a paintbrush factory owned by a couple of Cuban Jewish brothers who escaped Havana the night Castro seized power. Carrying nothing but some patents, blueprints and little cash, the two settled their families in Tampa in 1961. More than 50 years later, Corona-branded paint brushes are the professionals’ choice and among the country’s largest quality brush manufacturers.

As a teenager, I was entranced by the process of sorting fine pig bristles and affixing them to beautifully sculpted wooden brush handles. Seeing handles whittled and bristles aligned along the assembly line. It was industrial poetry.

In the early 1990s, I went to work for Ilco-Unican as a VP for their publishing division. CEO Aaron Fish was a tinkerer and entrepreneur. He invented the pushbutton lock for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the 1970s and, after a series of acquisitions, Ilco became synonymous with its manufacturing of keys – keys of all sorts. Brass, aluminum, metal, and plastic; more than 2 million were produced a day in Rocky Mount, N.C. The key-making process as orchestrated by Fish and Ilco was clean, green, sustainable and oh-so fast. The assembly line danced in methodical unison, with excess metal shavings being sucked into giant vacuum containers for future smelting. A gloriously efficient manufacturing operation.

Freeman John Dyson, a British-American theoretical physicist and mathematician known for his works in quantum field theory and astrophysics once said, "There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use."

I got that sense the minute I sat down to interview Pike Goss, the CEO of Pedestal Pros and the most unlikely hardware manufacturer I’ve ever met -- and one I immediately liked. It was marketing, not manufacturing that was in Pike’s future following his graduation from Brigham Young University. As a marketing director for a couple of years in the telecom industry, Pike eventually stumbled into the “security” industry by assisting a Denver buddy who worked in the low-voltage security market.

“I was en route from Sarasota, Florida to Salt Lake City, Utah on a move for new employment and he asked when I got out there if I could help him set up a low voltage distribution company to source some of these things for some local installers in Salt Lake. We opened up a little shop and began to load the back of pickup trucks with gate operators and DVRs and wires and loop detectors,” Pike reminisced.

Eventually, this was a partnership that escalated into a full-time custom business. Pike and his friend labored long hours pulling available hardware off the shelves attempting to meet customers’ needs for perimeter gate installs and the like. Their pain points proved motivating factors to move the business in a new direction.

“Believe it or not, for some of these gate access jobs, we just couldn't get in a gooseneck pedestal. For the few different manufacturers we used, it was an ancillary product for them. There were only a few models, I think there were just three models out in the industry altogether,” he said. “We were getting requests for yellow, for parking garages, we're getting requests for stainless steel for white to match certain things, different heights, different applications. Even the ones that were in stock were coming in either late or damaged. They weren't made very well, and the plates were all proprietary to their brand of devices. So, I just told asked my friend, ‘W why don’t we just make them to spec?"’

That was 21 years ago. Now Pike and his Pedestal Pros have gained the reputation of being the go-to company for anything access control integrators and end-users may need that they can’t find elsewhere. Pike, his designers and engineers custom-design goosenecks, call boxes, camera mounts, emergency call stations, housings and hoods – and of course, pedestals to custom specs.

“We have four special sales and mechanical engineers that do nothing but the custom-assigned work that comes in on a daily basis. We do it all day and every day,” quipped Pike. “We didn’t build our operations around the standard SKUs. When you show up to our manufacturing facility, you see the information flow and the material go. We can custom design anything within an hour. We can actually build that {hardware} within 12 to 15 business days and have it out the door -- or they can rush that and have it sooner for a little upcharge.”

Pike’s Ivy-League good looks and natty attire belie the fact that at heart, he is a down-and-dirty hands-on craftsman. In a security industry ripe with AI, machine learning and analytics, it is refreshing to see those who value the artistry and timelessness of a well-made widget.
About the author: Steve Lasky is a 34-year veteran of the security industry and an award-winning journalist. He is the editorial director of the Endeavor Business Media Security Group, which includes magazines Security Technology Executive, Security Business and Locksmith Ledger International and the top-rated webportal Steve can be reached at [email protected]