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A tradition of success

Reputation, quality parts spell success for Calumet Screw

Sunday, December 10, 2000

By Kimberley Mathisen
The Star

Doing business the old-fashioned way is a tradition that won't be changing anytime soon at Calumet Screw Machine Products.

Louis J. Bertoletti, president and owner, said he's proud of the Mokena company's achievements during the past 50 years, and plans to continue directing with the same qualities instilled by his father and uncles.

"Our company's strength is a set of shared values that we adhere to — loyalty, honesty and integrity, with an emphasis on the dignity of the individual," Bertoletti said, "and that applies to our customers, suppliers and employees.

"As a second-generation family business, our key to success is to strengthen those values. We can hire people and teach them the technical aspects of the job, but they must possess the proper behavior traits and values that we strive toward."

One of Calumet Screw's oldest customers is Bimba Manufacturing, which Bertoletti recalled was a "handshake contract" not seen today.

"In 1957, Charlie Bimba came into the shop in Posen with a blueprint for some machine parts, and my dad extended him credit on his first order. That started a pact with Bimba Manufacturing that has lasted until today," Bertoletti said.

"I credit my dad, my uncles and especially uncle Stanley Brach, who still works here, with teaching me how to work hard."

Bertoletti said that as a youngster, he worked an eight-hour shift each Saturday for $1.

The history of the company lies with three Bertoletti brothers — Batista, Joseph and Louis — who, in 1950, began a small machine shop in a 4,000-square-foot garage in the West Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. There were a handful of customers and about 15 employees.

By 1957, the company needed twice the space and moved into another facility in Posen. The company grew out of its Posen space by 1980, when it moved to a new facility in Mokena.

Through the years, the small business has grown into a company that now comprises 45,000 square feet and close to 100 employees.

Batista passed away in 1994, but brothers Louis, 85, and Joe, 75 — although retired from the business — still return to visit and attend company picnics and parties.

The family atmosphere at Calumet Screw is a large part of the team spirit in the company.

"I prepare a 'State of the Company' address each October and we have a pizza party and raffle for all employees," Bertoletti said.

Frankfort resident Chuck Shelby, plant manager, began working for the Bertoletti family more than 35 years ago and still enjoys his job.

"Uncle Louis personally trained me on the 'Brown and Sharpe' machines," Shelby said. "All the brothers were willing to teach us everything they knew.

"And if anyone had a problem, they were always there, willing to listen and help in any way they could."

Bryan Bebey of New Lenox is a five-year veteran with the company and credits the training program as a "powerful tool that assists us in learning up-to-the-minute techniques."

According to Bertoletti, the company training program assists workers with ongoing on-the-job training, which not only keeps employee skills sharp but also increases the safe work environment.

Company officials are proud of Calumet Screw's safety record, which boasts no lost days of work in nine of the past 10 months, he noted.

The company manufactures a blend of made-to-order precision parts used in a variety of applications such as harps, motorcycle carburetors and flow control valves. Other parts manufactured at the plant include aerators, hose fittings, air cylinder components and microwave fittings.

Within the building are some 80 computer-controlled units, screw machines and turning centers employees operate during two shifts per day.

Customers from throughout the United States and Canada include Panduit Corp. in Tinley Park and Andrew Corp. in Orland Park.

"Most of our customers are referrals. We have no salesmen per se, but use independent reps," Bertoletti said.

"It's a rather funny industry, where the customer is linked to the supplier. (The customer) depends on us for the quality service and parts."

To that end, Calumet Screw's mission statement is short and simple — "We ship good parts on time."

Bertoletti's future vision for the company is:

"I see two lines of people that wrap around the building. The first line is customers waiting for our products and the second line is potential employees wanting to join our team."

More information about Calumet Screw Machine Products, 19600 S. 97th Ave., Mokena, is at (708) 479-1660.

Kimberley Mathisen may be reached at (708) 802-8846.

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