Snap-On Tools: What’s the Story?

A lot of people are curious about the Snap-On Tool Company after President Trump selected its Wisconsin headquarters as the  place to sign his latest executive order, which he calls, “Buy American and Hire American.

Trump at the Snap-On headquarters on April 18, 2017. One of the company’s familiar tool chests can be seen in the background.

Snap-on is an American company, but it has manufacturing facilities around the world – not just in the USA – and a recent report posted on its web site makes clear that it intends to build even more overseas facilities.

So it’s not entirely clear why this company and not one committed to full American manufacturing was chosen for the presidential event, although Reince Priebus did attend the local high school. In any case, let’s take a closer look at the firm.

The company was called the “Snap-On Wrench Company” when it was formed in 1920 and customers loved their groundbreaking ideas about interchanging wrench parts. The company made ten sockets that “snapped-on” to five interchangeable handles, an idea that changed the entire tool industry. They also made the unusual decision to sell their tools through visits to work sites and not through stores. In the 30s, they were the first in the tool industry to offer credit to customers.

The president stands outside one of the vans that visit job sites to sell the tools.

The company was no shrinking violet when it came to expanding overseas. According to the web site, “Snap-on entered the international arena in 1931.”  Today, Snap-on is worth over $3 billion and is listed on the Standard &Poors 500. It employs 6700 people at its ten American facilities. If financial industry estimates of a total workforce of close to 11,500 employees worldwide is correct, there are some 4800 foreign employees.

The Snap-On website has one of those infuriating search features that delivers zero results for “USA” even though it has product pages that clearly contain it. So, while you can’t browse American-made items, once you click on a product page, the country of origin is clearly marked.

Regards, Kathy

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