PACLOCK Brings Unique Style and Construction to the Market

July 2, 2018
Made in America philosophy enables U.S. padlock manufacturer to custom make products for the locksmith

To the novice eye, one padlock is not much different from the other. However, Greg Waugh, the President of Pacific Lock Company, doesn’t quite agree. Better known as PACLOCK, Waugh’s company has made cultivating the “Made in America” branding strategy a foundation of his go-to-market approach bringing back the bulk of its manufacturing back to the United States while staying price-competitive in the market.

Made in America Matters

So why and how did PACLOCK make this move. For Waugh, it was a no-brainer.

“It came down to three big reasons: quality, responsiveness, and agility. These are the same three limitations any ‘manufacturer’ who doesn’t truly manufacture encounters. What I mean by that is most ‘manufacturers’ today are not physically producing their branded products themselves. They are paying another factory, typically in a foreign country, to produce products on their behalf. This happens throughout the market -- just look at Nike. They own no factories and yet it’s safe to say most people would consider Nike to be a manufacturer,” says Waugh, who says prior to 2010 PACLOCK brought all its components in from other factories out of country. Although they did do most of the assembly work here in the U.S., the government didn’t consider that straight assembly to be substantial enough to be branded made in America.

Waugh admits that when you have to depend on other companies, especially ones from other countries, to produce your products, your hands are literally tied. Quality inevitably suffers and lead times become problematic. Also, the ability to produce new products in response to customer demand is virtually impossible. Eventually, PACLOCK tired of being an “OEM manufacturer” and having other companies producing its products.

“Today we produce all of our solid body padlock bodies in the U.S. on high precision CNC machines. We are the only company to produce solid-body padlocks here in the United States in brass, aluminum, and hardened steel. Now that we produce our bodies here in America, our quality has improved a hundredfold; our ability to meet surge demands from customers is unsurpassed, and our capability to be innovative and agile with new products is unparalleled,” boasts Waugh. “We give our customers short lead times with low minimum orders allowing our customers to stay focused on turning profits rather than managing large inventories. We also produce new products on what seems to be a weekly basis with many of them never being marketed because we custom built only 100 pieces for a customer.

“There is no other padlock manufacturer that can come close to having such a competitive advantage to solve customer problems. And that’s a place PACLOCK is happy to have put itself.”

Custom Engraving for Padlocks

In addition to its status of being an American-made product, PACLOCK also created some brand uniqueness by offering custom laser engraving on padlocks with minimal order quantities and a quick turnaround. Waugh says that the idea of our “Your Logo, Your Locks” program was based on trying to get locksmiths to become a “manufacturer” by buying custom branded padlocks in small quantities.

“When we launched our program in 2007 the idea took off in a different direction. Our locksmith customers mostly wanted to put their customer’s information or some unique markings on the locks. And so it turned into a really good selling feature for our locksmith customers,” admits Waugh.

PACLOCK is set to make a big announcement regarding the direction of the “Your Logo, Your Locks” program sometime this year. While the previous 10 years has been all about their laser engraving options, PACLOCK is now adding to that product by offering the ability to actually hard stamp a logo right into the padlock body – even in small quantities.

PACLOCK has also developed retail carded stock along with a card insert that will be customized to the locksmith’s color scheme and logo branding. So not only will the padlock be hard stamped with the locksmith’s logo, but the retail packaging will also be all about the locksmith’s shop. This retail packaging can be hung or placed directly on a counter top.

“We believe that the dangers of the Internet and the Amazon buying experience are threatening brick-and-mortar locksmiths more so than the Wal-Mart days of 15 years ago. What happens today is a customer comes into the locksmith and asks for advice like, what might the best safe be? After getting that advice, taking the locksmith’s hard earned experience and knowledge, the customer doesn’t buy the safe like he would have 10 years ago,” says Waugh. “Rather, the customer walks out of the store, goes home, hops on Google and finds the recommended product online somewhere. The locksmith got ‘used’ from a large respect. But if the locksmith were to have his own line of products that were U.S. - made, then he could sell products that would otherwise not be found online anywhere.”

Waugh also adds that the PACLOCK program enables the locksmith to take advantage of bringing in an entire line of padlocks with a commitment of less than 300 padlocks, which could include four different sizes.

Electroless Nickel Plating is a Differentiator

From a technology standpoint, perhaps the most compelling selling point for Waugh’s padlocks is that they use electroless nickel plating techniques. Typical padlocks produced in China, Taiwan, and Mexico use nickel electroplating whereby electricity is a critical component of getting the nickel coating to adhere to the padlock’s steel body. The real problem with this technique on padlocks is that electroplating is significantly bad at plating deep into holes – the electrical charge on the body is greatly reduced as the depth of a hole increases. Waugh says this process causes very poor plating coverage and poor uniformity that, in turn, means the padlock itself will show signs of rust and corrosion very quickly.

He stresses that electroless nickel, on the other hand, does not rely on electricity to create the reaction that adheres the nickel plating to the steel body. Because of this, a padlock body plating using an electroless nickel process will have an extremely uniform finish that gets deep into every hole or cavity.

Brass and aluminum bodied padlocks are inherently rust proof. While some companies, including PACLOCK, nickel plate a brass bodied padlock, it’s simply for cosmetic reasons. And aluminum needs to be anodized to provide a hard, outer surface preventing a whitish type of corrosion.

But padlocks made from steel need a protective layer to prevent rusting. While rust is unsightly on the surface, the bigger problem comes when the rust is inside the padlock. All of the mechanics of a padlock are on the inside where ball bearings interact with an actuator where springs need to be able to push or pull. If these components have an environment of rust, then the padlock itself will stop functioning well before it should.

“When PACLOCK was having its bodies produced overseas, our company could not get good plating. ‘Good plating’ in PACLOCK’s mind is what you get deep down in the shackle holes or the ball bearing holes; if those areas are covered well, then you have good plating. If they are not, if those areas are dark, then you have poor plating that will lead to rusting. There are two problems with overseas padlock production as it relates to rusting. First, a hardened lock goes through a carburization process that gives the naturally soft metal its hard outer layer. This hardening process is literally a huge furnace that effectively bakes the steel body in the presence of elements to create the hardness. When the padlock body is done with being cooked, it comes out of the oven with significant black residue coating all of the surfaces,” explains Waugh.

“If this black residue is not removed entirely, then the residue prevents the second step of plating from adhering. Here is problem number one with overseas manufacturing. On lower quality/cost products, the factory tends to do a poor job of removing this black residue especially deep down in the shackle and cylinder holes. They’ll do a good job on removing the soot on the exposed surfaces, but getting deep down into the holes takes time and an eye for detail. Those things you don’t typically find with an overseas manufacturer.

“With PACLOCK, we do an extremely thorough bead blast technique to remove all of that soot leaving the raw metal exposed and prepped for plating.”

Waugh says the second problem with overseas padlock production is the plating technique itself. What is cheap and fast is called “copper-nickel-chrome” technique. Using traditional electroplating techniques, the raw steel is hung on racks that are electrically charged. The racks are then dunked in a bath with oppositely charged copper plates. The electrical charges force the copper ions to be attracted to the padlock body and form a coating. The longer the padlock is left in the bath, the thicker the plating. Once the copper bath is complete, the same process is followed but this time with nickel plating.

Once those two are done, the padlock will often go through chrome plating. Why all of this? Chrome is a relatively cheap plating technique overseas and chrome has good physical properties to resist rust. But chrome won’t adhere to raw steel. It needs something like nickel to adhere to. But again, nickel doesn’t adhere very well to raw steel either. A copper strike is needed. Copper adheres well to raw steel, so then the nickel adheres to the copper and the chrome adheres to the nickel. Waugh says what you’re left with is a very shiny padlock body. A classic overseas produced padlock body characteristic.

The big problem here, he adds, is that electricity is necessary to force the copper, nickel, and chrome to adhere.

“Without getting into the science of it too much, electricity loses its ability to attract as it goes deeper down into a hole like a shackle hole. The part gets good attraction on the outer, exposed surfaces, but poor attraction deep into the pockets where it’s paramount to get good coverage. Everyone has seen evidence of this if they have ever disassembled an overseas produced padlock. Deep into the holes you’ll see rusting forming even as you pull the brand-new padlock out of the box,” says Waugh.

For PACLOCK, the only answer is to move to a technique called “electroless nickel” plating. As the name suggests, this technique does not rely on electricity to have the coating layered on. Rather, an electroless nickel plated padlock gets a uniform coating of nickel everywhere the bath solution touches. So deep down in the shackle holes the plating is just as thick as it is on the surface of the padlock. This deep-down plating is of paramount importance because those are the areas prone to rust.

“Yes, the costs to not only get good bead blasting to remove the soot and then to perform electroless nickel plating is significant compared to cheap copper-nickel-chrome. But PACLOCK thinks it’s worth it,” stressed Waugh.

2177 Series Hidden Shackle Padlocks

At the recent Security Hardware Distributors Association (SHDA) show, PACLOCK unveiled its patent-pending 2177 Series of hidden shackle padlocks. Instead of having a flat front, the 2177 has a cone shaped front that makes it nearly impervious to frontal drill attacks. The 2177 was designed and developed in response to a customer’s request for PACLOCK to find a way to stop someone from drilling the front of a hockey puck while the puck is installed a foot deep in a protective "tunnel.” Attackers were defeating a traditional, flat-faced puck lock by using a long drill bit going deep into the tunnel to drill out the pins.

“This customer was losing lots of money and needed help. Other than trying to figure something out himself, who else could he turn to? If PACLOCK were still producing products overseas, then there wouldn’t be much PACLOCK could have done. Long lead times, big investments in tooling, large up front orders are all barriers to getting new products design and into the market,” Waugh says.

PACLOCK’s U.S. design and manufacturing capabilities enabled it to come up with the cone shape idea in a matter of hours. They built 3-D computer models using SolidWorks and shared the idea with the customer.

“Needless to say, the customer was impressed and asked for a working sample,” Waugh adds. “A week later PACLOCK sent a working sample to the customer. A month later PACLOCK had its first run of the 2177 Series ready for sale. Today PACLOCK offers the 2177 in both a standard rekeyable option (comparable to an American Lock key system) as well as available to work with any commercial cylinder system (SFIC, LFIC, KiK, FSIC).”