Conversation with Pete Fuller

Directing Partner, Torkworx LP


Can you give me a brief sketch of your industry experience?

I started out working in refineries in 1997, and spent about three years in the field. I went into sales shortly after that. I worked with that company for about three or four years. I was on a project that sold some of the largest hydraulic nuts ever produced. After that, I was recognized by another company. I started a bolting services group for them in 2002, and stayed there for six years.

How did your company Torkworx come about?

The company I was working for was ultimately purchased by one of our competitors in 2008. Most of my work there was in power generation, not so much in the refineries, just turbine work mostly. After that, the bolting services operation that I had built was purchased by one of our competitors. Then I jumped off and started Torkworx.

What was your mission in forming Torkworx?

I started this in my garage, and the philosophy I had was: Quality equipment, quality service. A lot of companies in our industry, they’re moving toward replaceable or disposable tooling. They’re having a lot of their products built overseas, where the cost to produce them is very low. When the competitor came to buy the company that I had helped develop, I saw they had a business mindset of replacing tools rather than servicing them. What I did was look at different quality products that I was familiar with and that I believed in, and saw there would be a vacuum when this company came into play for those manufacturers. I continued my relationship with those same manufacturers with Torkworx. These are quality products made in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. They may be a little more expensive up front, but long-term, they will cost less to own. I’m really big on total cost of ownership.

What sort of solutions do you offer the wind energy industry?

All of the solutions we provide are bolt-working solutions, meaning anything that is fastened together with a large bolt and nut. We control the way it goes together and comes apart. We also do some specialty services where we do torque checks all the way up-tower. We do a lot of base bolt work where we’re doing torque checks on the base bolts. One of the things that we’ve done a little bit differently is that we’ve introduced more efficient technologies to those applications in the wind market. We introduced the E-RAD system. That system is an electronic digital torque control system with data collection. Now, the operator can provide a report back to the customer that says “I’ve touched every bolt in the turbine, and here’s the torque that we checked or we saw on every single bolt.” What we’ve done is try to accelerate the entire application process using modern equipment, and additionally provide confirmation of the operation by providing a digital record of what was done to the bolts in the turbine.

What makes your products and services unique?

Most of what you see in the industry is hydraulically-powered torque systems. The first thing that we saw when we started entering that market was the safety aspect of using high-pressure hydraulics in an enclosed space like a wind turbine. Imagine going into your bathroom and operating your shower at 10,000 psi hydraulic pressure. It’s very dangerous. You’ve got issues with high-pressure hydraulics potentially injuring the operator. We wanted to address the safety aspect of it. We looked at a method for taking the hydraulics out of the turbine. That was the E-RAD system. It’s an electric system. Additionally, there’s no high-pressure hydraulics there, so there’s no opportunity for leaks or anything of that nature. The side benefits that we received from that were an accelerated completion process. We were performing the same application as others who were using hydraulic torque wrenches, and we were doing it three times as fast. Further, we are able to data-record every torque cycle. We time and date stamp them. We provide the operator with the means of verifying the torque was achieved by giving the operator a “go, no-go” warning at the tool itself. That final torque cycle is stamped on the record and it’s reported in a computer spreadsheet. We addressed it primarily on the safety side, but the side-benefits were data-recordability and increase in production.

What advantages do your offer above your competitors?

We give an unbiased approach to our solution offerings. We do a lot of discovery. We ask a lot of identifying questions and try to figure out exactly what the customer’s real goals are — whether it’s safety, production, or cost of ownership. We address that directly. The nice thing about our company is, we’re not a manufacturer’s representative. We’re not tied to selling you one specific product. There are a lot of companies out there who are married to a manufacturer. They can’t work outside of that manufacturer’s product offerings. We have the manufacturers knocking on our door, because they understand the way we sell is solution-based, not brand-based. If it makes sense for the customer to buy “brand X” over “brand Y,” we explain the differences and we let them make the decision. The unbiased approach to our solution offerings is probably one of the biggest reasons why customers deal with us. They feel like they’ve got someone they can trust. Someone who will look out for their current situation from their point-of-view, rather than “Can I sell something?” Sometimes that means that we sell a tool, and other times it means that we perform a service.

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