As the centre of excellence for threaded fasteners, GESIPA UK plays a key role – alongside GESIPA’s German operations – in developing new technology to guarantee the group stays ahead of the fast-moving industries it supplies.
Based in Keighley, Yorkshire, since 1972, GESIPA UK initially produced eyelets, before adding the production of mandrels – growing steadily as part of the group. In 2013, the Group strategy was changed and GESIPA UK became the centre of excellence for threaded fasteners and structural rivets – enabling it to focus on these products and their requirements – which made a significant difference to the growth of the UK operation.
“Originally the threaded fasteners were made at Keighley and Thal, Germany,” explains Diana Scholefield, managing director at GESIPA UK. “However, with so many experts based in Keighley it was decided that we would build on this expertise and grow it even further, which has proved very successful. Whilst we have become the centre of excellence for threaded fasteners, Thal is now the centre of excellence for blind rivets, Mörfelden-Walldorf the centre of excellence for setting tools and Olpe the centre of excellence for solid riveting.”
Concentrating on threaded fasteners has enabled GESIPA UK to steadily grow over the last five years – adding new machinery and equipment to continuously improve efficiency across the entire production process. “Today, GESIPA UK produces almost twice the number of parts than it did two years ago,” mentions Diana.
Whilst different divisions, GESIPA UK still works closely with the German sites on product developments, machinery and tooling, training, as well as sales – enabling it to service customers globally and develop new products and services to meet ever-changing demands. “Over the last 4 – 5 years there has been a real shift in customers wanting more value,” says Diana. “We are constantly working on adding value through the fasteners – can we do something different or change the process – rather than just supply a standard fastener.”
Diana continues: “We get customers coming to us with an application and they need a solution. That is why we are committed to our technical sales team working with customers and visiting their operations. It is only by seeing the customer’s operation you can truly understand the problems they are facing. On the phone, it is a bit more difficult because you cannot see the whole process.”
So are end user customers more willing to involve fastener companies at the design stage? “From our experience, customers are happy for us to work alongside them,” states Diana. “They are understanding more the role fasteners can play and the possibility of huge cost savings. We especially see it with the process control tooling we can offer. Customers now want proof fasteners do what they have been designed to do and the process control tools we supply provide this guarantee and ensure the function of the fastener is correct.”
As a topic, process control tooling is attracting an increasing amount of interest from GESIPA’s customers. “Process control tools are becoming smarter and smarter and provide traceability that guarantee each fastener is installed correctly,” mentions Diana. “Being able to offer the rivets and the tools, including process control, is a big benefit for us, as it underlines our capabilities and means we can provide a complete service.”
To showcase the wide variety of tools, GESIPA UK has a demonstration centre at its Keighley site, which includes battery powered hand tools in its Bird Series – including AccuBird® and PowerBird® – as well as its popular Taurus® series of pneumatic hydraulic blind rivet setting tools. There are also robotic riveting systems on display, such as the GAV range of automatic riveting machines.
The latest addition to the centre is a flow drill riveting tool – FDR® – which is a pre-punch-free riveting method that GESIPA says will revolutionise mechanical joining technology. Designed as an automated process, with full process monitoring, the FDR method requires no pre-punching and no hole finding – combining drilling and riveting in one process. With a rotation of 6,000 revolutions a minute the FDR system’s specially designed rivet head, rotation, and joining force, allow the blind rivet to penetrate into both light metals and plastics.
“The FDR system is perfect for working with aluminium material and is an example of how we are constantly moving forward with new technology,” points out Diana. “This is the forefront of design. It might not be something for every company, but it shows we are offering brand new technologies for the leading players.”
Diana adds: “Having the demo centre enables us to show customers the range of tools we are able to supply. Customers can also get ‘hands on’ experience of using the tools and see how the automated systems will benefit their operation. We love showing people around, so they can fully understand the products and services. We often find people will come to us with a set idea with what they want, but after using the tools and understanding the different capabilities, they often decide on a different type.”
A vital part of GESIPA UK’s business, and its continuing growth, is the knowledge and experience of its employees. “Having the expertise is vital, especially when you are looking at the future of threaded fasteners and how to move cold forming technology forward,” explains Diana. “The majority of our employees have been with us for a long time and they are very involved in the development process. We are a close company and everyone is encouraged to suggest new ideas. Innovation is very important to us, from a product point of view and also our own process point of view. We look to continually improve our processes, and it is the people that are working on the machines day in day out that are best placed to help us innovate.”
“As a company we have to keep moving forward. You would think there would come a point where you can’t go any further, but the markets are changing and the applications are changing. I have worked with the company 22 years and no day is ever the same – there are always new challenges – we are constantly learning.”
GESIPA UK is ensuring this knowledge and experience is kept within the company and passed on to the next generation of employees through its apprenticeship schemes. “The skills shortage is a problem that is impacting the whole industry. Only 3 or 4 years ago there was definitely an attitude that people didn’t want to work in production. However, we are very active in encouraging the next generation to get involved with us,” says Diana.
GESIPA UK is currently working with a local college that has an industrial centre of excellence – with the aim of getting young people interested in engineering and tailoring apprenticeships for the needs of local employees. The company also organises Open Days during the evening, so local students can visit with their parents and look around the factory and talk about opportunities. “With the Open Days, we are trying to reach the parents and highlight that engineering isn’t just ‘getting your hands dirty’,” mentions Diana. “We have found if you get the parents involved then the students are more likely to be interested. You can’t get somebody with an engineering degree that can cold form. It is a black art and it takes a long time to get skilled in using the machines, which is why we are working with apprentices.”
In the last twelve months GESIPA UK has taken on three apprentices – one in customer service, one in the maintenance team and one in the equipment team (tooling department). “We appreciate Keighley is not the centre of the universe,” jokes Diana. “But you have to get the next generation involved at a young age, especially the local students. Once a student sees what we do, they are surprised at how much goes into producing the products and they are interested to learn more.”
As a German owned company, what are GESIPA’s thoughts on the impacts of BREXIT? “Being a manufacturer in the UK means we always get asked about the impact of BREXIT, but – at the minute – we haven’t seen a negative impact,” says Diana. “There is a lot of nervousness within the market, but we are just keeping our head down and doing what we do. Whatever happens, we will have to deal with it. We just want it done, so we know the situation and we can then move forward.”
Diana adds: “Regardless of BREXIT, as a group we are looking to increase our capacities, as well as looking at new developments in-line with market trends – such as lightweighting, which will undoubtedly develop. That is why we are working on lightweighting our fasteners, whilst still offering the same performance. We are working on this already and looking to move with the industry. You have to be proactive and be ahead of the game.”
For GESIPA ‘being ahead of the game’ is a constant process and the fact it can offer rivets and tools – all in-house – as well as possessing the knowledge and experience of the market, enables it to provide a complete system to customers if required. “Because fasteners are sometimes seen as just a commodity, customers do not see the value they can provide. That is why we focus on the life cycle cost of the fastener and on ensuring we can provide all of the products and services our customers need.”
Diana concludes: “A big positive with this target is having a global structure, certainly with existing customers that are also global. To be able to say you have local support with the same experts available around the world is a big benefit. Whether a customer is looking to expand its operations geographically, or even reshore, we can offer the same reliable service.”
Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.
Responsible for social media and the online platforms, Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.