Irrigation OEM holds fast to fastener quality 30 January 2023

When it comes to resourcing reliable fastening products, OEM’s often seek a reliable supplier, which will ensure the quality of product. Here, AFT Fasteners highlights how it helped an irrigation OEM to maintain a quality product – even during the supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although fasteners are often considered mere commodities in many industries, the quality can be extremely important in terms of ensuring safety, performance and longevity for important applications. To produce irrigation products trusted by crop growers globally, a leading irrigation OEM’s engineers and quality assurance team submit each part of every product to military-grade testing. The rigorous tests aim to ensure leak-free performance of the fasteners under high-pressure outdoor conditions.

“Some of our valves hold and regulate up to 200 psi of working pressure. Catastrophic failure could be very dangerous. So, we provide a generous safety factor for our products, particularly valves, and our fasteners must be extremely reliable,” says the head purchaser at the irrigation OEM, whose role includes inspection and quality control. “The company owners want any product with their name on it to be associated with quality all the way down to the fasteners used.”

In this case, he noted that the OEM utilises the fasteners to secure its irrigation products to the main pipe, which branches off and feeds various combinations of downstream agricultural equipment, such as pivots or hand lines. The OEM provides plated fasteners in kits, equipped with the various valves that it manufactures to secure a leak-free connection to inline piping.

When working with suppliers, the OEM has emphasised quality, responsiveness, price, and availability in the products, which has helped them combat the widespread supply chain shocks during the Covid-19 pandemic. For kitted, plated fasteners, such as screws, studs, nuts, and washers, in different sizes and configurations, AFT Fasteners states the OEM has often relied on it.

For this particular application, the OEM required a special electroplating zinc nickel fastener. Standardised salt spray testing was conducted to evaluate the corrosion resistance of the materials and protective coatings. The test mimics corrosive environments in an accelerated time frame.

“We have done a substantial amount of salt spray testing on different fastener platings. We found a zinc nickel plating with very high resistance to moisture and corrosion. So, we requested a thicker plating than is typical in the industry,” explains the purchaser – who continues to say he has approached other firms and platers to provide the special electroplated fasteners at the required sizes, volumes, and specifications, as a backup provider. “However, we get turned away all the time. Only AFT has met our specifications at the volumes we need.”

As head purchaser, of course, price is always a prime concern. In this regard, he says that AFT Fasteners pricing is reasonable and facilitates his company’s product sales and marketability. The distributor now provides the OEM with hundreds of thousands of fasteners a month in a variety of kits, bagged and labelled. For the OEM, uninterrupted availability is vital.

“Today, working with a reliable distributor is more important to us than ever. They must be willing to always fully stock their shelves while having the financial stability to do so. They need to earn the loyalty of customers, like us, who cannot afford to be out of stock or face excessive shipping delays,” states the purchaser.

Like many manufacturers, the OEM was faced with the prospect of interrupted supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic but fared better than many thanks to the relationship with a reliable domestic provider. “JIT delivery was a serious problem for many manufacturers during the pandemic, who found their supply chains disrupted and couldn’t fulfil their orders in a timely way. However, it was not an issue for us because I know our suppliers, and we choose to purchase domestically as much as possible,” says the purchaser.

As a company which predominantly manufacturers for the agricultural sector, the irrigation OEM’s sales tend to proceed along predictable patterns since farmers usually focus on work that follows the seasons, which also affects distributors that stock their products. “The challenge occurs when demand suddenly spikes, which has happened in the last couple of years. When panic buying occurs, customers may purchase a year’s worth of product very quickly,” explains the purchaser. “When we unexpectedly needed a large supply of plated screws, AFT bailed us out big time. They set up the air freight for a million screws ahead of time. They took control of the situation and handled it.”

AFT Fasteners ensures that in-house plating and testing capabilities from a domestic distributor offer significant time and cost savings for OEMs when order size changes or there is a question about meeting strict specifications. As a result, OEMs do not need to rely only on offshore sources that can cause months of delay in fulfilment when domestic options can readily satisfy their volume and quality requirements.

“They are always right there with us whenever we want to make adjustments to improve our product, process, and business. They have been a true partner in our success,” the purchaser concludes.

Becca England Assistant Editor t: +44 (0) 1727 615 413

Becca is the latest member to join our team and is eager to get stuck into the world of fasteners. She brings an enthusiastic and fresh outlook on what we do editorially and will be leading our social media activity – including sourcing material, editing articles and posting online.