Ian Clarke, executive vice president of OEM Supply at Anixter shares his views and predictions for the future of the fastener industry.
Steel may have been in Ian Clarke’s veins for all of his working life. He joined British Steel straight from school and spent 20 years in the steel industry before making the transition to fasteners. He recalls with a smile how he entered the fastener industry.
“I went to a long-established and high volume UK fastener manufacturer, at the time a supplier to Anixter, to help it turn its business around.” That direct insight into fastener technology, its development and production and, particularly, its applications in the automotive sector provided an important grounding to take up an opportunity with Anixter in the UK. “From overseeing the company’s global marketing and sales operations, I took on the North American market and more recently the responsibility for Anixter OEM Supply’s global operations.”
Ian heads up an international team of fastener industry experts who are responsible for supplying 14 billion components across a 225,000 SKU inventory range from more than 70 distribution centres in 12 countries. The team operates from a global platform to provide consistent service and delivery worldwide. Customers also get local, personalised service from local experts who provide customised solutions that address everyday business challenges.
Anixter is a leading global supplier of enterprise cabling and security solutions, electrical and electronic wire and cable, OEM Supply fasteners and other small components. Through a unified business structure, Anixter is able to leverage its global footprint, systems and financial strength to respond to customer requirements around the globe. The company operates in more than 50 countries and has global revenues of US$6.2 billion (4.5 billion euros).
Invest in talent
For Ian Clarke, the ability to migrate knowledge and experience of the calibre available throughout Anixter is crucial to the future of Anixter OEM Supply. “As a group, Anixter services critical operations for customers across a very wide range of industries and sectors and in many countries and business cultures throughout the world. That allows us to not only invest in and develop talented individuals but also to expose them to extremely varied business environments, challenging them to give their very best.”
Value means more than cost
“One thing we consistently do well is emphasise value over price. Reducing the total cost of acquisition, risk and business complexity for our customers is far more valuable than just providing products with the lowest price point.”
“To do that, we have a highly experienced engineering team that works with our customers from concept to delivery to make sure they get the right parts for the right application.
We also have eleven ISO-9001, internationally accredited quality laboratories that provide uncompromising quality as well as a global footprint that allows us to provide exceptional personalised, local service, throughout the world.”
“When you combine the skills of our engineers and the innovation within our labs, customers start to truly see the value of our services. From walking the line to recommending the right fastener fit to the application, our value revolves around understanding each of our customer’s unique needs and using innovative solutions that deliver.”
“For example, our engineers recently worked with one of our construction equipment customers to create a part that helped them reduce the weight of their product and the total fasteners by more than 60%, dropping assembly time by 10% – 30% reduction per machine, which ultimately helped them reduce their total cost. We also walk the line with our customers to help streamline their process, make sure there are no gaps in production with direct line feed and accurate vendor forecasting, and do stringent quality tests to minimise their risks. These services evolved from our experience with our customers, understanding what they need and constantly innovating ourselves to stay ahead of the curve. Not many distributors have that kind of capability or capacity.”
The unique global strength and reach of Anixter is supported by a local touch delivering a high standard of excellence
People come first
“One of our main guiding philosophies from the Anixter Blue Book (developed more than 40 years ago and used to guide the company's beliefs and business style – search Blue Book on Anixter.com) is that ‘people come first.’ That includes both our customers and suppliers, as we wouldn’t be where we are today without both of them. While we have made vast progress with our customers, we want to continue to build upon our relationships with our suppliers, and we know we can do more.
To that end, we are organising more Open Days for our suppliers to open our doors to them and invite them to work with us. Open Days are events where Anixter opens its doors to our customers and suppliers to align strategies for growth and mutual success.
We strive to be active and committed partners, responding effectively to the needs of our customers and always aiming to cement a win-win relationship. In the same way, we look to partner with suppliers to ultimately provide the customer best value. Our suppliers can leverage our distribution capabilities and global footprint, and we can rely on their excellent products, which our customers receive with our unique supply chain solutions, technical expertise and global service and delivery.”
The future of fasteners
While Anixter OEM Supply generates its revenue from a wide range of markets, Ian is clear on which sectors it has based its service reputation and where it aims to concentrate for the future. “We’re making great strides in the heavy truck, off-highway and agricultural, powertrain and luxury vehicles markets because of our extensive experience in those sectors.
We’re excited about development opportunities in construction, lawn and garden, transportation, semiconductor/electronics, and healthcare, and after our recent expansion in Brazil, China, India and Mexico, we are looking to expand our efforts further in the years to come.”
This spring Anixter saw major developments at its TS-16949 automotive accredited Wood Dale fastener manufacturing facility near Chicago. “We invested in two, state-of-the-art, National Machinery FORMAX® cold forging machines to enhance our flexibility so we can better manage our customer’s supply chain. As you know, in the manufacturing industry, machines can sometimes fail us, and unforeseen events can disrupt the best-managed supply chains. If that happens to one of our suppliers, we can quickly step in to fill the gap. It’s a measure aimed at keeping the lines running and making sure as little disruption as possible to the processes of our customers.
It certainly should not be seen as a reflection on our suppliers’ capabilities. We are very confident in the quality of the resource they provide us. This, though, is an extension of the value-add services to our customers, ensuring that we deliver on our commitment to them.”
“A manufacturing facility of our own also provides us a much better picture of and appreciation for the manufacturing process, which helps us fine tune our approach when dealing with both our customers and suppliers. For our Open Day at Wood Dale, scheduled for late Fall 2014, we will unveil the new machines; both customers and suppliers are invited so we may share our capabilities as well as strategies for mutual success. We believe this level of transparency is important to reassure our suppliers of our goal of working together as partners in ensuring the best service experience for our customers.”
A global perspective
So, finally, how does Ian see the global market in the coming two to three years and the development of Anixter OEM Supply’s role in supporting it?
“The global population will keep increasing, which means the demands for agricultural, automotive and technological innovation will only continue to grow. Anixter aims to stay ahead of the curve by investing in our people and their expertise because we believe this sets us apart. We are able to respond more personally and quickly to customer needs. We will continue to improve systems and reduce total acquisition costs in the supply chain for our customers. Needless to say, no matter what happens two or three years from now, we will always focus on our customers first.”
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.
Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.