Loyalty and quality have been replaced with price and delivery as the criteria for choosing a product in the “cut throat” local fasteners industry, asserts specialised fastener distributor UPL Group MD Richard Simes.
“Fasteners literally keep the world from falling apart. Unfortunately, there are almost no well-qualified, quality-conscious people, who understand the value and cost benefit of good-quality fasteners, left in the industry.
“We live in a disposable era, where everything is made quickly and cheaply and not to last. These are the times we live in and if you don’t move with the times, you will be left behind,” he says.
He adds that, because of this, UPL is now considering selling more affordable, alternative products, which it plans to sell with a warning.
“We will offer these products as a cheap alternative to our normal products and make it very clear to our customer that these products are not our preferred products for any critical application and that we do not take responsibility for any failure,” he says.
He notes that fasteners are often considered last in an application, as engineers consider them to be the cheapest and, therefore, the most unimportant part of the application.
“When there is a failure, however, the fastener is often the first to come under scrutiny because it would seem that it cannot carry the load. The real question is, should it have?
“When one investigates the tightening method, for example, one often finds that it was done by hand, with a wrench, rather than with a machine. Or that oil was applied unnecessarily through the handling of the fastener. Most of the time, the failure comes down to the raw materials used to manufacture the fastener,” states Simes.
He emphasises that the company’s biggest challenge is the ability to compete with cheap imported products, which are, most often, of inferior quality.
“Importing is seen as easy and less costly. Many of our customers have decided to go this route, with disastrous effects. Although the process is easy, more time needs to be spent finding a reputable manufacturer that uses quality input materials.
“We can only try to educate our customers about independently testing the quality of the products they buy,” he says.
Simes adds that there are other challenges to importing fasteners, such as paying before receiving any goods and time delays resulting in delivery problems.
To overcome this, he says, there is only so much the company can do.
“One way is for us to purchase sheer volume orders, as this brings the product prices down.
“The other way is through good-quality products. Our suppliers are hand picked and International Organisation for Standardisation-certified. We are able to supply test certificates with all our products, assuring our customers that they are getting superior quality products,” he states.
The company also has a qualified metallurgist, who it sends out to train customers on the correct use of its products, on hand.
“We also have training videos and material available, enabling us to train clients’ staff in-house,” he says.
For instance, UPL recently provided training for Deon Hall, the newly appointed product manager at specialist bolt, nut and tool supplier, the Bolt & Engineering Distributors Group.
Simes says Bolt & Engineering Distributors Group created the position, as it is concentrating on educating and assisting its purchasing department on where to purchase all its particular products.
“We are confident that this will result in quality being featured as a major contributing factor again,” he says.
Looking ahead, Simes says the company has recently added 1 m length bar of mild steel and high-tensile threaded rod to its product range and is looking at expanding its range of brass fasteners.