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Rising to the challenge

19-Jun-2017

As a distributor in today’s market it is not enough to simply supply a product, you need to be able to offer something unique. Thanks to its technical knowledge and flexibility, Star Fasteners can suggest exclusive solutions for specific applications, as well as work on bespoke products for critical applications.

 

Star Fasteners Ltd deals with a broad spectrum of companies – both trade and end users – and thanks to its 30 years of experience can suggest simple solutions that offer a better final installation, whilst also being cost-effective. “Technical knowledge is vital when working with customers because if there is a problem with a particular application you need to be able to understand the process involved so that you can suggest viable alternatives – otherwise you may lose the business,” explains Daniel Starbuck, director at Star Fasteners.
Star Fasteners can work with customers to solve existing problems with an installation, as well as be involved at the initial design stage – which enables it to suggest an optimum solution. “In our experience, customers want support and technical advice to help them pick the right product. That is what we look to offer,” adds Nicola Smith, director at Star Fasteners. “Yes we could just sell them a product, but for us it is more important to offer the ideal solution and build a partnership with customers.”
A key feature of Star Fasteners’ service is that its employees can meet customers on-site to find out directly what problems they are encountering. “We often find that the wrong products are being used for the application or they are being installed incorrectly – such as over tightening,” states Daniel. “By going to the site we can see exactly what requirements there are, as well as what access restrictions are involved. We can then suggest two or three options that will provide a solution.”
This commitment to its customers has seen the company gain a reputation as a solutions provider and a key contact for new application designs and developments. “A lot of designers have got to know us over the years and if they are fastening something new they contact us to ask what solution we would recommend,” reports Daniel. “The reason is that our suggestions often help them reduce the overall costs of an application, plus the benefits the product can offer – time saving at production, warranty saving, as well as the potential for reducing weight.”
Star Fasteners does not only suggest solutions it already stocks, due to the knowledge within the company, it is able to also suggest new bespoke products that aren’t currently in the market.
“We are the UK’s largest distributor of the Huck® brand and we have a very close relationship with Arconic on designing products,” mentions Nicola. “We have been a Huck distributor for over 30 years and Arconic are very proactive and work with us on ideas. The Huck range has an excellent reputation in the market for the quality of the products, as well as the support available to customers. As a distributor that is vital when you are talking to customers about new projects.”
Daniel adds: “We have been involved in a lot of products that Arconic has introduced to the market under the Huck range and we have lots of other ideas that we can see becoming possible in the future.”
A prime example of that partnership is the Penta-Lok fastener designed specifically for the composite panel market. “A few years ago we had a customer that wanted a better fastener to fix into a side restraint on a truck trailer. The fastener they had been using kept coming loose and new products would need to be installed,” explains Daniel. “After looking at the application I had an idea of using a fixing that had been around for a few years, but changing the head style to make it more suitable for the application. I wanted a fastener that would peel back like a daisy fixing, but with a domed head.”
Daniel continues: “We spoke to Arconic and they could see the potential. By modifying some existing products they created the product, and tests showed it had good results. It has taken over three years to get the final product, but we are now in the final stages of introducing the Penta-Lok to the market.”
The Penta-Lok is an easy to install, 6.4mm diameter, plated steel, peel fastener with superior blind side strength. Due to its high pull-out strength, Penta-Lok is suited for use within thin materials or delicate composites, as well as within misaligned, oversized, or slotted holes. Its uniquely engineered peel system installs with ease into shallow panels. 
“We are already seeing a lot of interest from customers for the product, which is pleasing after spending so long developing it with Arconic,” points out Nicola.
Another joint development by Star Fasteners and Arconic has been the plastic headed Hucktainer®, which is available in any colour head. “The encapsulated Hucktainer has been available in the market for many years,” reports Daniel. “However, it was only available to us in grey.
We had customers contacting us saying they wanted to use the products directly on truck panels to match the colour of their livery. Previously they were painting over the grey headed Hucktainer, but if the paint was for some reason scraped it showed the grey colour again. We therefore considered the possibility of offering the range in all colours, so they can be used on different coloured applications, with no need for any painting.”
Originally Star Fasteners went to Arconic about introducing the different coloured plastic heads, but the order quantities did not make it a viable option. However, Arconic gave Star Fasteners its blessing to take the original Hucktainer and add their own plastic head. “Where possible we look to work with Arconic and the Huck range because of the quality of the products,” explains Daniel. “However, when this is not possible we work it out another way.”
Instead, Star Fasteners invested in the tooling for the plastic head itself, which was a large cost for the business. The company then worked with a different manufacturer and spent a lot of time and effort developing the new plastic head. “We believe the product has to be exactly right,” says Daniel. “If it isn’t made 100% correct then we are not happy with it and we won’t introduce it to the market. With the new plastic head for the Hucktainer we wanted to ensure there was no water ingress into the panel, which meant we needed a seal that stops anything getting under the head. Also, the problem with a lot of plastic heads is they crack and fall off – which again leads to water ingress and corrosion issues. After a lot of testing we ended up with a product that we were confident would be the perfect solution.”
Star Fasteners now keeps the original Hucktainer pins in stock, without the seal. As soon as it gets an order it sends the pins to its manufacturer and gets them encapsulated with the chosen colour. “We can offer hundreds of different colours and can even offer a next day service for special requirements,” states Nicola.
The new plastic headed Hucktainer has proven so popular that Arconic is now asking Star Fasteners to promote the product in Europe. “If everybody wants it in the UK, why wouldn’t they want it in the rest of Europe or all over the world,” says Nicola. “It is a simple solution, but there is a lot of knowledge and work that has gone into the product.”
When suggesting new and bespoke solutions to customers, Star Fasteners also takes into consideration the tooling a business has available. “It is no good coming up with the best invention in the world, if the customer is going to have to buy a whole new set of tools.
The product has to work ideally with the company’s existing tooling,” explains Daniel. “We try and work with the customer and see what their current installations costs include. We then look to get the product to a competitive price using the existing tooling. If this is not possible, we have our tool hire and maintenance department – where we can supply them the tooling for the application. Dependent on the volume we can either hire the set-up for the tooling or we can lease tools to a customer for an open-ended period.”
As well as providing the hire service, Star Fasteners also provides a repair and maintenance service for customers’ tooling. “We offer a full traceable history for each tool that comes in for maintenance and repair, showing the complete history,” points out Nicola. “Whether it is just fixing an oil leak or if they want it completely stripping and re-sealing, we can provide the answer. It is about providing a complete service and offering a package that will appeal to customers.”
From speaking to Daniel and Nicola there is an almost infectious passion and pride in the products and service Star Fasteners provides its customers, which is something that cannot be taught or learnt. “The simple fact is we love doing what we are doing,” states Daniel matter-of-factly. “Every day is different and there is always the next application or the next innovation. It is hard work, but we are confident in the quality of the products and their capabilities.”
Nicola concludes: “We are always active with customers and working on new solutions that could open up completely new fields or applications. It is just a case of how long they take to come to fruition. For now, we will continue to grow and look forward to the next call.”

 

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