Happy Together, innovative, passionate for solutions, entrepreneurial and respectful are the core values that have helped drive the international growth of Facil in the fastener solutions market over the past 17 years.
The challenge to expand at an exponential rate while maintaining core, intricate, refined values is one that very few businesses even have the luxury to negotiate, but it in fact defines the evolution of international fastener solution specialist, Facil.
Borne from the minds of French fastener manufacturer, A. Raymond and German bolt and screw producer, KAMAX; the resultant joint venture manifested upon the turn of the millennium and was kick-started courtesy of the most prestigious of initial clients.
“A. Raymond and KAMAX at the time were supplying to Ford of Europe, who in 1999 voiced the wish to find a supplier that could supply the bulk of fasteners needed; so by joining forces, they were able to supply Ford with many different fastening commodities through the Facil venture,” recalls Vice President, Marketing for Facil, Pieter Houben. “At that moment a new company was started and we initialised very entrepreneurially in 2000 supplying to Ford at their site in Genk.
“Basically working out of a container on the parking lot of Ford with 10-15 people, we have since grown to now operate across 17 locations worldwide and after 17 years, have recently surpassed the €400 million threshold.”
Such drastic and rapid growth can inevitably be attributed in some part to the Company’s successful partnership with Ford over the years, but ultimately derives from the business’s ability to offer a turnkey service – as per the automotive giant’s initial request – and Facil’s two mother companies.
Houben continues: “It really is the full service. We’re not just supplying fasteners but we’re stepping into the early development phase of a car, working side by side with engineers – on location – and designing fasteners according to each customer’s specific needs.
“Perhaps our most significant advantage though is that we are able to source and purchase at the best total cost for the client. Despite both mother companies being state-of-the-art manufacturers, we are able to utilise a global sourcing network of 600 suppliers in order to always find the best solution for the customer.”
The balance and options available to Facil are strengthened even further by the flexibility of both mother companies, whose family-owned cultures emanate through to their brainchild to the benefit of the entire value chain.
And ultimately, it allows the Company to remain at the forefront of trends and continuously ahead of the curve; optimising the full end-to-end life of the fastener – from design to assembly – with all the latest technologies and developments in tow.
Remaining entrepreneurial and agile amid an ever-expanding business is no mean feat, but is the combination that continues to attract some of industry’s most prominent OEMs.
From Ford, Volvo Trucks soon came calling, and as the workload became tougher, Facil continued to pull its socks up higher to go that extra mile, and to continue exceeding expectations.
“We needed structure, we needed processes and we needed a motto,” Houben says. “That motto was ‘One Facil’. We had different geographies and different customers, but the philosophies never swayed and the production line never stopped.
“Being operationally efficient and championing operational excellence was pivotal as demand can be different per region, per customer, or even per site, so we had to be able to tailor operations to deal with that.”
2011 saw the dynamic change once again upon Facil’s acquisition of American business, Flexalloy to become a provider of fasteners to Daimler Trucks in North America. Chinese car OEM, Qoros soon followed in 2013 to open up the Asian market too. And as each high profile customer expands in their own right, Facil remains flexible enough to follow; thus broadening its own footprint in the process.
“For example, we’ve recently followed Volvo to Japan,” Houben adds. “We’re there because Volvo is so impressed and positive about our relationship that they keep adding new plants and production sites to our package. So we cater to their needs, and make sure we remain entrepreneurial enough to react to such opportunities quickly when they arise.”
A GLOBAL PICTURE
From a supplier and customer perspective, the willingness to expand and diversify brings evidential reassurances, but it also facilitates a lot of Facil’s own internal development simultaneously.
Being operational on so many continents enables the business to foresee certain trends, technologies and consumer preferences ahead of time, before subsequently implementing them across other presence points.
“For example, the electric vehicle market is stronger in Asia so there is a huge emphasis on lightweight materials. However, many Chinese suppliers are not quite at that level yet, technically, so Chinese startups are using European suppliers who are at that development stage – like us – instead,” Houben details. “Then, from the west, we are able to see a more global picture of sourcing options before cross-selling across regions; and that’s the advantage of being global – your viewpoint becomes a complete picture rather than regionally dependent.”
Astuteness across fastener usage trends is even more significant at present as Facil not only looks to diversify its solutions range, but also its customer demographic. Leveraging the same approach and skill sets that have served the car and truck domain for so long, the Company is also now on hand to cater for the rail sector, as well as construction and agricultural vehicles/machinery.
For each and every strand though, the attention to detail remains the same and the focus on efficiencies stay consistent. Reduced bulk sizes, concerted weight reductions, more advanced technologies, more refined research & development, and deeper analysis tools are all being leveraged to tweak the end fastener.
“No matter how heavy the vehicle, fuel emissions, efficiencies and sustainability are hot topics; even on a fastener level,” Houben affirms. “And to anticipate and improve upon these needs, we continuously design and develop new solutions. This can revolve around the fastener and its application, or even in terms of ICT and the analysis tools we use so that we can predict the cost of materials prior to sourcing, to aid logistics efficiencies too.”
Technologies such as RFID and augmented reality are used to harness new and improved logistical solutions to facilitate enhanced efficiencies for the customer, and can be attributed in large to the levels of technological excellence and idea fostering that occurs within Facil.
Houben continues: “We have extremely flexible people which is what’s needed, and we look to hire talented, ambitious, hungry people that help keep that entrepreneurial spirit in the Company, but that we also give a lot of responsibility.
“We encourage people to bring their own ideas, to feel free in expressing those ideas, and even to fail as that’s ultimately the only way to create good, new ideas. In turn, each employee feels enriched and encouraged to explore what they can achieve and contribute to a growing business. And as such, many people have worked their way up the Company and have already been present at Facil for 15 years.”
Providing the best possible environment for such bright minds to flourish has recently been compounded by a complete refurbishment of Facil’s HQ, complemented by an ongoing assurance of the highest class facilities and state-of-the-art equipment.
Complementing investments and improvements to the Company’s structure has been Facil’s step into the world of ecommerce in order to simplify the ordering process for some customers; all with the support of strengthened data analysis that has helped to create more comprehensive and statistically-based price points, logistics solutions and material procurement figures.
“It’s all about getting more information and understanding customers better, and optimising big data will allow us to do this more accurately in the future,” Houben explains. “It will also help to facilitate our other ambition which is to continue growing of course. We are very active in the automotive and truck markets but see huge potential with large Tier 1 suppliers, as well as in the rail sector where there is huge demand for high quality fasteners.
“And for each and every customer or supplier, improving our internal processes and by using new technologies, we’ll be able to provide them with information quicker; while also reducing our own stock levels as a consequence of reacting more accurately to demand in real time.”
Despite every diversification, advancement, progression and expansion though, the chief differentiator today remains what it always was: a cemented set of morals filtered down from a mother company partnership steeped in family values and entrepreneurial flair.
Houben concludes: “The values we strive to and live by are driven by our people – the ‘HIPER fasteneers’. This stands for Happy together, Innovation, Passion for solutions, Entrepreneurship and Respect.
“Together they encourage us to retain a feel good factor within the business, to think ahead of the industry curve, to go the extra mile, and to stick together. And this helps us perform to our best, and achieve the best possible results for our customers.”