Holemaker Technology: Speed and efficiency for metalworking

Through innovation, Holemaker Technology aims to speed up metalworking. Torque Magazine speaks with Co-Director Piers Crane about the speedy rise of the business and how it has filled a hole in the sector…

As the old adage goes, ‘time is money’ and never more so than during tougher economic times. It’s little wonder, then, that there is even more focus on efficiency in current times and – let’s face it – for the foreseeable future.

One up-and-coming tool manufacturer has been determined to make life easier for those in the metalworking sector since it began, aiming to speed things up for fabri­cators, installers and maintenance engi­neers. Holemaker Technology (HMT) started out in 2014, founded by brothers Hugh Crane and Piers Crane, who have an industrial supply background. Piers picks up the story: “We have a lot of experience of the market and we found that we were being asked for specialist metal drilling tools that we couldn’t get hold of. They didn’t exist.” At the same time, cordless power tools were improving beyond all recognition, particu­larly with powerful impact wrenches.”

Having discovered that engineers were in some cases having to cobble together their own tooling in the field, sometimes for unforeseen practical challenges that were holding up expensive projects or repair work, the duo realised there was a gap in the market. Drilling or modifying steel connection holes onsite or in the field – where portable and handheld tools have to be used – was a particular challenging area.

Piers Crane says: “People are looking to work smarter, with versatile tools. We aimed to fill a niche, we didn’t start up to take business from anyone. It was an untapped market, to have modern cutting tools , designed for the latest generation cordless power tools, for reworking and repairing like this. It freed up industry.”

Saving time, money and boosting productivity is at the core of the system. The patented VersaDrive system is one of HMT’s key ranges. The modular cutting system allows cutting tools to be used across impact wrenches and drivers as well as rotary drills including magnetic, handheld, and workshop drilling machines.

“Businesses are looking to work safer, faster and more sustainably,” explains Piers Crane. “On top of that you’ve got factors like material price increases… People are having to look for more effi­cient methods of working. Versadrive tools are up to 15 times faster than tradi­tional methods, as well as preventing dangerous kickback.”

Rail, MRO, mechanical and energy are strong markets for HMT. Construction’s growing enthusiasm for modular building, often with factory-made steel frames that require connecting in the field, is also highly relevant to the HMT range.

“Growing with good partners”

Speedy and efficient products are the focus, but HMT is not looking for reck­lessly fast expansion: “We look for steady growth with good partners. The best success to date is working with indepen­dent industrial supplies companies that set out to add value to their customer base by showing them new innovations.”

HMT sells to the market through around 150 dealers in UK and Ireland and ensures it works with quality, focused dealers to ensure a good fit.

“The beauty of a modular cutting tool system for dealers, is that there are more solutions from less SKUs on the shelf.”

With locations in Kent and Sheffield, HMT is naturally UK-focused, but overseas expan­sion is well underway. HMT has been trad­ing in North America for two years, based in Indiana. While HMT has a direct presence in the States, in other countries HMT tends to partner with master distributors and use their expertise.

 “We regularly exhibit at shows like Eisenwarenmesse, Fabtec etc. While the visitor footfall has been significantly down since Covid, both shows remain really good and we got a number of new stock­ists on board in several countries.”

Steady growth in uncertain times

Holemaker Technology’s first almost decade of existence has been during some unsettled times, which have seen some competitors fail. “From year one there has been these rolling crisis like referendums, war, elections, pandemics, downturns... it feels like we’ve had everything thrown at us, but it shows that through it all, growth is still absolutely achievable.”

Recent times have famously not been fantastic for the economy in the UK and beyond. Crane says: “We saw some hesitation in the market at the end of last year, but we are seeing the confidence is coming back.”

Comfortingly, HMT has seen its dealers also weather the storm of the unsettled economy.

In terms of staffing, HMT has 20 on the books and is recruiting for more. Under­standably, the firm is home to technically minded and skilled people. Finding staff that understand and buy into the philoso­phy of the business has been crucial too, says Crane: “The challenge has been getting the right people. Recruitment can be hard, but we generally hire from recommenda­tions or we get people who approach us.”

“We want HMT customers to be successful”

Alongside innovative product that speeds up metalworking, Holemaker Technology has published a set of core values (see inset) that it aims to live by. “You can hold us to them,” says Crane.

HMT’s support for its dealer partners comes in a variety of forms, from its dealer-only online ordering portal, which is used by approximately half its customers, to online training courses. There’s been a significant investment in video, to support its dealers and end users alike, with videos that explain the products, how they can best be used and with all the relevant detail.

“E-learning is important to us. We want to help HMT customers to be successful. We visit dealers and regularly spend time with them doing joint visits to their customers, showing how to get the best from their products.”

And while HMT products are now used all over the world, the business keeps its feet firmly on the ground: “Resilience is very important to us. We have been fortu­nate, we’ve got product that people want!”