David Vahter, Managing Director of Apex Stainless Fasteners, sits down with Torque Magazine to discuss the challenges and triumphs experienced whilst leading the company through the Covid-19 pandemic...
Apex Stainless Fasteners is one of the UK’s leading specialist sources of stainless‐steel fasteners, having established a worldwide reputation for an extensive and comprehensive product range.
The fastener industry has seen challenges present themselves in the form of supply chain issues and increases to raw material prices as a result of the Covid‐19 pandemic and Brexit implications. However, Apex has continued to ensure minimal disruption to its first‐rate service levels and works to keep its customers happy.
David Vahter, Managing Director of Apex Stainless Fasteners, tells Torque Magazine: “2020 was a difficult year for everyone but Apex has faired well. We continued to give our customers supplies in very difficult times. I think the entire trade experienced a weak period from March to May, but demand picked up significantly after the summer.”
Despite challenges brought about by the pandemic and Brexit, Apex had a record breaking fourth quarter of 2020, with the best recorded December ever in the history of the company.
Vahter puts the success of the autumn down to a surge in demand on the back of the coronavirus lockdown. “When you’ve had a lockdown like that, and the demand starts picking up again, everyone needs their goods, and that’s exactly what happened. In addition, our quick service and good stock levels come in handy when demand picks up quickly.”
The business has also been subject to the many challenges and external factors that are specific to stainless steel, particularly great volatility in raw material prices.
“There is no doubt that there have been significant changes to raw material prices, especially from the summer and onwards. When there is a surge in demand, material prices tend to go up. Especially when you go from a level where nickel was very low during March‐May,” says Vahter.
With popularity of e‐vehicles growing, Torque Magazine asked Apex whether it thought that the increase in nickel being used for the electric car industry, will impact on stainless steel fastener prices also.
“Yes definitely,” Vahter replies. “If you compare nickel prices to five years ago, they are at high levels. However, if you look back 10 years, it was at a low level. Nickel is a very volatile metal and it’s difficult to forecast it and to predict what the future prices would be. When nickel prices go up, all stainless‐steel prices will go up. Tesla recently announced the use of alternative batteries using less or little nickel. Also, the Chinese Steel company Tsing‐tan will start producing a new type of nickel matte for use in car battery productions. These announcements took the edge off the bullish nickel development from the summer with a sudden $3,000 drop in nickel prices at the start of March this year. My guess is that prices will either continue to go up or they will stabilise. I don’t think the cost of goods will decrease.”
With sustainability taking centre stage in many conversations globally, the fastener and fixing industry has placed a newfound importance on finding more environmentally friendly options whilst still ensuring quality of products worldwide. Torque Magazine asked Apex how they might be implementing more environmentally friendly practices into everyday use.
“I think it is a very important topic. Climate change effects everyone and we have to do our part at Apex. We updated our sustainability policy in January of this year and we revised our targets and brought in new ones. I think we are doing many things well in terms of sustainability and we take them seriously. I think it will be a big challenge, but we like a big challenge and long‐term it means that our targets are aligned with the Paris agreement. That is what we are aiming for over the next five to ten years.”
When it comes to the future of Apex, growth is not off the cards for the company. However, as the world still works to navigate itself out of the coronavirus pandemic and manage global supply chain issues, Apex’s priority is to continue to focus on keeping its staff and customers safe.
Vahter says: “I would say, your focus should be as a leader to manage through Covid. That is your number one focus. You will have difficulties in the supply chain and difficulties in the human impact of Covid, on your staff and on your customers. So, my main priority is still the same, to lead the company through the Covid pandemic. Hopefully, we are coming to the end of it.”