FOCUS: Hexstone - strength in numbers

Staying ahead of industry trends and becoming a one-stop-shop are among the challenges facing wholesale suppliers. Here Keith Harrison, Hexstone’s Chief Executive, gives Torque the inside scoop on how the business approaches these taxing conundrums.

Hexstone – the parent company behind Owlett-Jaton, JCP Construction Products, Stainless Threaded Fasteners, Icon Fasteners, Galaxy Fasteners, Unifix, and Righton Fasteners, continues to strengthen its position in the industry as one of the UK’s key wholesale suppliers of fasteners, fixings, hardware, ironmongery, and associate items to the engineering and merchant trade.

Building the Hexstone name
We have spent recent years developing a closer connection of the Hexstone businesses and building the Hexstone name, and have significantly invested in constructing a brand that brings all of our customer requirements under one roof. For customers, Hexstone reinforces the message that they can source all their products from one organisation, who are committed to delivering a quality, service-led offer. Ultimately, we are a ‘one-stop-shop’.

Adapting to industry trends
Industry trends are continually changing, and it’s vital that we are able to meet their expectations. For example, more and more customers are leaning towards consolidating their supply base. The benefits of this one-stop shop approach are plenty. There are logistical advantages to this, as well as peace of mind. By using only one trusted supplier, the management challenges are minimised, and procurement cost is reduced.

As customer demand continues to grow, we are able to rise to the challenge by maintaining stock levels and service throughout our operation. Indeed, we have implemented a further £2 million pound investment into our existing £13 million pound stock holding. Customers rely on a fast efficient service, and we have the infrastructure in place to facilitate. When people buy from Hexstone, they are buying into quality and service - no matter which company, or product.

With an average of 10,000 lines being processed per day, it’s important that our team are fully dedicated to their role in order to meet demand. Investment in stock management software ensures stock availability levels meet customers’ expectations.

The benefit of having good stock availability is customers having the confidence to place orders, knowing that they will get the product the next day. Our staff understands that they need to preserve stock levels – that customer confidence is actually as valuable as the sale itself.


Hexstone’s branding
We are committed to ensuring each of our companies maintains its own distinctive identity, and has its own specialist products and customers. Within each company we have experienced specialists in that particular field, maintaining them as separate teams with their own focus. Being part of the Hexstone group of companies simply means that we can diversify to develop and supply additional products to meet the needs of our customers. Hexstone prides itself on the understanding of the core needs of its customers, and the ability to service them in a consistent and sustainable way. For customers, it’s reassuring that the closer association of companies within the Hexstone umbrella allows a mixture of niche specialists in the industry to come together to form a collective strength. As a significant and substantial company, Hexstone can attract global suppliers and, in turn, the very best products.

Having a recognisable brand is becoming increasingly important in our sector; it is imperative to present a strong brand. Driven by customer feedback, we have recently introduced the strong brand of ‘Unifix’ on our packaging on key products, which is already proving to be a great success, with plans to expand into other product ranges, going forward. The brand has been designed to be distinctive, and to instil customer confidence in quality and consistency of product. Ultimately, our aim is for the consumer to come back to our customers and ask for: “The one with Unifix on the box!”

Service offering
Our investment goes beyond a wide and deep stock-holding and strong brands; effective stock management is a critical element in order to service our customers. We have invested £250,000 into our warehouse picking system – a cutting-edge technology for this industry, ensuring we manage product lines efficiently. The new system enables orders to be picked both accurately and cost-effectively – a necessity for a company that processes approximately 10,000 lines per day.

Boasting c.200,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space, and £15 million worth of stock, the company is well-equipped to serve multiple industries across the UK. Head-quartered in Stone, Staffordshire, the facilities can hold up to 10,000 tonnes of products, across 50,000 different lines; the vast majority is available to order 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ordered through the sales office network, or via the trading websites.

Online presence: Now and in the future
Online trading is now widely recognised as a more efficient and straightforward process of ordering, and re-ordering. Since the launch of our first trading website – ‘OJ Trade’, we have witnessed a steady increase in business within this sector. We have since introduced ‘Icon Trade’ and ‘STF Trade’ on behalf of Icon Fasteners and Stainless Threaded Fasteners, respectively. We will shortly be updating these websites, as well as introducing
‘Galaxy Trade’ – a platform for Galaxy Fasteners. The trading websites will effectively serve two audiences. Customers will have their own login, giving them full access to their own prices, and stock availability, enabling them to securely place orders online. The websites work in ‘real time’, so everything shown always remains accurate. The ‘end user’ can also access the websites in a ‘Visitor’ capacity. This feature allows anyone to view only product, showing reference to product information, codes, descriptions, and images. This has proven to be an invaluable tool to visitors and customers alike, where both parties are able to reference the same product, removing ambiguity. Customers only will also have access to product documentation such as CE information, and DoP (Declaration of Performance) data.

The Hexstone website will also be enhanced, showcasing the companies within. New and existing customers and suppliers alike will gain a greater insight as to who we are, and what we do. The website will enable the audience to gain access to our respective trading websites, and it will include a ‘News’ page, amongst other updates.

UK business success
By focusing on longevity, the business has been able to remain reactive, and at the forefront of our industry. Our business is in very strong financial shape, which is so important to our customer base when it comes to long-term relationship building.

By recognising changes within the industry and responding appropriately, we can be seen as a success story for UK business. It is our intention that Hexstone in its entirety will continue to be recognised as the total solution - offering a comprehensive stock range in both depth and volume, a continuity of supply, and a stock and buying power that is unrivalled in the market.