Famously, there are approximately 2.5 million rivets holding the Eiffel Tower together. Growth for the French fastener industry may not be quite as spectacular as the famous Paris landmark, but there are plenty of positive signs for the sector, as Torque discovered…
Business is brisk in France’s fastener market, having recorded a strong 2017 and an improving start to 2018.
According to pgb-Europe, which has recently set up a sales office in the territory, France’s fastener market is now looking so promising for 2018 that other companies are investing in the region. It’s a view backed by Bülte, which has had a base in France since the 1980s. Bülte
President Stefan Bülte told Torque that turnover in France has steadily increased since the worldwide global economic dip in 2008, with France now representing almost half of Bülte’s total turnover (see below). Another indication of the market strength is the launch of Fastener Fair in Paris later this year.
France is also proving attractive for tool businesses, with at least one UK firm eagerly eyeing the territory for expansion.
Toolstation MD James MacKenzie recently revealed at BHETA’s spring meeting that he had “high hopes” for the supplier’s expansion into France. The retailer, which has over 300 branches in the UK and now six in France, is looking to launch more in the country before it officially reviews its performance there.
The ties between the UK and France were bound closer together last year in the tool and general maintenance supply world, when Paris headquartered IPH Group and London’s Brammer joined forces to become IPH Brammer. These industrial distributors have close to £1.9bn (€2.2bn) in combined revenues and more than 8,000 employees, with operations in 23 European countries.
But all that positivity is not to paint an unrealistic picture of the challenges in the French market. With a population of approximately 67 million stretched over 643,801km², some big names in the DIY and retail world are currently struggling. Despite an “encouraging market backdrop”, Kingfisher – owner of Screwfix and B&Q – is reportedly looking to cut 409 jobs from its Castorama & Brico Dépôt DIY chains (Reuters reports that 102 jobs will also be created and 164 transferred). Despite that bad news, compounded by sales drops of 1.9% (for Castorama) and 4.2% (for Brico Dépôt), Kingfisher said the market backdrop in France is encouraging, “although it is volatile”.
Mr Stefan Bülte, President of Bülte in France and Bülte Group, speaks with Torque
How is business?
Business is quite good, turnover is a little bit stronger than last year. Some raw materials like PVDF are sometimes difficult to purchase, but things are going well anyway thanks to our organisation as a Group and a centralised purchasing policy.
What industries does Bülte serve and which are strongest at the moment?
That’s the main particularity of our business, and also a great advantage, as we are working with every industrial sector: furnishing, automotive, toy-industry, chemicals, food, electronics and many more.
Our product range is very large and we work mainly with distributors. The sector of the sub-contractor for the car industry is running quite well at the moment.
You are expanding your product range in 2018 - can you tell us a bit about the new products you’ve launched, like the TORX grub screws, Plastilocknut and Washer faced hex screws with TORX?
The three products you are talking about should be launched by the end of the summer at the latest. We are trying to launch new products as often as we can. We create new products either because they do not yet exist in plastic or because there is a real demand and need on the market.
The Plastilocknut is already available and was made because such a safety nut did not yet exist in plastic. We think that this product could be particularly useful in the toy industry, as plastics parts are often used. The TORX grub screws also did not yet exist in the world of plastic fixing
parts, so it was important to create it, as this shape offers a lot of advantages to users. The washer faced hex screws were developed because there was a real demand for it on the market.
How many countries to you export to now?
We are exporting our products to more than 40 countries around the world. The main turnover is done within Europe, but Australia for example is one of the main countries to which we are exporting. Our key export markets in Europe are Germany, Italy, UK and the Netherlands, followed by Australia.
How long has Bülte been established in France and what departments do you have there?
Bülte has existed in France since 1986. The company in France is the head office of the Group. It includes administration, the commercial department, purchasing department, distribution and R&D.
How is business in France for Bülte?
Business is doing quite good. Turnover in France represents 45% of the whole turnover of the Group. Turnover in France has been consistently increasing since 2009. 2008 was quite hard because of the general economic crisis.
Are you seeing any trends in the French market?
Not really. It is difficult to talk about trends as we are working with every industrial sector. Customers are more and more demanding every day and we do our best daily to remain a supplier of the best calibre.
Bülte seems to pride itself on its responsive technical advisors and customer support – is that fair to say?
Yes, absolutely. In comparison with our competitors, we place a real importance on the direct relationship with our customers. That is why our prices are not on our website, for example. It allows us to have a direct conversation with our customers and to build a strong and reliable relationship with them, thanks to our advice, expertise and reactivity.
What are Bülte’s ambitions for 2018 and beyond?
To go on increasing our turnover and remain a first class supplier thanks to our dynamic commercial team.
We have just finished implementing the new computer system (ERP trade software package) to the third company within the Group. We first changed the software system in France almost three years ago, then in Germany and now in the UK, which means that the whole Group is now working
with the same computer system.
We will take part in the first edition of Fastener Fair France, in Paris in November 2018, as an exhibitor. Our website will soon be available [in April] in two new languages: Spanish and Italian, so that will be five languages in total (French, German, English, Spanish and Italian). Finally, we are working on the development of a 3D catalogue.
pgb-Europe is growing worldwide, with locations in Belgium, Poland, Asia and now in France, where it runs a six-person sales office.
The firm tells Torque: “The French fastener market has been reviving for several years. 2017 was one of the best years and 2018 looks promising, so many specialists in the field have felt able to increase their investment in the area to fulfil their ambitions in France.
“This economic sector represents more than 11,000 jobs in France and more than £0.87bn (€1bn) in turnover (screws and bolts). pgb-Europe has travelled only a few kilometres [from its Belgium HQ in Melle] with the intention to grow the brand and reputation in Europe, particularly on French soil.
“There is much development potential for pgb, based on performance, technical solutions, the quality of product and the various services offered to customers.
“The hexagon bolt market is very competitive and attracts many European companies, which is a sign of the steady economic recovery, both in the industrial sector and the building sector – the most important sectors for our business.”
Headquartered in Paris, Titanox Fastening Technologies was founded 66 years ago by the Fodor family. Still family-owned, Titanox has subsidiaries in China, India and Turkey, with a manufacturing facility in Asia for its own brand RIVELIT, which includes a wide range of quality speed rivets. RIVELIT speed rivets have been developed for rapid and blind-sided installations, ideal for fastening different materials and thicknesses (metals, plastics, composites, fibre glass).
RIVELIT Speed rivet is a semi-automatic fastening system, where rivets are loaded on a needle and introduced into the nose of the riveting machine, allowing continuous fastening of 70 rivets per minute.
“With the speed rivets product family, TITANOX has become the only alternative of full range riveting solutions worldwide, to the market leader,” says Chairwoman and CEO Caroline Fodor. “It allows our customers to improve quality and safety, reduce time setting and obviously increase productivity.”
RIVELIT installation tools for Speed rivets have been designed for medium to high volume applications. They can be pneumatic or hydro-pneumatic, standard or customised, hand-held or integrated into a workstation. RIVELIT Speed rivets are available in different types: with high assembly strength (TOPRIV), multigrip (MULTIRIV), grooved for electronic applications (RIVTRONIC), threaded (SCREWRIV), flush type on both sides of the sheet (FLUSHRIV) or used as a pivot point (AXIRIV). Available in a wide range of materials, different diameters, head shapes and body lengths, they can be delivered on paper pod or preloaded on one-way needles. Main application areas are the sheet metal industry, automotive, telecommunications, industry, aerospace, new energies, machinery equipment, lighting, enclosures, HVAC and many others.
Titanox recently exhibited at MIDEST 2018.
Catch up with previous Territory Reports from Torque: