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1997 FIN – EIFI’s Lench: Europe Concerned About Dumping of Cheap Imports

March 31
00:00 2010

1997 FIN – EIFI’s Lench: Europe Concerned About Dumping of Cheap Imports

April 8, 1997 FIN – “Imports from the Far East and cheap production areas are giving us a certain amount of worry,” the chairman of the European Industrial Fasteners Institute said.

Robert H. Lench, who has been in the fastener business for 48 years and EIFI chairman for five years, said European manufacturers are particularly concerned about he termed as “dumping of stainless steel from the Far East.”

Lench is the third generation of his family in the fastener business.
His firm, T.W. Lench Ltd., just located 110 miles north of London and just west of Birmingham, manufactures 12 to 31 mm cold forged fasteners.

The foreign competition will continue to increase, especially in low-grade products, Lench predicted. Fastener will originate “wherever in the world manufacturing is cheapest. That will move around.”

He advises European manufacturers to export more. “Lots of companies haven’t spent as much time and effort as they should have,” Lench observed.

Europeans who export to the U.S. don’t foresee the U.S. Fastener Quality Act as an impediment to trade. “They would like [the law] to go away, but I don’t think these things go away. We’ve got to be ready to meet the requirements.

In an interview with FIN after spending a day listening to the Public Law Task Force workshop in London, Lench said that “from what we’ve heard today, there is quite a bit of work to be done.”

Europe may eventually have its own version of the FQA, Lench predicted. There has been talk “for some years now about having a European fastener quality directive which would basically be formatted around ISO 9000. We’re still working on the approach.”

Each country can institute its own fastener law, and when three have directives “then Brussels has to take notice” for a European one, Lench told FIN.

“After having the benefit of seeing what has happened in America it is much easier to implement and administer” a European version.

European Changes

European manufacturers face a problem most U.S. producers don’t have: multiple currencies. While all 50 states use the dollar, each European country has its own currency, and the fluctuations cause problems in pricing.
For example, the UK pound has been strengthening in recent months in European currencies, causing problems in contract prices.

The European governments are still debating a single currency, but “politicians don’t seem to agree even within their own parties,” Lench said.
Manufacturers “generally subscribe to it being a good thing to have a common currency,” Lench said.

Just as in North America, there is a strong trend toward consolidation of companies, which is being spurred by “customers demanding fewer and fewer suppliers,” Lench said. The automotive industry in particular is “prepared to go to single sourcing through logistical companies.”
Lench cited the Textron acquisition of French automotive fastener manufacturer Valois Industries as an example of the consolidation. “I suppose that it could be said to be an interesting development,” Lench reflected.

Europe is anticipating more and more recycling of packaging. Germany is “quite advanced in the recycling processes and in the UK there is more and more awareness, especially with young people. There is hardly a supermarket without a bottle bank and there is increasing recycling of products such as wastepaper.”

Lench expects bar coding and inventory control “will come fairly quickly” and an EIFI committee has already done a “considerable amount of work on an industry bar coding system.”

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “did a lot to reduce the power of extreme union people,” Lench recalled, and the UK has “a very good situation as far as employment matters.” The main personnel concern is a shortage of skilled workers. “We have lots of emphasis on training and retraining.”

The future in the European fastener industry “belongs to companies who continue to invest in facilities and plants, improving efficiency and driving down costs,” Lench said. ©1997/2010 Fastener Industry News.

Related Links:

• European Industrial Fasteners Institute

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