Since 1951 Achilles Seibert has been a family-run company, based in the German town of Henstedt-Ulzburg, and at the start of the year took the next step in its family history when Timo Scholle took full ownership of the business.
Already managing director, Timo explains: “My father, Henning Scholle, has not been involved in the day-to-day running of the business for a number of years and had very much taken a step back. Now that he has retired, I have taken on full ownership of the business, but from our customers or partners point of view there will be no change. Achilles Seibert will still be run by the Scholle family and the company will continue to adapt to market situations with flexibility in order to continue to meet the needs of customers.”
Known as Achill, the company was originally recognised for its expertise in fasteners with small/long forms and dimensions, but over a number of years it has developed its range to include an extensive line of products. “Last year was a record year for us, partly due to the supply chain interruption and then the market getting back to business in the second half of the year. However, I think a big part of the success was also down to the new product ranges we have been implementing over recent years,” mentions Timo. “For instance, in addition to our hexagon and socket items we have recently introduced a line of six spline products, as well as increased our range of nuts and washers – all of which helped to increase business with customers.”
The development of its product range has been a step-by-step process for Achill, with the business looking for lines where it can gain an advantage against its competitors. “A lot of distributors have looked to increase their product ranges and have moved into our line of products. We therefore looked at other lines that were not oversaturated in the market and where supply is limited. We then looked to develop our stock in these areas, so that we could step up and provide a selection of products, which has been positively received by our customers.”
Timo continues: “As a business we don’t want to be one of many companies supplying a particular product range. We want to be developing our products and services so that we can meet customers’ needs for numerous products. That is why we are planning to continue to add new products where we see opportunities. For instance, this year we have introduced threaded rods and we are also looking to further increase our range of nuts and washers, as well as tapping screws.”
Being able to offer customers a wider choice of products, supported by a wide range of services, will help Achill become a ‘one stop shop’ for its customers. “Our customers are growing so it is important that we need to grow with them. By adding extra product lines, it enables us to attract new customers or increase order volumes with existing customers. If customers know they can come to us and get everything they need then this is going to make us more appealing.”
With the growth of its product lines, Achill is also planning to extend its warehouse, which had previously been put on hold due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent challenges within the market that it created. “We will start the extension at the beginning of next year,” explains Timo. “The building approval is already confirmed, but at the moment we have a lot of other challenges that we are focussing on. Also, it is very difficult to get the necessary contractors to build the extension as they are all very busy. However, the plan is to definitely to start at the beginning of 2023.”
Another area that Timo believes the company is becoming well known for is its online capabilities, including its web shop and EDI option for the bigger customers. “The use of the web shop is increasing more and more. During working from home, and the Covid-19 pandemic, we found that a lot of customers used the platform – as they wanted to get things done as quickly as possible and it provided all the information they needed,” points out Timo.
To encourage even more customers to use the web shop Achill is planning a newer version – taking into account customers’ requests for new services and options. “We are currently in the process of developing ‘web shop 2.0’ and it will be a lot more customer friendly and provide additional services.”
Whilst Timo is adamant that these two developments need to happen, the last two years have shown that it can be very difficult to plan into the future, especially with some of the challenges companies have faced in the market. “For too long now there has been an inability to plan anything with any long-term certainty,” states Timo. “There are so many factors that are out of our control that it is almost impossible – for instance the freight situation. Nobody in the industry can be certain of when products will arrive – whether it be inbound products from suppliers or outbound to customers. Previously you knew that when a container left Asia it would arrive at a set day, give or take one day. However, now there are so many factors influencing it, you just have no idea when a container might arrive. All the time frames for everything have been extended, which makes it difficult to plan and be reliable. As business it is just a case of adapting and being flexible.”
A prime example of this was how Achill approached the anti-dumping investigation when it was announced towards the end of 2020. “China is not one of our major suppliers, so it was not a lot of products and we have a policy of splitting our suppliers for products, so we do not rely on just one company or country and it gives us a little more flexibility. However, we remembered what happened when the anti-dumping duties were announced back in 2009, so our aim was to plan ahead – but it was not that simple. We still had to buy some products from China, because for certain products there are simply no other suppliers, or the factories were already full to capacity. We therefore had to buy the products and pay the anti-dumping duty, which does mean a higher price, but at least we have the products.”
Timo continues: “Another factor was that it has been totally impossible to find new suppliers over the last two years, as you were unable to visit companies due to the lockdowns. Thankfully I have just started to travel again and have been able to visit a few factories to re-establish the connection with our supply partners. Every week I am trying to go somewhere – Italy, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. However, this is still not to see new suppliers, just existing suppliers. I don’t have the time or capacity to visit new suppliers. I think it has underlined the importance of the trade fairs – especially Fastener Fair Global in Stuttgart and Fastener Taiwan. These shows bring people together and enable us to make a lot of new contacts in a relatively short period of time.”
Timo concludes: “The uncertainty with the market regarding freight, raw material prices, energy prices, etc, does make planning ahead difficult. We also do not know how countries will react to Covid-19 in the winter months and whether lockdowns will be reintroduced across Europe. As a business we can therefore only plan in the short-term and what we know for the next few months. At Achill all we can do is continue to adapt to situations and look to be flexible as possible to meet customers’ needs – this is the Scholle family way.”www.achill-fasteners.com/homepage.html
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 15 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.