EFDA: The value of modern fastener distribution
02 August 2016
The European Fastener Distributors Association is best known for working to achieve EU policies that ensure free and fair trade in fasteners. In that process it often encounters fundamental misconceptions over the role and value of distribution in today’s fastener supply chain. Now it wants to set the record straight.
Twenty-five years ago most fastener wholesalers fulfilled a traditional role of sourcing in large quantities, storage, and day-to-day, often local, supply in smaller quantities.
Now, though, European manufacturing, retailing and construction have changed dramatically, driven by the relentless need to improve efficiency and reduce costs. In the face of its customers’ increasingly complex demands, the distribution industry has also evolved radically.
Still fulfilling its traditional wholesaling duties, fastener distribution has refined and extended its capabilities into an infinitely more complex, multifunctional and multidisciplinary force that provides vital cohesion between a now global supply chain and the strategic manufacturing industries of Europe.
European fastener distributors supply more than 130,000 different fastener and fixing articles – ranging from precision micro screws to mega bolts. Simply providing the intensive wholesale and logistical service now demanded requires deep knowledge and experience in global sourcing, as well as massive investments in inventory, and in the technologies to receive, quality assure, store, and rapidly and accurately despatch a diverse product portfolio.
Distributor’s responsibility and added value, now extend far further along the supply chain in both directions. European consumers demand greater reliability of products at ever lower costs. European manufacturers must be assured of consistent component quality and performance, but they need ever improving efficiencies, not just in the cost of individual parts, but also in their supply to the production line and in productivity of the assembly process. They also need to place complete confidence in the supply chain that supports their tightly efficient assembly operations.
Fastener importers and distributors fulfil those critical needs. They source parts to often tight specifications from the most cost-effective locations in the world, managing complex and extended supply chains, committing to local inventory, providing sophisticated replenishment systems – meeting the often difficult to predict and demanding requirements of all kinds of industrial customers.
However, today is no longer just about the cost and quality of the individual component. In a highly competitive, global context, it goes without saying they must be right. Fastener distributors now provide a whole spectrum of added value services. That means a closer than ever relationship with customers to identify and source engineered solutions that ensure improved productivity, lower total costs and complete reliability. It often means taking full responsibility for ensuring the right product is delivered to the right point on the line day in day out. Vendor managed inventory systems utilise advanced technologies to provide a seamless link from consumption to a highly responsive replenishment mechanism. Quality assurance is more critical than ever, not just to the performance of the part in application but also to ensure efficient and reliable installation, often with automatic systems.
Fastener distributors are now global players, at both ends of the supply chain. Their sourcing specialists travel the world to audit and assess manufacturing sources. Their customer support teams must now be capable of delivering support to OEM clients, wherever in the world they choose to operate.
So, says EFDA, fastener distribution is really not a simple business. The cost of the individual part represents aquite a small proportion of the total value delivered every day by modern fastener distribution. Without fasteners the world would simply fall apart. Without professional and committed fastener distributors vital European industries would do the same.