Welcome to the 2024 Janus Perspective, a unique feature that includes a wide cross section of global fastener business leaders. Named after the Roman God 'Janus' – who had the ability to look to the future and to the past, and was often depicted with having two faces – this feature brings together thought leaders from every facet of the industry, from around the world, to give us their retrospective on 2023, as well as prospects and challenges for 2024.
Ian Doherty, CEO
Looking back at 2023, we saw lacklustre economic performance as most economies had sought to control inflation with higher interest rates. That has fed into slow or no economic growth and slowdowns in manufacturing and construction – none of which is good news for the fastener and fixings industry.
Whilst Covid-19 has not entirely disappeared, it is no longer the huge threat to life and the economy it once was and is rapidly becoming just another illness. Instead, 2023 saw the implementation of two sets of regulations that did have a marked impact on the industry, Russian steel sanctions and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The actual implementation of Russian sanctions in the EU has largely proven to be less draconian than the published regulations suggested – as a degree of pragmatism has been exercised by customs authorities. The UK also introduced sanctions on Russian steel but applied more of a due diligence approach, which led to little disruption. However, in both the UK and EU the sanctions did create new requirements for information on the extended supply chain back to steel manufacture.
CBAM has created a similar requirement for information on the extended supply chain in terms of being able to trace a product all the way back to steel manufacture, but it then has the added dimension of determining and reporting the embedded carbon. The extent and type of data now required is a substantial shift from historic data, which was focused on product quality and being able to trace products in the (hopefully unlikely) event of a product failure.
This need for extended supply chain data is also being driven by the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) requirements of many larger customers. At Owlett-Jaton in the UK, we have seen increasing demands for audits and information on the extended supply chain – demonstrating that ethical principles are being followed throughout the extended supply chain.
The world does seem to have finally woken up to the fact that climate change is serious – an emergency even. We see this most directly in the push for more sustainability in products, which is also linked to ESG initiatives. Given the carbon intensive nature of fastener manufacture, this, in reality, largely comes down to changes in packaging sourcing and formats, as well as energy efficiency initiatives within our operations. In my view, it will take charging for embedded carbon in products to drive real change in the carbon footprint of the fastener industry.
Looking forward to 2024, sadly I fear that the current economic outlook of low or no growth and high interest rates will prevail. There is an expectation that 2024 will see inflation fall and, hopefully, as the year progresses, interest rates start to come down and perhaps growth starts to pick up in the latter part of the year. In the UK, we will likely have an election, the outcome of which, politically or economically, is a matter for speculation.
The drive for sustainability will undoubtedly continue and with it the need for ever greater information on the supply chain and our products. 2025 will see the introduction of new regulations, which will affect manufacturers and importers of fasteners into the UK in the form of UKCA Marking for construction products and Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging. I therefore anticipate 2024 as a year of preparation for these changes – and even more product data and information!
I am sure 2024 will hold some further, as yet unanticipated, challenges and surprises. Each of the past few years has always seemed to bring us something whether it be Covid-19, the shipping crisis, anti-dumping duties or Russian sanctions. I look forward to 2024 with anticipation and some trepidation, but also with the confidence that whatever does appear on the horizon our resilient industry will cope and prosper.
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.