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‘Jonathan Craven – Arconic’

Jonathan Craven holds a B Eng (Hons) in manufacturing engineering and management from the University of Nottingham, and began his career in joining technology working with self piercing rivets.
Working in the field of manufacture and development of multiple types of joining technologies and metalformed products throughout his career, he started with Arconic Fastening Systems in 2008 as engineering manager, taking took on the role of operations director in 2013.
As operations director, Craven is the man tasked with making sure that the $3.5 million or so that the business has invested in increasing its manufacturing capability and capacity over the past two years reaps rewards. Now, with the ability to produce larger diameter solutions, and a strategy that is based on constant innovation and providing customers with tailored solutions that meet their specific needs, Arconic Fastening Systems is reaching into new markets and looking to broaden its customer base and drive growth and further investment.
Arconic Fastening Systems is moving further into new markets, such as automotive, steel construction and wind power. FAST magazine finds out from operations director Jonathan Craven about the company’s plans

First of all, bring us up to date on Arconic Fastening Systems and how things have been progressing with the business recently.

We set out on a strategy in 2014 to make our business more autonomous and we had two key aims – one to start offering a larger range of products for the markets we serve and to be able to react to opportunities in a more timely manner. What customers want is something that’s tailored to their requirements.
Making the products locally here in Telford is important, because we understand the context and we are not spending time and money shipping products halfway around the world. Our customers also value regional manufacturing, because they can connect with the business and we can work with them much more as partners.
What exactly have you done in terms of investment and expanding your manufacturing capability?

We’ve invested in machinery, equipment and processes both to increase our capacity and capability. Historically, we were able to make products at high speed up to 19mm diameter. The machinery that we have recently invested in will enable us to make parts of up to 1-inch diameter [25.4mm] at high speed. This will make our product range much more attractive to markets we have been actively targeting, such as construction and green energy – and, in particular, wind power.
What have you had to do to address those markets specifically?

As long ago as 2008, we started looking at how we could establish our products’ credibility in new markets, and started the process of achieving civil engineering approval for our lockbolts and blind fasteners. They are currently approved up to 1-inch in diameter for lockbolts and a ½-inch in diameter for blind fasteners, for both static and dynamic structures, so we are now able to get involved in civil engineering structures. Having that accreditation has helped us to promote in markets where customers want the reassurance of a third party recognising the integrity of our products.
We are now going through the process of extending the accreditation on our lockbolts all the way up to M36 diameter and eventually above, which takes you into the next level, in terms of the size of structures we can bid for. We also have a new innovative product at early stages of approval: the Huck 360. The Huck 360, which can go up to M42 diameter and above, can be used with standard nut and bolt installation equipment, with similar benefits to the lockbolt. That means we can go to companies in the large steel construction or wind energy market with a unique proposition. We’ve done that strategically and were now complementing that by making the product locally.

What’s driving the need for you to provide that local service?

Making products locally means we can respond faster to opportunities. A lot of companies will have a concept they want to bring forward and get to market faster. In wind tower production, if they want go higher, for example, there is a limitation, if you are using tubes, because of the diameter of tube that can be transported. Then you start to look at lattice towers, prefabricated structures or panel-based fabrications, and, if you use conventional products like nuts and bolts, you then have to factor in validation checking and retightening. That may not be every day, but it will certainly be every few months, if you have a lot of quite high towers in relatively hard-to-reach locations. That’s adding a lot of on-cost into your wind energy unit.
Our products are qualified by the civil engineering body as maintenance-free. You’ve also got the advantage that, because it’s an installation process, rather than an operator judgment, if they use the tools and the gauges provided correctly, you can train someone to install the fasteners in a relatively short space of time. They can also be installed in seconds, and all that makes it much easier for the customer and more cost effective.

Where do you see the business being in two or three years?

I think we’ll have established more of a footprint in those new markets. We’re making our first investment into larger diameter products – ¾-inch or 20mm and above – and, as we start to establish a customer base there, that will hopefully identify where the business needs to go next, in terms of our further investment. We’re addressing the wind energy market, for example, because there is a definite need for large diameter products, but these companies build other constructions – bridges, stadiums, factory units and infrastructure.
The hope is that the performance of our products will improve our profile in steel construction, especially where speed of assembly and minimising or eliminating regular bolt maintenance matters and where there is a need for high quality solutions that are tailored locally.
How do you see the relationship between your business and your customers changing and developing?

There used to be quite a distant relationship between the manufacturer and the customer. It is now much closer and supportive; we are much more open to those discussions. We have a commitment to maintain a steady stream of new and innovative products, many of which are patented, so we will continue to develop long-term solutions that are differentiated. But also, more locally, and with the support of our engineering team worldwide, we are adapting and offering tailored solutions to customers. It might be a feature on the fastener to give them the functionality they want; some kind of identification to make sure there is no mixing or a surface finish to give them the environmental performance they need.
More and more now, we’re going beyond product supply, collaborating with them and enabling them to bring their products to market.