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RCI January 2018

CLADDING & SHEETING INTERVIEW Changes and developments over two and a half decades Howard Jennings is retiring from EJOT UK after 24 years; Matt Downs caught up with him to get his view on the changes in the market and where we stand now, plus tap into some of his expertise built up over his career… MD: Can you tell us a bit about your career history and how you ended up in construction and ultimately with EJOT UK? HJ: I left school at the age of sixteen and went to work in a laboratory in a local quarry. For ten years I was involved in analysis of quarried products and design of asphalt for use on roads and runways. For the last two years of my time I was more and more involved in meeting customers and advising them on product specific for applications, so evolution to being a salesman seemed a natural path for my career. I firstly had a position for two years with Unifix who manufactured a range of fixings for Joinery/Plumbing/Electrical trades and then got my breakthrough in the R&C industry working for Flowlock who manufactured fillers and sealants. After almost four years I moved to Buildex who at that time were market leaders in self-drilling fasteners. Here I learnt my trade and moved on to EJOT after six years. Working here was a cultural shock after being with the might of Buildex and then joining a company with less than ten employees. I was the first salesman and looking back still find it hard to believe the progress that we have made over the last twenty four years. MD: Skills shortages and the route for youngsters into construction is a real issue at the moment – 026 JANUARY 2018 RCIMAG.COM there still appears to be some outdated perceptions and lack of promotion of the sector in schools etc. – what was it like when you were starting out in the sector? HJ: I got into the sector without even knowing what Roofing and Cladding was; certainly when leaving school there was no promotion whatsoever of the construction industry. Attending a Grammar School was meant to be a route to University which I did not follow. Pupils with less academic ability often went into construction via apprenticeship, which in those days lasted seven years! MD: What were the choices available with regards to fixings and fasteners in the construction sector when you started out in the industry? HJ: I started out selling fillers and sealants but did take an interest in the fixings companies and their product ranges. In those days self drilling fasteners were in their early days and two companies tended to drive the market. These two companies were both active in developing product for new applications, many types of which are still currently used every day now. MD: I take it the options available to the market have increased both in terms of variety and performance? HJ: Without a doubt you are correct. As system OEM’s have consulted the likes of EJOT to develop new product, options have increased and we have seen enhanced performance as a result. MD: What have been the real drivers for growth within the market? HJ: Basically the market is based on buildings manufactured from metal and the advent of innovative designs from metal manufacturers has resulted in metal buildings taking the place of traditional buildings. We now see hospitals, schools, housing and city centre buildings built from metal where many years ago bricks and mortar would have been the only solution MD: The demands from architects call for ever more complicated buildings, how does this impact you as a manufacturer and supplier of fixings? HJ: Firstly as a challenge but one that is there to be overcome. By involving our technical team at design stage, testing can be carried out to ensure that correct product is used in the variety of applications given to us MD: Is there still a job to be done within the market when it comes to using the right fixing in the right situation – are we past the ‘any fixing will do’ mentality? HJ: Unfortunately there is still an element of “this is the competitor’s price and you need to beat it”. When presented with this ultimatum, we have to carefully look at what fasteners have been quoted for the contract and many times we can see that there are better, more technically sound solutions that should be used. We will walk away from a contract if we are not happy that the correct product is being used for application. MD: The launch of the Applitec facility must be a key moment in EJOT UK’s history? How did that change your business? HJ: EJOT in Germany have had Applitec facilities for many years and we have always had access to the facilities but it was apparent that we needed more urgency in many cases. The decision was made to invest in a facility in the UK and from that moment we have never looked back. The Applitec is used every day from simple needs of quality control to designing fasteners based around a specific joint. As well as the construction industry, we have a thriving industrial fastener division where automotive is a huge part of this. It is a great feeling to pass through the Applitec and see our engineers with car dashboards, clutch housings and light clusters looking at applications. The equipment in our Applitec is constantly being added to where it is Howard Jennings Opticore fastening system from EJOT EJOT's original premises in the UK at Kirkstall, Leeds EJOT UK moved to its current manufacturing site in May 2003


RCI January 2018
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