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RCI January 2018

CLADDING & SHEETING INTERVIEW needed. Even now, we have an X-Ray machine where we can determine the metallic content of a fastener such as A2 or A4 Stainless Steel. MD: When designing a new fixing or screw, what is the process? For example, is it driven by an issue someone has come across regularly on site, customer requests or changes in regulations? HJ: Generally the starting point is at one of our monthly R&D team meetings where one of our sales engineers will put forward a case for a new fastener. The application and requirements are assessed and quite often after making a drawing, a sample fastener will be made on our 3D printer. The commercial potential is also very important and we have had cases in the past where an idea has had to be shelved just because the potential volumes would not justify moving forward to production. The first product to be developed through our R&D team is Opticore, where nine years ago we discussed the application with the two manufacturers of membrane-faced insulated panels. For six months we looked at every possible answer and tested product to destruction. The resultant fastener, Opticore, was launched and sales now exceed one million pieces each year. MD: How have your customers’ needs changed over the years? HJ: This is not a technical answer but I can see that the need to get product to site quickly with very little notice has been the greatest change. When I started out, standard delivery was three days, now next day is normal with timed early deliveries being requested more and more. This has resulted in increased stock levels and good accurate customer service being essential. MD: What are the biggest issues affecting your customers? HJ: Probably cash and uncertainty. Every year we see a major player in our industry enter administration and generally when they do they have full order books. For them, getting payment from main contractors is a nightmare and it causes major cashflow problems all the way down the line. MD: What have been some of the standout projects your products have been used on? HJ: We were used on many projects in the building of the Olympic Park and the legacy will be there forever but to me the outstanding achievement was being specified for the Chernobyl safety shield. Over three million of our A2 Stainless Fasteners were used to fix a gigantic sarcophagus which was rolled in on rails to cover and seal off the offending remains of the nuclear reactor. This has been given a 100 year life and hopefully will result in saved lives in the future. 028 JANUARY 2018 RCIMAG.COM MD: Where can we go in terms of product development when it comes to fixing systems? Is there still room for innovation? HJ: Yes there is still plenty of room for innovation. When we think that cladding systems cannot evolve any more we then see that one of the major OEM’s has come up with yet another new innovative design. There are so many good technical brains out there in the market that I cannot see innovation ever ending MD: How do you feel Brexit will affect you as a manufacturer, and the wider construction market in general? HJ: I am not certain, hopefully you will ask this question to either a politician or somebody much more qualified than me to give an answer. I am more concerned as to how it will affect my pension fund moving forward! MD: You must have seen some interesting sights on projects over the years? Any funny or interesting ones that stick in your mind? HJ: The interesting ones that come to mind are probably related to the safety and health issues that fortunately are light years better than they were thirty years ago. I remember on one of my very first site visits seeing the steel erectors “walk the steel”. This was quite common and used to astound me that without any support or safety lines the erectors would walk down the rafters and climb down the columns. Fortunately, this just does not happen any more. MD: You must have made some great friends and met some real characters over the years? HJ: I have made many great friends in the industry and could not start to name any of them for fear of leaving some out. I will mention though, working at EJOT for over twenty four years has resulted in some friendships that I know will be lifelong. It will be a very sad day when I walk away from them at the end of February. As for characters, yes there have been a few and sadly not as many about now as in the past. MD: Any stories – that we are able to print! – that you are able to recall? HJ: There are lots of stories and yes, some of them could not be printed, however, here are one or two that go back many years. After a long night drinking at a hotel in Derbyshire myself and my sales manager retired for the night. After closing the door and starting to get undressed I got a phone call from my boss asking me to go next door to sort something out. Well, I left my room door open and went next door. He dashed round to my room, slammed the door and then locked himself in his room. I was left on the corridor dressed just in my Y Fronts and had to go downstairs to reception to get a pass key. The receptionist insisted in accompanying me back to my room to open the door! The other story was when I was at Buildex we were all young late twenties/early thirties and thought that we were indestructible. After sales meetings, for the drive back to the hotel we would share four in a car. The speeds that we raced back at were unacceptable, overtaking on roundabouts and generally the sunroof would open on one of the cars with head and shoulders appearing waving to passers-by and colleagues behind. Happy days and I wouldn’t change them for anything! MD: What’s the plan for retirement? Will you keep an eye on the sector / market?! HJ: After being so long in the industry I am sure that I will keep an eye on the market (as long as you keep me on your mailing list!) My wife, who is a dental nurse, will also be retiring and we intend to travel much more. We have caravanned for over 30 years and I have just invested in a new one for our retirement. Although we intend to go into Europe, there is still so many parts of the UK that we have not been to. I have a collection of seven guitars and I intend to spend more time playing them, I currently play bass guitar in a band and I will be able to focus on that much more than I do at the moment. I would like to thank everybody that knows me, for their friendship over the years and wish you all success, health and happiness over the coming years. Richard Bowhay, UK sales manager, who himself has been with EJOT in the UK since 1997, commented: “Howard has a wealth of knowledge of the UK construction industry as well as international markets. It's been my privilege to learn from him over the last 20 years, work with him and work for him. I am sure that not only my colleagues at EJOT around the world, but many friends working within the industry will want to wish him a long and happy retirement." www.ejot.co.uk “This is not a technical answer but I can see that the need to get product to site quickly with very little notice has been the greatest change” “Every year we see a major player in our industry enter administration and generally when they do they have full order books. For them, getting payment from main contractors is a nightmare and it causes major cashflow problems all the way down the line” Inside EJOT's original UK premises at Wyther Lane Industrial Estate


RCI January 2018
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