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The whole package
An expanded automated warehouse, diversified e-commerce offerings and range improvements – Torque gets up to date with pgb-Europe’s latest period of growth with Product and Marketing Manager, Johannes Heye...
Established in 1956 as a family-owned business, pgb moved to its current headquarters in Melle, Belgium, in 1997, and over the years has established itself as a market-leading fastener wholesaler for Benelux. In 2007, the company implemented its miniload automatic packing warehouse, and 10 years later started building a new automatic warehouse with robot picking. Boasting a whole company turnover in the region of just under €40 million in 2019, and €10 million for pgb-Polska, the firm saw 80% of its distribution sales occur in the Benelux region while 20% went to other countries around the world.
“We were happy with how last year went for us,” Heye says. “This year we’re hoping to do even better and now that we have everything in place, we can start to consolidate.”
MORE THAN A WHOLESALER
However, pgb is not content with being just a supplier. According to Heye, the firm’s goal is to evolve to become more than just a wholesaler, and instead act as a partner to its customers in seeking a “long-term relationship with a clear-win situation”.
pgb implemented vertical integration (bottomway) into its manufacturing process in order to keep track of the complete supply chain from raw material to finished, packed product. This was created specifically for the firm's major products, including wood screws, where it has established a joint venture with a Vietnamese partner and created PHC.
The company has focused innovation on a number of its product ranges, pouring significant resources and investment in to three key areas: fasteners, fixings and woodscrews.
Regarding fasteners, pgb has extended its complete range of SB Bolts, HR and HV assemblies, all of which feature CE marking and meet the ISO standard for both bolts (ISO 4014/17) and nuts (ISO 4032;DoP nr), and are TÜV audited and certified.
The 8.8 grade SB Bolts are available in zinc plated Cr3+ coating and with a hot dip galvanised coating. The HV and HR assemblies in grade 10.9 are hot dip galvanised, ranging from M12-M30.
This year, pgb has been working on an extended range of insulation plugs under its Smart range, manufactured in the company’s new Poland facility, an 8,000 metres squared anchor production facility purchased by the company in 2016.
“In Poland we produce nylon, plastic anchors but within the whole product group we have different areas of focus, such as standard plugs, hammer nail plugs, construction plugs and insulation plugs, which is where our focus is at the moment,” says Heye. “We want to be a top competitor in this market and although it may be a long road to get there, we see a lot of potential.”
The final area of focus for pgb currently is woodscrews; namely, the firm’s new Hapax brand launched out of its recent joint venture factory in Vietnam. pgb opened the 20,000 metres squared factory at the end of 2016, home to 85 heading and threading machines which have a production capacity of more than 500 tonnes a month.
“The biggest growth for the company over the last 10 years has been woodscrews, we feel this is a very important market for us,” offers Heye. “The factory in Vietnam manufacturers our woodscrews to strict dimensional, mechanical and metallurgical quality standards, and our local office in Shanghai provides a daily contact for suppliers, which are chosen by our Belgium HQ.”
"To be ready for the future there is not much choice but to invest in technology, therefore creating a ‘smart industry’ is an important thing."
AUTOMATION & EXPANSION
The firm has also invested heavily in its headquarters facilities, in particular the expansion of its automated warehouse, which can now stock an extra 13,000 euro pallets thanks to a 14 metres squared storage height and 5,000 metres squared footprint, culminating in a total of more than 20,000 metres squared of built-up area and 25,000 pallet places. The construction of the new warehouse has enabled more than 7,000 order lines to be picked each day and is home to entirely automated Dematic robots which pick, transport and sort stock without any human interference.
A new ERP system was also installed as part of the investment in a bid to improve customer service and warehouse optimisation. “In the warehouse we wanted to achieve more with the same people through the investment,” Heye explains. “To be ready for the future there is not much choice but to invest in technology, therefore creating a ‘smart industry’ is an important thing. Investing in both transparency and technology to track where orders are, how long they will take, if they are already on the road and so on, are all things we are integrating into our applications.”
WEBSHOP & APP
The company’s new webshop enables customers to order directly through the website, allowing customers to conveniently check stocks, order and reorder any amount of product through an easy-to-use, intuitive online platform. Customers have their own accounts through the site to make ordering and reordering from saved lists easy, with some having been provided with scanners to make this process even quicker and more convenient.
“There is also an impersonation feature, so our representatives can log in and place orders directly for a customer, alternatively if a customer is a central buying person then with one login they can order for however many shops they wish, which saves a lot of time,” Heyes explains.
Launched hand-in-hand with the new webshop is pgb’s new app, available on iOS and Android, which provides mobile access to the webshop to further increase convenience for its customers. The app has a function which allows the phone’s camera to scan a product barcode when placing an order, taking a fraction of the time. The webshop and app are integrated, so customers can use the same login details and switch between the two platforms for their ease.
“People are asking for service,” concludes Heye. “If you want to be ready for the future then you have to invest in technology as it is evolving faster and faster. Through our webshop we hope to forge and keep strong links with our customers and provide them a great service. Making the industry smarter, and being smart, is an important thing.”