A unique technology is emerging

Laurence Claus is passionate. With more than 25 years’ experience working in the US fastener and automotive part supplier industries, he is driven by a desire to share his knowledge. He now heads his own company, providing training and consultancy in fastener-related topics to businesses in the manufacturing and automotive industries.

What fastener knowledge gaps do you see in the modern workplace?
“In North America, the general workforce is aging and companies are finding it difficult to replace experienced personnel. In the USA, over 10,000 ‘baby boomers’ retire every day. Following them is a large influx of millenials and, as a result, the workforce needs to be re-educated.

“Millennials think about work very differently than their predecessors, but are especially drawn to employers that show an interest in them. This is positive, but does present a challenge for companies who must invest in training new personnel.”

What are some fastener trends in the manufacturing and automotive industries?
“Compared to Europe, the US fastener industry has been slow in updating itself. I believe that companies here are starting to reinvest and reinvent themselves. In recent years it has been very much about lean manufacturing and driving efficiency.

“Today’s spotlight in the automotive industry is lightweighting. Auto OEMs are increasingly designing mixed material structures with a focus on aluminium, composites and ultra high strength steel. These are not possible, however, without ‘enabling’ fastening technology. Hybrid, non-traditional combinations such as aluminium to aluminium, aluminium to steel or magnesium to steel are becoming commonplace.”

What are the challenges for end-users surrounding multi-material joints?
“A unique technology is emerging, in which European companies are at the forefront. Cars have traditionally been welded together. However, when mixing materials, this no longer works. Innovative companies have introduced flow drill thread forming screws and friction welding technology to address the challenges of these new multi-material joints.”

How important is it to think about life-cycle costs when choosing fasteners?
“The automotive industry is very cost-conscious, but one client learned the hard way that price should not be the primary measure when choosing a supplier. Their price-driven ‘strategy’ has had two negative consequences. They suffered major quality spill – saving money in the short term, but their business lost out in the long term. They also found that suppliers who had previously been happy to help them with technical support were no longer able to assist them. This has had a hugely negative effect on their business.

“I believe that the pendulum is shifting back. Fasteners are not a simple commodity and ­customers who previously wouldn’t pay premium price for a component are now more willing to do so. They are waking up to the bigger picture.”

FACTS: Laurence Claus

Title: President, NNi Training and Consulting, Inc.
Age: 49.
Lives: Northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
Background: Graduated as a Mechanical Engineer. Has over 25 years experience in the fastener and automotive supplier industries. Bulk of career spent with an automotive fastener manufacturer, the last six as Vice President of Technology and Engineering. Started NNi four years ago.
Passion: Family. Has five children, aged between 2 and 10. NNi is named after his first three children – Noah, Nathan and Isaac.

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