WATCH: Gas Safe's new video highlights carbon monoxide as the silent killer

THIS week is Gas Safety Week (17-23 September), so the organisation, Gas Safe, are highlighting how to stay gas safe by raisning awareness about the ‘silent killer’, carbon monoxide poisoning.

Gas Safe Register has found people are much more likely to own a smoke alarm (76%) than an audible carbon monoxide alarm (47%) despite the fact that carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer as you cannot see, taste or smell it.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if a gas appliance is unsafe. Yet when more than 2,000 UK adults were polled, only one in five (19%) knew you can’t tell if a gas appliance is leaking carbon monoxide compared to one in three (30%) who didn’t know, or thought you could see, taste or smell carbon monoxide.

To mark the eighth annual Gas Safety Week, Gas Safe Register has created a video to demonstrate how carbon monoxide can be missed from the home safety checks.

Jonathan Samuel, chief executive of Gas Safe Register said: “Carbon monoxide poisoning is known as the silent killer because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it.

"Our research shows lots of people aren’t aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning or how to know if their gas appliance isn’t working safely.

"This Gas Safety Week we’re helping people find out more about how to keep their homes gas safe and reminding everyone to not cut corners when it comes to getting their gas appliances checked on an annual basis.” 

Gas Safe Register recommends people get their gas appliances checked on an annual basis to ensure gas appliances are working safely and efficiently.

However one in four (24%) of the 2,000 UK adults polled don’t follow this guidance and could be using illegal gas fitters as one in ten people (11%) said they don’t get their gas appliances and don’t know if their engineer is Gas Safe registered (8%).

Gas Safe Register recommends six simple steps to keep our families safe and warm in our homes:

1.       Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer.
2.       Double check both sides of your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card to know that they’re registered and qualified to work on your gas appliances.
3.       Have all gas appliances serviced and safety checked every year.
4.       Familiarise yourself with the six signs of CO poisoning; headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
5.       Check appliances for warning signs they are not working properly, e.g. black marks or stains on or around the appliance, lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones and  condensation around the room.
   Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm for a second line of defence against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Show your support for Gas Safety Week 2018:
•       Follow @GasSafetyWeek and #GSW18
•       Pledge your support here.
To find out more about the dangers, preventable measures and to find a Gas Safe registered engineer call 0800 408 5500. Also find more information from Gas Safe Register on social media @GasSafeRegister, #dontcutcornerswithgas.

Brexit Forum - Brita-in or Brita-out? 

In the light of the upcoming European Referendum, the organisers behind the UK Construction Week, surveyed construction professionals about the upcoming EU referendum. Of the 3,200 that took part, 57% believed the UK should stay in the EU, with 43% wanting to leave. Interestingly, engineers and architects are more likely to stay, with subcontractors voting by 58% to leave. 

At a forum on the 26th of May at Grimshaw Architects, a worldwide architectural practice, a mixed panel of industry experts was invited to discuss the realities of a Brexit to the Construction Industry. The panel, hosted by Brian Kilkelly, founder Member of the World Cities Network and Development lead of Climate KIC, consisted of Brian Berry, the Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Cezary Bednarski, founder of Studio Bednarski, Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam, David Cash, Chairman of BDP, and Mark Middleton, the Managing Partner of Grimshaw Architects. 

Brian Berry began by turning the red tape argument on its head, arguing that regulation and skilled labour were vital in the UK Construction Industry, and being part of the EU, was therefore important to ensure a supply of suitably trained tradespeople, working in a well regulated environment. He did concede that many individual tradespeople would vote to leave based on their personal beliefs and experiences, but over half of them said that they would like more concrete information to inform their choices.

Cezary was keen to put what he called a ‘philosophical’ view to the audience. As a Polish immigrant many years ago, who had to fight for his British Citizenship, and who has completed many architectural commissions throughout the world, including Africa, he took the view that ‘elephants do not gallop’- the EU was too slow to respond to changing market conditions, and it was therefore in Britain’s best interests to leave. 

Paul Scully, businessman and recently elected conservative MP, had three reasons for voting to leave, trade, immigration, and sovereignty. He believes that Britain is shackled by EU Trade Groups, and stated we would be far stronger on our own. 

David Cash, also an architect, believes that Britain’s economic fortunes are firmly tied to the EU. In the longer term, businesses will continue to build connections in Europe, however an exit would surely create a ‘tough patch’ in the UK. He also argued that he has no issues with adopting several identities; English, British or European, depending on where he is in the world. 

Much like David, Mark Middleton not only enjoys the lifestyle of a European and visa free travel, but also is keen to emphasise that Britain holds a powerful ‘third position’ by not being part of the Schengen Agreement and the single currency. He sees that a breakaway from Europe will mean forcing us enter into negotiations for European Trade, something we have not done since the 1970s. He cites the Norway example of how not to do things- all the costs but with none of the influence. 

The first issue discussed was the Housing Crisis in the UK. David was first answer this, making the point that building housing is not necessarily connected to the EU. The London housing market has been overheated by international money buying up expensive properties at the expense of affordable housing in the capital. Brian Berry shares this view, suggesting that affordable housing was very much in the remit of the UK Government, and it was wrong to blame immigrants for it. He also put it down to the fact people are living longer, and the shortage of land to build on. Brexit would lead to a decline of investment in major infrastructure projects, because Europeans might withdraw from the UK. But also any ‘tough patch’ in the building industry created by a Brexit may see householders lacking the cash and confidence to upgrade or repair their homes.

In direct contrast, Cezary believes that money is neutral and will follow the market, so for him infrastructure investment is not an issue, and housing very much a responsibility for local authorities and housing trusts. By rewriting immigration rules, skilled people would be attracted to the UK to address the much-discussed shortage of construction skills.

This idea of widening the search for skilled workers was an attractive prospect also to Paul Scully, particularly with America and Australia. He also disagreed with Mark’s view of negotiating trade deals, claiming we already had trade deals with Europe, and a Brexit would allow Britain to move ‘nimbly’ through the international market, and allow many small British businesses a freedom from red tape. 

The debate then moved on to a discussion of infrastructure. The survey had revealed that 16% of respondents claimed that major infrastructure projects would be positively affected by Brexit, 47% said it would make no difference, and 37% thought that the effect would be negative. 

Mark feels that we are in a more important period of infrastructure building than in Victorian times, believing we have benefited from the EU, as we simply do not have enough skilled people in Britain, nor the funding. Paul believes with 95% of small business are currently not involved in major infrastructure, leaving the EU would make little difference. 

Given the opportunity to sum up their positions, it became clear that emotional arguments are just as important as practical or philosophical ones. The panel agreed that the EU needs to adapt to survive. Economically, there are still countries like Spain and Greece that need support. The balance between economic regulation and freedom needs to be redefined in order to create a more vibrant free market economy that would be more open to the world markets that Britain would like to trade with.

It also faces real difficulties like the immigration crisis and the threat of Russia, in which concerted European efforts will prove to be necessary to solve, regardless of Brexit. There is no doubt that Britain will still need to deal with the effects of migration, whether in or out. 

In a show of hands, a slimmish majority of the audience voted to stay in, although many stated that the debate had really helped them crystallise their thoughts on the upcoming referendum. 

Unlocking ABUS UK – 21st Century Security Solutions

Report by Peter Brett

History Means a Lot

The ABUS story starts in the village of Volmarstein, Germany, in 1924 when August Bremicker and his sons (hence AB und S = ABUS) founded the company. Initially they made padlocks and accompanying hasps and staples in the cellar of the family home, but 92 years later ABUS production is based in five different German locations, and two Chinese plants with worldwide partnerships and subsidiaries. Its 3000 or so employees are urged to live up to ABUS’ motto of “Security built on quality” so ABUS is justifiably proud of its market-leading security solutions for homes and mobile objects aimed to provide ‘the good feeling of security’

Founder August Bremicker and his family had very strong Christian values and these principles still guide his great grandsons who head the company today.  Honesty and integrity in dealing with customers, suppliers and staff are very important, as well as more current preoccupations like “green” issues and energy usage that have strong implications for the future of next generations. For example, ABUS production methods are so stringent that pollution from its factories is a fraction of current EU targets.

The UK’s current debate over a living wage has not been an issue at any ABUS operations.

There have been many milestones along the way since production restarted in 1947 after World War II. These include the iconic Diskus Padlock in 1949 – still an icon today set apart by its German production and trademark ‘Diskus’ logo.

Increasing demand and market share made it necessary to open the Rehe factory in 1957 in Westerwald, which is now also the centre for developing and testing commercial, domestic and mobile security products.  Rehe is the production base for the ABUS ‘Granit’ padlock range.

1957 also saw the introduction of the first brass padlocks on the market, the ABUS no 75, followed swiftly in 1958 by the first ABUS bicycle lock and a telephone lock. I remember my mum had one to stop my elder sister from having long teenage telephone conversations while she was at work!

The first bicycle U-lock was launched in 1971 and has been much copied, as was ABUS’ first additional retrofit window lock.

With the demand for extra home security solutions in the seventies, ABUS produced a range of retrofit domestic door locking products and the oil tank lock from 1981 again reflected the needs of consumers during the 2nd oil crisis.

In the “noughties” ABUS acquired the Pfaffenhain cylinder system company based in Saxony and later the Security Centre Company that enabled it to expand its competence into video surveillance and alarms as well. By 2008 modern security needs required the development of the Secvest 2WAY danger detection system which combined fire and intruder protection and in 2011 ABUS was selected as a security system “best for children” for its range of “child friendly” locks.

A relatively new development, also located at the Westerwald factory, is the ABUS Academy. Its modern facilities are used to train and inform ABUS’ distributors and installers about ABUS security products and general security issues, so their business partners have the best information about both ABUS security solutions and the security industry in general.

This lightning tour of ABUS’ past history is complemented with the introduction of the new series of TITALIUM padlocks in 2012 – a brand new alloy developed by ABUS using, amongst other metals, titanium and aluminium, to create a padlock body that provides a lower cost alternative to brass, but with equal or higher security rating – and the image of solid steel!.  This month sees the launch of shutter and closed shackle TITALIUM padlocks offering further high value and security.

ABUS in the UK – Markets, Marketing and Products

Inevitably there are always differences in the way that markets operate in different countries and Nick Vanderhoest, MD of the UK subsidiary of ABUS has had the job of managing ABUS’ growth since 2006 when CK stopped marketing ABUS and started marketing its own brand of locks independently. Today the bulk of ABUS UK’s padlock business is been managed via wholesale partners Toolbank, Hoppe and Aldridge.

However, markets don’t stay the same. Increasing internet sales and the introduction of more complicated electronic security products using smart technology and video recording, has meant that ABUS has had to develop its own team of experts and additional specialised distribution.

ABUS has not ignored the impact of the likes of Amazon and other internet sales companies, nor have they ignored the big retailers like Screwfix and B&Q and this has meant the development of a range of strategies to keep customers happy. 

The sizeable premises in Avonmouth near Bristol, is home to a team of sales and support staff who manage all the functions of a modern subsidiary. IT, as we would expect, is a key area, with roles in communication, accounts and product development. Each area of ABUS’ security products has its own dedicated Product Manager, whose role it is to explain and develop products and markets, support sales staff and all the other 101 things that come up.

Marketing is also an inevitable part of explaining and expanding awareness of products, and this important role is filled by Sarah Utley, the lady with the “In” tray that is constantly being filled with new demands – some from this magazine.

The building also houses a substantial warehouse space needed for stock as well as cylinder system assembly, servicing and demonstration space for new products and ranges.

Nick is a mine of information about the UK market for security products and how it differs from other markets – particularly the continental market, where security needs differ greatly than in some sectors of the UK.

One example he quoted was window security, where screw type sash locks are considered enough for most purposes in the UK. However, Germany and continental Europe they have floor to ceiling windows that can be tilted or fully open for ventilation and for easy cleaning. These windows provide a significant security risk, because they are easily big enough for an adult to enter through, and big enough to manoeuvre a giant flat screen TV through as well. ABUS has been providing both inbuilt and retrofit window locks for these types of windows for many years and continental householders think nothing of spending €100 or more for secure locks on each window. Hard to imagine an average UK householder spending £80 on door or window locks…… And yet with the more and more modern buildings with walls of glass being built in the UK, it will be only a matter of time, so perhaps specialist security retailers will need to start looking around at the products needed to fulfil the demand. 

It is a similar story with UK home security. As some readers may know already from continental holidays, each European manufacturer may have a range of different keyways to fit a continental euro cylinder lock. This means that European potential thieves would have to have literally hundreds of “bump keys” if trying to access a home via the ‘bumping’ method. However, in the UK, 95% of us use the 1A Yale keyway. While this is convenient for distributors cutting extra keys, limiting the range of key blanks distributors have to stock, it also means that a potential thief has to carry only one “bump key” to potentially gain entry to most UK domestic locks.

ABUS promotes it’s high quality cylinders as the ‘brain’ of the door, and rather promotes correct size cylinders protected by internally fitted strong door furniture across many often patented different key profiles as the better door cylinder security solution.   ABUS has just developed and launched a solution to consumers’ varying cylinder size requirements with its ‘Modular’ cylinder lock system that both minimises the sizes of cylinders distributors need to stock while adding extra strength against ‘snapping’ type break ins.

But as we would expect, Nick is also keen to tell us about the latest developments that ABUS has been making in “Mechatronic” (access control via a combination of top class mechanical security with electronic programming) and video security. Ironically this area has grown in the UK because some ABUS dealers have asked the company to help them install their own security system. The knowledge gained with involvement in installing the system has then led to the dealer to be able to confidently recommend and manage the more complicated sales process involved in installing a mechatronic system.

ABUS cylinder systems are already used in a number of high profile buildings like the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai, Wembley Stadium and the Gherkin, and ABUS confidently predicts their Mechtronic solutions will be exploited in similar icons. Security issue in large organisations will be complex, with staff needing access to clean and service, while clients need the reassurance of security for themselves and their possessions.

This can now be achieved via electronic key fobs using 6 digit pin numbers that are almost impregnable to either manipulation due to the millions of combinations they offer, and their inherent mechanical strength and quality.

Either commercial or domestic needs can take advantage of this system, but it is not too much of a stretch to see that as the systems become more common (and therefore cheaper) these simple to operate systems will become the norm for “ordinary” householders to programme in unique numbers to allow a plumber access at a certain time, enable the Ocado delivery and let the kids in after school. Done remotely via a smartphone, AirBnB owners could manage a unique access time and code for their individual guests.  ABUS successfully sells many thousands of “key garages” for carer or holiday homes access.  But the mechatronic solution eliminates the potential “key garage” risk where actual house keys could be stolen or copied, and where guests inadvertently or deliberately reset a new “key garage” combination.

Increasingly, even home security now involves the use of video cameras to record movements and events. ABUS’ latest contribution to this are high technology low cost camera systems that are able to use existing analogue cabling to record high resolution digital images that can be used to identify individuals or car number plates.

The ABUS Academy can help provide extra information and training and ABUS’ team of individual Product Managers and Sales team can all be involved in helping clients choose and install a security system that is suitable for particular premises.

By now, readers should be able to gauge that ABUS’ knowledge of security is in-depth and extensive and this is reflected in the range of security solutions the company offers. Whether it is a cylinder lock for a front door, a disc brake lock for an expensive motorcycle or a surveillance and security system for a luxury house, the ABUS people have the expertise to recommend and supply a system that suits – whether this is in the UK or pretty well anywhere else in the world.

My big realization after our visit to ABUS UK is that I need to wake up a bit when it comes to my home and workshop security. And perhaps this is also a message that ABUS dealers could be passing on to customers. Increased security may not always cost that much extra, but as Nick told us, security is only as good as the weakest link and even a determined thief can be put off by the extra time that that extra bit of security might buy us. Time for a security evaluation I think. 

ABUS’ Security Viewpoint

I’d like to firstly stress the vital point of ABUS’ Christian belief.  We live today in a multi-faith country and world, but whatever one’s personal creed, faith or doctrine, we hope all our customers recognise, as do all ABUS staff, the very real benefit of the high ethical code on which all ABUS business is conducted.

This links strongly with the ABUS’ insistence on constant high quality of material and manufacture, and as Peter has already pointed out our founding statement is “Security built on quality”.

While on links, I also pick up and emphasise Peter’s point on security being as strong as the weakest link.  We see unbalanced situations where containers full of high value merchandise are secured by a brass padlock, or where a garden shed with high value leisure goods is secured with a Granite padlock, but the shed door needs only a screwdriver to take off the hinges.  So the fundamental rule of security is recognising all potential points of entry, and ensuring balanced appropriate security for the risk and value is comprehensively applied.  Police advise on cycle and motorcycle security is to spend at least 10% of the value you are protecting on security devises.  This commercial advice can be applied to all security applications.

I also stress Peter’s comments on the varying security needs in different countries, which as an international manufacturer and supplier of security solutions leaves ABUS with the continual challenge, to think global and act local.

I am very proud to work for the brand ABUS, and while we strive for perfection, recognise we sometimes may fall short of all expectations.  We none the less genuinely believe that ABUS, through our valued customers and UK distribution does make a genuine valuable contribution to ‘the good feeling of security’.

Nick Vanderhoest – Managing Director - ABUS UK


The Weld Off – British Style Phil Winnington Throws down The Welding Gauntlet

Phil Winnington, Managing Director of Morris Site Machinery, has a mission – to make The Weld Off 2016 bigger, and better than ever before. He took some time out of a busy schedule at the Executive Hire Show to talk to ToolBUSINESS+HIRE to tell us more about the competition.

The Weld Off is now in its third year, and its profile, along with that of UK Welding continues to grow. This year Morris Site Machinery, Speedy Services, EAL and KEMPPI will sponsor the competition aimed at young welders throughout the country.  Phil believes that this is the type of competition that will inspire the next generation of welders, a profession that has slowed down in recent times. As Phil says ‘You want real life things to aim for within colleges, so to get young welders involved in something which was targeted, has enabled us to introduce ourselves to the industry at grassroots level.’

After the initial comprehensive assessment of largely college-based applicants, the judges choose the four teams to compete in the final at the Speedy Services base in Tamworth on May 11th 2016. Like the Great British Bake Off, knowledge, skills and creativity are tested in full on the day of the final via a rigorous process. It begins with a questionnaire establishing the teams’ knowledge of welding practices and design, amongst other skills, as well as the all important Health and Safety regulations. Two members of the team are then chosen to compete in an extended skills test during which they have to demonstrate full familiarity with a variety of welding techniques.  Finally, the whole team has to cooperate to design and make a big piece – this year’s theme is “God Save the Queen” to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. Also, the Sex Pistols made the charts with their version of the national anthem 40 years ago, so this could add a different slant to the theme. The chance of potentially witnessing Punk Welding is a notion I find very intriguing!

The previous two competitions have given a real indication of potential diversity and progress being made by young people within the sector.  Phil spoke highly of the collaborative nature of the competition, ”If you are putting a team together for a design piece, so you may need one or two be the lead creative, and then two more with strong hands on skills. It is important to have all four working alongside each other as a cohesive team.” The first year’s winners also included a young woman, which is a real step for the future of welding and engineering in general.

Phil went on to explain that Morris Site Machinery would like to expand the scope of the Weld Off in the future. This would ideally involve regional finals so that more students would have the opportunity to enter the competition and be more  “hands-on”, with the strongest candidates heading for the finals.

From Phil’s words and indeed all those involved with the Weld Off, it is clear they are keen to raise the profile of welding as a key skill in the British industrial landscape. The competition will help further this aim; introducing a skill that could provide both young and older men and women with an exciting career that has good prospects for the future.

ToolBUSINESS+HIRE will be in Tamworth at the finals of the 2016 finals, which take place on May 11th, so watch out for full coverage of the event in the June Issue. After speaking to Phil, I for one am very much looking forward to checking it out.

If you would be interested in getting involved with the Weld Off 2016, or future events, please contact the Morris Marketing Department on 01743 234 224 or email [email protected]

THS Show 2015 – 40 Years to Celebrate and a New Venue

Report by Peter Brett

With 40 years of trading to celebrate, 2015 is an important year for THS. The Directors spoke of addressing the range of challenges facing the tool market with confidence. Perhaps one of the less challenging decisions was to organize the annual show at the new venue at Donington Park. The decision was, in the opinions of everyone I spoke to, a great success because it got the thumbs up for a wide range of reasons. For visitors, the warm space was welcoming and well lit and organised, with facilities like tea, coffee and snack food available on tap. There were a number of informal sitting areas where the free Wi-Fi could be accessed as well as a huge demo area for the people who just need to see the “hands-on” stuff. People like me for example!

The exhibitors also liked the venue because of its easy motorway and airport access and free and generous parking close by. But their biggest thumbs-up was for the ease and speed of access to the hall for setting up stands. A big plus, especially for those who need to get going quickly at the end of a day – October being a very busy month for shows and exhibitions.

A theme for some of the exhibitors I spoke to was how to make the best use of show days. Many had new stand designs, publicity, video demos, mini-competitions and the staples of free pens and chocolate. Successful marketing often means being able to stand out from the crowd, so they are looking at increasingly ingenious methods to do just that. However, it still seems that a really slick demo is a crowd puller and sales generator. I await the results of the post mortems with interest…

The power tool market continues to grow in double digits each year, and there were many power tool companies who had new models on display. Flex Power Tools had a range of new 18v drivers to show. Very compact and up to date, I look forward to giving them a review in ToolBUSINESS +HIRE soon.

Key news at Hitachi centred on the new site radio (see this November’s issue) and the 12v cordless driver duo.

Metabo’s big draw was its excellent range of well-priced and very capable mitre saws – all bases covered from mains to cordless. The new Lithium HD battery technology has been a phenomenal success too.

Fein had newish mains Multi-Master with reduced noise and vibration, but with the 18v cordless version now in stock, my fingers are twitching to get a test done soon. Also new, were the 12v cordless drivers (It seems to me that 12v is the new 14.4v as so many manufacturers seem to be launching new models in that segment.) 

Over at Panasonic, the new “carbon fibre” look drivers have a number of key advantages like dual battery platforms and weather sealing. In an era where choosing the best battery platform for you is key, since it will very likely ensure continued loyalty to a brand, battery flexibility makes a lot of sense.

Draper had a prominent stand as ever and with new products aplenty promised in the New Year, I am keen to get down to Draper’s demo and sales area at Chandlers Ford to get my hands dirty.

Wera always has a steady stream of new concepts to market, most of which add directly to the Wera “System” and make it easy for users to continue to buy Wera kit.

Rollins had a generous display of some very good “standard” products like Estwing Hammers and Channellock pliers that no trade can afford to ignore. But when you have used a quality hammer for example, it is very hard to ignore the shortcomings of a cheap hammer, especially if you are using it every day.

DART Tools have a similar philosophy, picking from a range of manufacturers to provide best value and quality for many users.

The brightest stand by far was Schneider’s – lit by its range of very well designed and flexible work lights. In a market driven by price it was good to see such clever functionality and bright but diffused lights.

As a dealer, one can’t afford to ignore work clothing these days, and the competition is very fierce. Brands like Dickies and JCB are well established, but the new boy on the block, Dassy from Belgium, displayed a good range of standard workwear for men, as well as a range designed to fit women perfectly - a trend that acknowledges the growing number of women in the trades.

Adhesives, paints, lubricants were also well represented. I need to find a good use for the sample cartridge of Siroflex adhesive, but since I use wipes all the time now, the Ambersil ones look like they will go straight into my site bag ready for use. Delta adhesives and silicon tapes are also high on my agenda since I always seem to have a few minor emergencies that need dealing with. And to throw a light on it all, a good torch from Coast or LED Lenser is now an absolute necessity as the clocks go back on Sunday.

Although gambling wasn’t on the menu this year, the Radisson Hotel was a spacious and gracious venue for the annual members’ and suppliers’ dinner. A relaxed event, and judging from the babble of conversation, a very friendly and chatty one too. Well done THS organisers!

For more photos of the day visit

From looking back to powering forward - The Snickers Next Generation Press Launch and Fashion Show

Report by Matthew Beard

In the past, a fashion show featuring Builders Work wear clothing might be thought of as a somewhat cumbersome affair. However, when the ToolBUSINESS team made the trip to Shoreditch for the Snickers Next Generation Press Launch and Fashion Show, their choice of up-market venue in the White Rabbit Studio proved it was anything but.

DancersFashion and Dance show by SnickersSnickers dancersSnickers Event Guests

Along with Snickers launching their ‘Next Generation’ of Trousers, it was also an opportunity to look back at the previous forty years of the brand innovation. The show began with ‘Stone Age Man’ (and woman!) wielding tools and wearing ‘basic protection’ clothing, also described as prehistoric loincloths. As two dancers gyrated down the runaway, with dub step booming from the speakers, everyone could see we were in for a show.

We were then given a brief history of the creation of the Snickers brand, which came to existence after electrician Matti Viio felt his safety was being compromised by the poor quality of workwear.

This was then followed by homage to Viio and Snickers’ first products. As this was back in the swinging sixties, two models, clad in overalls stepped onto stage flanked by four disco dancers, demonstrating that even at its inception, Snickers products were both durable, and aesthetically pleasing. The show continued at an upbeat pace, detailing a wide range of Snickers’ tough yet fashionable work gear throughout the years.

It would be wrong to say the audience were ever bored, but in terms of fireworks, all this was mere procession to what was coming up. As two of the more ripped models stormed the runaway clothed in Snickers’ ‘Next Generation Trousers’ and not much else, the show was turned up from seven, to eleven. The trousers, known respectively as RUFF Work and RUFF Work Denim, were put through the paces as dancers moved, grooved, bounced and spun down the runway, with backflips, break dancing and various displays of head and hand stands on display.

The men cheered, the ladies swooned, I thought about joining a gym! Soon the stripped-to-waist models were joined on stage by their fellow dancers and they continued to dance the afternoon away. Two at a time the models would venture into the audience, climbing the two podiums set out either side, giving the audience a better look at both the products on show, and of course, their dance moves. Visit our video showcase at to see them in full swing.

No sooner had the show come to close; then we were taken into a room for a particularly excellent artisan lunchtime buffet. With a selection of delicious sandwiches, lasagne and goats cheese salad; it was a spread Matti Viio himself would have applauded.

Models on CatwalkSnickers Dancers on Catwalk

Peter Brett was also given the opportunity to speak with David Clark, Managing Director of Snickers Workwear UK;

‘David was keen to emphasize just how much work and research was done in order to make this Next Generation Snickers clothing range a success. While lots of end users had some input, new fabrics and designs were used in the designs of the New Generation trousers that really made a difference.

David was quick to point out that although the Snickers range encompasses trousers made especially for women, the new designs are so flexible, both literally and figuratively, that many women have adopted standard mens’ trousers for workwear.

He also gave me some information about other Snickers clothing ranges that were designed for site use, but for roles in which the number and design of pockets, for example, is less important than perhaps the “corporate” and smart look needed for people in contact with other professionals and the public.

Clearly, Snickers has tried to cover as many bases as possible and can enjoy their 40 years of market and design success providing tradespeople with practical, comfortable and appealing clothing, wherever they might work.’

With that, the day was over, and we were making the journey back from East London to Haywards Heath. Many thanks to Snickers and everyone at the White Rabbit Studios for an excellent afternoon.

Snickers catwalkSnickers catwalk models

Etesia Celebrates 25 Years - Innovation is the Key

Etesia StrimmerIt goes without saying that we at ToolBusiness spend a lot of time in damp and windy fields looking at products that are best tested and demonstrated in damp and windy fields. Based near Banbury in Oxfordshire, the UK base of Etesia is ideally placed, being surrounded by fields on which to demonstrate their range of mowers, motorized barrows and garden tools. The purpose of the press day was to celebrate 25 years of innovation and to demonstrate some of the new range of products and ideas that the company is developing.

Fortunately, Etesia had arranged a dry venue under canvas and began the day with a short video giving a lightning tour of Etesia’s 25 years in business. This was followed by a more detailed exposition of the Etesia story by Patrick Vives, the MD of Etesia UK.

Etesia lawnmowerEtesia is a family owned French company that has been very successful developing and innovating garden equipment – for example in developing and producing hydrostatic transmissions, diesel powered ride-on mowers and more latterly electrically powered machines with 0% emissions.

The company has been able to be so innovative because at least 5% of annual turnover is allocated to Research and Development – one of the ways in which a company such as Etesia can compete with slower moving corporations and thus stay in front of the innovation curve.

The development of Etesia’s range of ride-on mowers over 25 years serves as an apt metaphor for the company as a whole. Beginning in 1989 Etesia developed a new system of grass collection that used contra-rotating cutters that ejected the cuttings to the rear of the machine where it could be easily collected. The competition was still using side ejection that made easy collection impossible.

The introduction of the Bahia range was an attempt to make smaller and cheaper mowers that would find a wider market. These models too had innovations like a remote controlled emptiable grass box. With the introduction of the H124D, the high-lift emptiable grass box was pioneered as well as a 4 wheel drive option – at the same time development was aiming to lower the cost of the machines even further.

Etesia Lawnmower imageThe Attila Range was developed specifically for farmers and local authorities who needed a brushcutting capacity on a machine with four wheel drive, rugged tyres and a low centre of gravity in order to work on sloped banks and verges.

When Etesia developed their Bioconcept strategy its analysis showed that in the lifecycle of a typical garden machine 9% of emissions were created in the manufacturing process, 1% in the distribution and 5% at the end of life of the machine. The bulk of emissions (85%) were in the daily use of fuel in the machine. Clearly, if the company could tackle this last one, emissions could be reduced greatly. Etesia experimented with biofuel and now has a range of machines that can run on a diesel and biofuel mix as well as on LPG.

But the future development was obviously pointing at using electricity and the promise of zero emissions.

The company also began to look in detail at production in the French factory in order to save time, money, energy and production costs. Involving the workers themselves, an integrated system was developed that allowed smarter production of in-demand models and took into account seasonal variations in demand. At the same time there was relentless pressure to produce reliable, cost effective and innovative machines in order to compete in a market place hit by recession and general retrenchment. For example, all Etesia machines are subject to post- manufacture tests whereas commonly only a small sample of machines are tested by larger manufacturers.

As a company, Etesia relies on its band of loyal customers as well as trying hard to develop into new markets worldwide. In order to do this it has to have a dealership structure that will respond quickly to customers’ demands and listen to their requests and suggestions. With exports making up 60% of production, the machines have to be aimed at a wide range of users working in a wide range of conditions.

Quality doesn’t come cheap, but as we all know in the tool trade – most often you get what you pay for.

The second part of the presentation was by Andreas Kuisl from Pellenc. Not many readers may know about Pellenc but the company has been around for 37 years. It is most well known in France for producing cordless pruners for vineyards. (Think about it – would your hands be capable of doing the pruning of acres of vineyards in the time slot available?)

Pellenc is an ideal working partner for Etesia because the company has been developing motors, cordless backpacks and cordless tools for a lot longer than the market may reflect. At least 1% of its £102m turnover is spent on research and development. With 300 patents to its name Pellenc is an innovative force to be reckoned with.

Andreas was quickly able to put across Pellenc’s vision for the future of solar powered battery packs that could be converted (using smart electronics) to run domestic appliances, LED lighting systems as well as a range of tools, both domestic and industrial. Andreas made a convincing case for solar powered battery packs being able to reduce emissions by 98% on a range of common machines and appliances.

For me the best part of any trade day is trying out the machines. I started with the Pellenc battery powered brush cutter. Like its petrol-powered counterparts it operates freely as its powerpack is a battery on the operator’s back. In my experience, it is as efficient as a petrol-powered machine, but without the noise, the vibration and the fumes. I could see how this would be perfect for urban environments where noise and fumes might limit the scope and range of grasscutting operations.

I also had a great time scarifying an area of grass using the new Etesia battery-powered general purpose Bahia machine. The diesel powered Attila mower I tried showed brilliant stability as I threw it around the field using the tight turning circle and brilliant maneuverability. The field wasn’t really damp enough to put those mini tractor tyres to the test…!

Welability - SIF

Bringing together a better future for UK manufacturing.

Weldability LogoOn Friday the 27th March after a short train ride from London Kings Cross and brisk walk through Letchworth town centre, we arrived at Weldability-Sif for the official opening of their Technology and Training Centre.

In recent times welding, along with the UK Manufacturing Industry as a whole, has slowed, almost to the point of vanishing. Although this is largely down to outsourcing to overseas manufacturers, there is also a perception that it is a profession for older generations, one that the young do not see as a plausible or accessible career pathway. However, Weldabity-SIF are doing all they can to change that.

SIF tipsAdrian Hawkins, Chairman of Weldability-SIF began the day by looking back on how the company has evolved during their 90-year history. He told the story of how during the Second World War, SIF-Tips, the company’s publication offering welding tips and ideas, changed its mascot from ‘Willie the Welder’, to ‘Winnie the Welder’ to help women adapt to their new found status as blue collar workers. Even during wartime, Sifbronze, as it was then known, were creating inroads to making welding accessible to all, regardless of age or gender.

The company has gone from strength to strength over the past decade, becoming Weldability SIF in 2007. With the new Weldability-SIF Technology and Training Centre, of which the offices of Unit 1 will be named ‘Peter’s House’, after Adrian’s late Father, this day was as much about looking forward as back. Due to the work of the Weldability-SIF foundation, apprenticeships in the sector are becoming far more accessible with training welding workshops opening in engineering colleges around the country. These welding workshop include the recently opened Llaneli based Coleg Sir Gar, and also the one at Goole College, based in Hull.

Weldability Building OpeningSir Oliver Heald, the MP of the Letchworth Area officially opened the new building, before being taken on a tour round the new Technology and Training Centre. After a quick look at the new Showroom, we were then taken through at demonstration of how a Weldability-SIF Apprenticeship works. Initially an Apprentice will focus on the theoretical side of the vocation, using the facilities of the E Learning suite to be taken through the training and then take online tests to prepare for the practical side of the job. He or she will then begin honing their Welding skills in the Vitual Welding studio, enabling them to practice without being at risk of injury or worse and also saving wastage of materials at such an early stage. Furthermore this E learning is portable, and is currently making its way around schools in the Greater London Area.

We were a given the opportunity to chance our arm with the virtUweld welding simulator, and it is safe to say I’d need a fair few more lessons before I don the mask and have a crack at the real thing!

Another fascinating part of the tour was looking at the work of Extractability, the fume extraction division of Welability-SIF. New regulations, tightening up on the management of fumes has lead to improvements in Extractability products, with the Protecto line, having an extensive range of Extraction arms, fans, downdraft benches, hoses, filters, vacuum systems and filters, both fixed and mobile. Its great to see the company doing what it can to not only make the vocation accessible, but also developing their technology to make the future bright, with more green credentials.

After the tour was over, we were treated to an excellent lunch, and a chat with members of the Weldability-SIF family and staff. We would like to thank everyone there for making it an enjoyable and interesting day in Letchworth Garden City.

Report by Matthew Beard, Editorial Manager

Gravity Darts, Game On!

Report by Matthew Beard

Launch of Werner ‘s inventive Partnership with the Professional Darts Corporation and 16-time World Darts Champion, Phil Taylor.

On a chilly Thursday evening in November, we made the trip up from Sussex to increasingly glamorous Shoreditch, to attend the launch of ‘Gravity Darts’, an event hosted by Werner Ladders.

The chosen venue was the Beach Babylon Bar, a sexy, upmarket establishment superbly located along the Bethnal Green Road. While originally from the state of Pennsylvania, Werner’s British base is Belper, Derbyshire. They are a brand with big plans for the UK Market, as emphasised by the colourful display of various Ladders from Werner we were greeted with as we walked down the stairs.

Kicking off proceedings was WernerCo’s Vice President of Marketing, Chris Filardi, who spoke of their UK growth in 2014, along with their partnership with the Professional Darts Corporation, Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor, and PDC supremo Barry Hearn. The charismatic Hearn was next up to speak, and regaled us with the story of the rise of Darts in the UK, and the importance for the sport to continue to evolve, to innovate, but most importantly, to remain fun.

Soon after the speeches finished, we started to really get to grips with Gravity Darts, trying to understand the philosophy behind this new sport and by taking practice turns. Looking in from an outsider’s perspective, the premise of Gravity is pretty simple; you climb up a sturdy Werner Ladder before dropping three arrowed missiles down onto a dartboard, which is lying flat on the floor. However once up you are up on the resilient Ladder from Werner, it was slightly more testing. Despite showing promise from my early efforts, the more I attempted to perfect my Gravity Darts technique, the harder it became, leaving me concerned and unsure of myself with regards to the upcoming competition.

The group gathered in anticipation around the Dart Board and the Werner Ladder, and it was soon time for renowned Master of Ceremonies John MacDonald to get us underway, alongside Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor. The pair’s rapport allowed the competition to bobble along nicely, but that did not stop my nerves, which really had started to kick in. Different scenarios began playing on my mind. What if I missed the board? What if I was rubbish? What if I fell off the ladder? (The ladder wasn't particularly high off the ground, but would've been embarrassing none the less). Before long, John was reading out my name and it was time. I stepped up, grabbed the darts and clambered up the ladder and prepared to drop my first Dart. Luckily, due to the strength and fine craftsmanship of Werner’s products, this particular apparatus, aptly named the Podium Ladder, is the perfect platform to drop a dart. While I would not say my Gravity Darts début set the world on fire, it was a lot of fun and I can certainly see it playing a big part in the meteoric rise of the sport, with Werner certainly the go-to choice of ladder when playing, and indeed for any ladder related activity. Many thanks to WernerCo for an excellent evening, as well as making such a fantastic selection of ladders.


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