Archive | December, 2018

BREAKING: WALKOUT AT EURO CAR PARTS

BREAKING: WALKOUT AT EURO CAR PARTS

Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia and Martin Gray have reportedly quit Euro Car Parts amid concerns that parent company LKQ is planning to axe hundreds of jobs. CFO Steve Horne has also reportedly left his post.

Sources close to CAT suggested that 400 jobs are to be axed. The news comes just days after LKQ announced the appointment of Ard Franz as COO of LKQ Europe.

In October we spoke to Mr. Ahluwalia and Mr. Gray about the future of the business, particularly now its main competitors are no longer local independent factor groups, but are other similar stock-market listed businesses with North American parent companies.

NASDAQ-listed LKQ’s share prices have dropped significantly compared with the previous period.

Gray, Ahluwalia and LKQ have been contacted for comment.

More on this breaking story as it develops

ECP’s 75th branch

 

 

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BREAKING: FMS SCUNTHORPE ACQUIRED BY AAG

BREAKING: FMS SCUNTHORPE ACQUIRED BY AAG

Scunthorpe-based FMS Autoparts is the latest company to join AAG UK as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

The single-branch factor can trace its roots back to 1987 when the company was founded as Frodingham Motor Spares.  A pivotal moment occurred in 2000 when the company moved to its present 10,000 sq ft site, which includes a large modern factor warehouse and a good size public accessory shop.

The company in its most recent form was incorporated in 2011 and owned and run by the Lally family.

As reported last month, the Alliance Automotive Group has made a number of significant acquisitions throughout 2018 including Motorcare Motor Factors, Lloyds Motor Spares and battery distributor Platinum International.

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IS AMMONIA THE NEXT DIESELGATE?

Mark Blinston, commercial director of BM Catalysts, examines the potentially harmful effects created by the use of SCR technology in modern day diesels

Talk of emissions is never far away as of late and it seems that the problem isn’t set to go away any time soon. From CO2, particulate matter and the infamous NOx, there is another potential emissions problem looming on the horizon in the form of ammonia pollution.

Whilst Euro emissions standards continue to tighten in response to the ongoing emissions crisis, with the current Euro 6 legislation being the strictest set to date, it is apparent that not everything is quite as it seems.

With tighter emissions requirements comes the need for new vehicles to incorporate technologies designed to combat these emissions. Technologies such as Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) are just one method used today on modern diesel vehicles that aim to help eliminate the harmful NOx gases they emit. However it seems that everything comes with its consequences. Despite the use of SCR technology being hailed as one of the greatest and most effective feats to date in helping to tackle the NOx crisis, it doesn’t come without flaws of its own.

SCR systems work by a process of a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) being injected into the exhaust system. As exhaust gases travel between the Diesel Particulate Filter and the SCR, the DEF (most commonly ‘AdBlue’) that has been added to the mix works by reacting with the base metal coating of the catalyst, converting harmful NOx gases into less harmful by-products, nitrogen and oxygen. The DEF used in this process is comprised of urea and deionised water, otherwise known as a less concentrated form of ammonia. Whilst DEF is a non-hazardous liquid, its gases, under the wrong circumstances, can be extremely harmful.

The function of SCR technology can only be fully utilised under appropriate conditions, such as the optimal operating temperature of around 350-450°C being achieved, by which it can help reduce NOx emissions by as much as 95%. However when placed in conditions such as built-up urban areas comprised of low speeds and heavy traffic, this isn’t always possible, which can lead to further complications aside from NOx pollution. It is possible that under such circumstances of low efficiency, the ammonia which is continually injected into the system may not be used entirely leading to what is known as ‘ammonia slip’. This is where excess ammonia exits the system and is expelled into the atmosphere, thus further adding to pollutant levels.

The rise of ammonia in the atmosphere has already seen an increase of 3.2 per cent between 2015 and 2016 according to UK Government figures, which also coincides with the implementation of the Euro 6 emissions standards. This indicates that, whilst the fight against NOx rages on, the increased use of the technologies required to help combat them, in this case SCR, may be posing further emissions concerns. As SCR technology continues to become the go-to choice in new diesel vehicles for its proven NOx reducing capabilities, it begs the question of what impact the rise in ammonia pollution is going to have on both us and the environment. It is clear that whilst positive changes such as the steadily declining atmospheric NOx levels are taking shape, there are other factors that also need to be taken into consideration before it’s too late.

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CAT AWARDS 2019: VOTING NOW CLOSED

CAT AWARDS 2019: VOTING NOW CLOSED

Voting is now closed for the 2019 CAT Awards.

 

 

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CASH BOOST FOR BLOODHOUND PROJECT

CASH BOOST FOR BLOODHOUND PROJECT

Record-breaking hopefuls The Bloodhound Team is delighted to announce the successful sale of the business and assets, which allow the project to continue.

It had seemed that the jet-powered car was destined never to turn a wheel after the project fell into administration in September, following numerous missed deadlines. 

The project has been bought by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. A mechanical engineer by training and long term Bloodhound enthusiast, Warhurst has a strong background in managing highly successful businesses in the automotive engineering sector.  He will bring considerable expertise to bear in taking the project forward.

A statement on the website says: “The Team are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC SSC for the country.  Its the best possible Christmas present for the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the project”.

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MANUFACTURING IN THE MODERN AGE

Mark Blinston, Commercial Director – BM Cats

For most of us, BM needs no introduction. One of its plants, tucked away in an innocuous industrial estate in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, doesn’t give anything away from the outside. It’s only when you step through the door that the scope of BM’s undertaking with emissions products is revealed. All of it (or most; some robots weren’t working on the day we arrived) moves with automated efficiency alongside ceiling-high racks upon racks of raw material storage. Mark Blinston, BM’s Commercial Director, cheerily explains some of the serious-looking machines churning away on the plant floor. One of them is producing a small waterfall of oil continuously, and every minute or so a freshly-machined nut tumbles out into a collection tray. “We use this for producing sensor ports and various other machined parts,” says Mark. “The most expensive one we have cost £170,000. The CNC Lathe machines can run 24 hours a day and are fully automated. We manufacture these components in-house to give us control over quality and design whilst reducing the inventory labels required when importing them.” Other automated machines at work include a 200-tonne press to stamp out the shells for BM’s catalytic converters; welders; CNC Miller machines; and three large tables upon which an automated plasma cutter line is fast at work. We have to be careful not to look directly at the beams.

The whole operation exudes a sense of pride, considering that not so long ago all of this was non-existent.

Beginnings

BM, like any company, had humble beginnings. When it was founded in 1966 by Alf Belton and Eric Massey, the company offered one service: fitting tyres for the local community. Operating out of a single base in Bulwell with five members of staff, it wasn’t until a few years later that government legislation led the company to expand its operation to fitting exhausts as well. Then, when legislation requiring mandatory catalytic converters was enacted, BM seized the opportunity to begin producing their own. In true full-circle fashion, BM has grown from sourcing exhaust parts from big suppliers in Europe to being a major supplier to them. “We were buying exhausts from all of these people as a garage,” says Blinston, “and they’ve allowed us to set up and it’s come all the way around to the fact that we now supply them! It’s quite bizarre.” Indeed, it takes some pretty astounding oversight on the part of competing European firms to allow a small garage in the East Midlands to become the largest independent manufacturer of cats, DPFs and front pipes in the whole of Europe, but this is precisely what has happened. Today, BM is almost entirely self-sufficient, manufacturing and machining its own parts – even down to the nuts used to fasten sensors on to the catalytic converters – to be used later on in the assembly process. “What we’ve got to do is keep our products as cost effective as possible, hence the investments in all the bits and bobs –” robotics and machinery, in this case “– so that we don’t then have someone in the way taking a margin as well,” says Blinston. The other benefit of being self-sufficient is that relying on European-based suppliers for parts is about to get a whole lot harder…

Brexit

For BM, the disadvantages that a hard Brexit might place upon the company are numerous; particularly frustrating given the strong position the company has earned itself over the years. “Of course, some of our European competitors will have an instant advantage over us if we have a hard Brexit. There’ll be no tariffs [for them], and it would take longer for our stock to get to our customers,” Blinston explained.

Plenty of storage at the Mansfield plant. Will Brexit affect imports?

A solution could be to move at least a portion of BM’s manufacturing into Europe before the UK officially leaves, as others have done. But for Blinston, this isn’t on the cards. “You’ve got to spend millions setting up plants in a low-cost economy that in five years’ time isn’t a low cost economy any more. Poland, five or ten years ago, was a cheap place to manufacture, but their economy’s grown quite a bit. So it’s tricky, and we wouldn’t want to be as far out as China.” In addition, all of this wouldn’t play into BM’s identity as a British manufacturer, something Blinston wears on his sleeve. “We’re proud to be a British manufacturer, to be honest with you. It can be done here. There’s this massive assumption that you can’t make things here, and we are.

“It will be interesting to see how [Brexit] affects other people. I suspect that some people will have buried their heads, and I suspect that some people have got plans like we have.” Blinston says that BM has a number of scenarios in place depending on the outcome of a Brexit deal on March 29th. And, in a worst-case scenario where trade is halted altogether, the warehouse stockpiles could enable BM to continue producing components for 10 to 12 months. But selling and sourcing parts isn’t the only issue that Brexit has brought upon the firm.

Automated plasma cutters at work

Human resource 

This year has been a struggle for BM in an unexpected way. “It’s a shortage of manpower,” says Blinston. “For the first time in our history this summer, the factory couldn’t cope with sales. We were selling more every day than we were able to make, so our stocks became massively depleted.” There were a couple of factors that made 2018 difficult in this respect: particularly high demand, a red-hot summer and a world cup (yes, really!) made it difficult to get workers in. “When you’re working a 10-hour weld shift in hot conditions, do they want to stay and do overtime for an extra four hours? Very difficult…” says Blinston.

The availability of skilled workers is another area in which the uncertainty of Brexit is proving a nightmare for BM. “Since the referendum we’ve found a smaller pool of workers from outside the UK wanting to work. People are going back because they’re worried about settled status.” But crucially, the lack of skilled workers is an issue that starts at home. “It does worry me that people coming out of school or college that would normally go into the engineering sector or fabricational welding, they don’t want to do it anymore,” says Blinston. “They want a beautiful office environment with air conditioning and table football.” Although Blinston says that BM have managed to recruit a sufficient amount of welders for now, the frustration from passing up on sales and certain supply deals over the summer, costing millions of pounds worth of business, still lingers.

Future

Despite everything, Blinston remains optimistic about BM’s future. “Our company has always thrived in difficult, challenging circumstances. I think we just tend to navigate the choppy waters a little bit better.” Plus, regardless of Brexit, the emissions market will see increasing developments which should drive sales for manufacturers. The addition of SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) systems, for example, “is going to drive sales for AdBlue, temperature sensors, NOx sensors, this kind of stuff,” says Blinston. Although Euro-4 products make up 37 percent of BM’s sales, Euro-5 and 6 ones are fast catching up. “The trick,” he concludes, is to “never stop investing” in new market developments. Easier said than done, but BM certainly seems to be in a position to do so.

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IAAF CONFERENCE: WILLIAMSON’S WARNINGS ON  BREXIT AND ACCESS TO INFORMATION

IAAF CONFERENCE: WILLIAMSON’S WARNINGS ON BREXIT AND ACCESS TO INFORMATION

The Chief Executive of the IAAF has opened the annual conference with warnings on a number of industry topics including the EU negotiations and VMs infringing on independent garage’s  right to repair.

On the subject of Brexit she warned: “If the deal is rejected the we will all be entering into the unknown”

Speaking about access to information, Williamson noted that several vehicle manufacturers have already deleted the OBD port, despite being obliged to keep it. She emphasised how keeping ‘three priorities’ on direct access to data as a live issue in the European Parliament by working with other trade organisations such as FIGEFA.

She noted that ‘many traditional parts won’t exist in the future’, adding that new entrant to the market such as Dyson and the rise of Chinese brands will be a significant challenge for the VMs. She concluded: “We will adapt and find new ways to find and service the vehicles of tomorrow”.

The conference continues.

 

Williamson opens 2018 conference

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PROMO: CORTECO EXPLODES THE GUIDE BUSHES ‘MYTH’

PROMOTIONAL CONTENT WRITTEN BY CORTECO

 

Clutch input shaft sleeves (guide/ bushes) and seals: essential, but are they really only available through dealerships? Corteco explodes the myth.

The first call for any replacement part is the local motor factor, but when it comes to a part such as a clutch input shaft sleeve (guide/ bush) and seal, most UK garages turn to dealerships.

Essential in clutch changes for many German, Italian and French-built cars, dealerships hold a virtual monopoly on aftermarket sales throughout the UK. But the fact is, they are not an OE supply only item.

Garages only think they are.

 

New direction

Split-open view of a guide bush

Until quite recently, for example, that’s precisely what they thought up at Almark Garage in Wirksworth, Derbyshire:

“We always sourced them through the dealers. It just seemed like the place to get them because it was associated more with the OE gearbox than the clutch,” says proprietor Mark Swift.

“Our problem was that once you’ve got the vehicle up on the ramp and the gearbox off, you couldn’t hang around all day. Sometimes service from the dealers leaves a lot to be desired, so it meant that we didn’t always replace them, even though we know they can be a source of problems with the clutch.”

Almark is fitting more, now, because the availability has improved.

“It was only when the motor factor came along about three months ago and pointed out that they now had them in stock that we switched over. They are not expensive to buy, but even so, they are half the dealership price. I have to say that the service they provide means we are now fitting more than we ever did,” he adds.

 

Guide/ bush function

When not in operation, the clutch release bearing withdraws and comes to rest on the shaft sleeve. The shaft sleeve can become pitted through wear and tear. A worn release bearing can catch on it, leading to misalignment problems that can cause the clutch to slip.

This accelerates clutch wear.

Inside the shaft sleeve is a rubber seal. This is designed to protect the clutch from ingress by gearbox oil. If the seal fails there are problems ahead. Seal failure is often related to debris generated by clutch wear.

 

Contaminants

Clutch ‘dust’ accumulates in the gearbox. If the dust accumulates on the shaft and on the sealing lip, the seal can be compromised. It can damage the seal and reduce operational life. A worn or damaged seal allows the oil to leak into the clutch housing. If this contaminates the friction plate, premature failure of the clutch is inevitable.

This leads to excessive slippage. Any excessive slip between the clutch and flywheel causes overheating. Soaring clutch temperatures increase the potential for failure.

Installation errors

After removing the clutch, the clutch input shaft sleeve (guide/bush) and seal is sometimes ignored or not considered for replacement. Three alternative views are:

  1. a) It is part of the gearbox, rather than the clutch
  2. b) It looks ok, so let’s save the customer money
  3. b) They are difficult to replace so are best left alone

Each of these constitutes an error of judgement that can expose the garage to an expensive rectification procedure and damage its reputation.

Best practice

Corteco, one of the world’s largest manufacturer’s of clutch input shaft sleeves (guide/ bush) and seals, says that although these components are highly reliable performers, they must be replaced when changing the clutch.

It adds that because so many garages have always sourced their replacement from dealerships, many motor factors are unaware of the demand.

Given that labour is the major cost of the clutch change and that the clutch input shaft sleeve (guide/bush) and seal is not an expensive part, garages would be inclined to change more of them if the parts were available. A campaign to raise awareness about aftermarket availability is under way.

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