Zygology is one of that rare breed, the technical distributor. The company is just as comfortable talking with design engineers as it is with production professionals on the shop floor
F&B When was Zygology established, by whom, and for what purpose?
The business was established in 1977 by Roger Harford, operating from the telex room of the Bucks Fasteners premises in Penn, just outside High Wycombe. Our first products were Avdel rivets and Nutserts, plus the Avdelbond (now Permabond) range of adhesives. At the time we were seen as the ‘small order department’ of Avdel, handling customers that Avdel themselves had little interest in dealing with directly. The relationship thrived and sales growth saw the business move premises on several occasions until Zygology found itself over the Post Office in High Wycombe in 1978, and it stayed there until 1982.
F&B What was the first significant addition to the Zygology range after Avdel?
In 1981 the sales manager for WH Brady walked through the door. After some discussion, the company found itself as a distributor for Brady labels and printers. This part of the business grew well, until in 1999 it became a separate company – Zygology Systems Ltd
In 1982 the company needed more space and once more moved to new premises, acquiring its first computer system at the same time, costing nearly £10,000 at today’s prices. They were big steps.
F&B What was the next step in the development of the business?
For several years the company continued with just the two main brands, and gradually the product knowledge and expertise of the company meant that we were increasingly being asked for product advice. Hence we started to market ourselves as a ‘technical distributor’.
F&B What do you see is the difference between being technical distributor and any other type of distributor?
As we see things there are three types of distribution company:
There are the large multinationals who focus on supplying a particular service such as JIT or DLF etc. These companies sell a service which means they will contract to supply any product to the customers premises. What the actual product is they do not very much worry about, and in some cases they have no interest in (or understanding of) the products they are supplying. If the customer needs technical backup this is often hard to come by and frequently ends up being supplied remotely from a manufacturers increasingly remote and over stretched technical department.
Then we have the smaller independent distributors who may also provide a JIT type service. These companies tend to have a little more knowledge – but as the product range they offer is wide the depth of knowledge they have is also limited.
Then we have the technical distributor. This type of company operates as an extension of the OEM they distribute for. This means having an in-depth knowledge of the products, undertaking factory based training on a regular basis and field based technical representatives who can problem solve, help with new applications, improve production processes and advise on the best product for an application. All this backed up by extensive stocks to ensure that customers are insulated from the inevitable issues related to factory production cycles.
In our experience as a technical distributor, we carry a narrow range of products, are highly prized by manufacturers and our relationship with all of our partner suppliers is a close and open one.
F&B Which are your primary product partners and why did you select them?
Avdel and Brady was the main focus for us until Southco came to the UK in 1994 and sought us out to become one of their first authorised distributors in Europe. Access hardware is now a large part of our business.
Later, in 2003, Penn Engineering and Manufacturing (PEM) came knocking at the door as they were changing their business model and closing down their distribution centre in Doncaster. They needed a company capable of undertaking the stocking, technical support and sales role this move would create. In both cases these companies were drawn to the Zygology technical approach to selling. And we have been fulfilling this role for both companies ever since.
F&B What do you say to an engineer or buyer who asks why they should deal with you rather than direct with a manufacturer?
Over the years manufacturers have reduced the number of field representatives and the size of their technical departments to the point that they are over stretched (and almost non-existent in some cases). Unless the customer is in an especially large industry such as automotive it can be very hard to get the support needed to get a part designed in. We, on the other hand, thrive on this type of enquiry. We have the people, skills and desire to take an application from the drawing board to production. As authorised distributors we also offer extremely keen pricing. It’s a win-win for both designer and buyer.
F&B Does this make Zygology unique?
Not unique, but we are a very rare breed. Most of our competitors have gone down the road of servicing customers in a different way. We prefer the interest and variety that dealing with many different customers in a wide variety of industries brings. We find ourselves talking to engineers from rail companies as well as, increasingly, companies working in microelectronics looking for threads of M0.5mm or smaller. It’s what keeps life interesting.
F&B Do you have other products in your portfolio?
For several years we were the UK distribution and sales centre for the Stanley MasterFix brand of rivets, rivet nuts and tooling. A brand aimed at the distribution and lower budget end of the market. For various reasons Stanley lost interest and focus on the brand, and we had to find a replacement range to ensure continuity of supply to our customers. To that end we engaged with Jan Aarts, the original creator of Masterfix. We liked the quality of the products and he liked the look of us, so we are now the UK partner for the Qonnect Rivet association. We are also distributors for Tesa assembly tapes and Spiralock self locking nuts and studs
F&B So what is the outlook for Zygology?
We moved to our current premises in Thame back in 2015 this presented us with a significant increase in warehouse and office space. Since then, 2020 excepted, we have seen a continuous year on year growth as our services continue to be valued by both new and existing customers from all over the world. We also have an online presence which extends our reach further. At the moment we are looking forward to the day when we exchange Zoom meetings for face-to-face discussions with our customers and partners.