GKN plc is a British multinational automotive and aerospace components company headquartered in Redditch, Worcestershire. The company was formerly known as Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds and can trace its origins to 1759 and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.
|Public limited company|
|Headquarters||Redditch, Worcestershire - England|
|Michael Turner, CBE|
|Products||Vehicle and aircraft components|
|Revenue||£9,671 million (2017)|
|£699 million (2017)|
|£509 million (2017)|
Number of employees
|Divisions||GKN Driveline, GKN Aerospace, GKN Land Systems, GKN Powder Metallurgy|
The origins of GKN lie in the founding of the Dowlais Ironworks in the village of Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, by Thomas Lewis and Isaac Wilkinson. John Guest was appointed manager of the works in 1767, having moved from Broseley. In 1786 Guest was succeeded by his son, Thomas Guest, who formed the Dowlais Iron Company with his son-in-law William Taitt. Guest introduced many innovations and the works prospered.
Under Guest's leadership, alongside his manager John Evans, and after his death in 1852 that of his wife Lady Charlotte Guest, the Dowlais Ironworks gained the reputation of being "one of the World's great industrial concerns". Though the Bessemer process was licensed in 1856, nine years of detailed planning and project management were needed before the first steel was produced. The company thrived with its new cost-effective production methods, forming alliances with the Consett Iron Company and Krupp. By 1857 G.T. Clark and William Menelaus, his manager, had constructed the "Goat Mill", the world's most powerful rolling mill.
By the mid-1860s, Clark's reforms had borne fruit in renewed profitability. Clark delegated day-to-day management to Menelaus, his trusteeship terminating in 1864 when ownership passed to Sir Ivor Guest. Clark continued to direct policy, building a new plant at the docks at Cardiff and vetoing a joint-stock company. He formally retired in 1897.
Nettlefolds Limited, a leading manufacturer of fasteners, established in Smethwick, West Midlands in 1854, was acquired in 1902 leading to the change of name to Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds - (GKN).
Steel production remained at the core of the company, but under increasing profit margin pressure. In 1930 the company combined its steel production business with that of rival Baldwins to form Guest Keen Baldwins, which now held:
In 1935 the company demolished the Cardiff works to construct a new production facility on the same site, funded by an issue of debentures. Due to a resultant global shortage of pig iron, in 1937 the company fired-up the single remaining blast furnace at Dowlais.
All of the sites were heavily bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe during the war, and the required investment meant that all of these assets were nationalised as part of the 1951 Iron and Steel Act, resultantly becoming part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain.
GKN were still highly reliant on the supply of good quality steel, so in 1954 negotiated from the asset realisation company the repurchase of key assets from ISC, which were renamed Guest Keen Iron and Steel Co. In 1961 the company's name changed again to GKN Steel Company.
These mergers heralded half a century in which GKN became a major manufacturer of screws, nuts, bolts and other fasteners. The company reflected the vertical integration fashionable at the time embracing activities from coal and ore extraction, and iron and steel making to manufacturing finished goods.
After the First World War it became apparent that Britain was likely to follow France and more recently the United States in developing a large scale auto-industry. GKN acquired another fastener manufacturer, F. W. Cotterill Ltd., in 1919. Cotterill owned a subsidiary named J. W. Garrington, which specialised in forgings. The forgings produced at the Garrington Darlaston plant, later supplemented by a large plant at Bromsgrove, enabled GKN to become a major supplier of crankshafts, connecting rods, half-shafts and numerous smaller forged components to the UK auto-industry during and beyond the period of massive expansion between the two world wars.
In 1920, GKN purchased steel company John Lysaght and their subsidiary, Joseph Sankey and Sons Ltd. After training as an engineer, Sankey founded a major tea tray producer. A pioneer motorist, he became friends with Herbert Austin, becoming a supplier of sheet steel components to the industry. By 1914, the company's customers for sheet steel bodies included Austin, Daimler, Humber, Rover, Star and Argyll.
Due to complaints from motor manufacturers about the propensity of the then-wooden wheels on early cars to disintegrate on the slightest encounter with any roadside kerb, using his experience from tea trays Sankey developed an alternate pressed-steel wheel. Production started in 1908, with customers including Herbert Austin and, later, William Morris. In addition to his original factory at Bilston a new plant was established near Wellington, Shropshire, which was devoted to wheel production.
By the time the business was acquired by GKN, the plant was supplying wheels to many UK manufacturers. By 1969 the highly-automated Wellington plant was producing over 5½ million wheels a year at a maximum rate of approximately 30,000 per day. The business also undertook other automotive related works, including supplying the chassis for the Triumph Herald and its derivatives. They were also at this time building the versatile GKN developed GKN FV432 armoured personnel carrier.
In 1951, a new subsidiary Blade Research & Development (BRD) was formed at Aldridge, Staffordshire, to produce aero-engine turbine blades. Following a fall in demand for turbine blades in the late 1950s, the BRD factory switched to producing constant-velocity joints and driveshafts for vehicles.
In 1953 Britain's steel industry was de-nationalised by a new government but that lasted only 14 years.
At the end of April 1965, the recently elected Labour government published a White Paper proposing the nationalisation of 90 per cent, by output, of Britain's steel industry. GKN Steel was transferred to public ownership at the end of July 1967.
Beginning a programme of diversification into the automotive field in 1966 GKN bought BRD's much larger competitor, Birfield Ltd, which held the great bulk of the British market for CVJs, constant velocity joints, and was a company that since 1938 had incorporated both the Sheffield based Laycock Engineering later best known as a postwar overdrive manufacturer, and Hardy Spicer Limited of Birmingham, England, also a manufacturer of constant-velocity joints. Historically, such joints had few applications, even following the improved design proposed by Alfred H. Rzeppa in 1936. However, in 1959, Alec Issigonis had developed the revolutionary Mini motor car that relied on the Hardy Spicer joints for its front wheel drive technology. The massive expansion in the exploitation of front wheel drive in the 1970s and 1980s led to the acquisition of other similar businesses and a 43% share of the world market by 2002.
On the death of founder Tony Vandervell in 1967, GKN acquired the lucrative Maidenhead-based Vandervell bearing manufacturer that was at the time exporting more than 50% of its output to overseas vehicle manufacturers. This was part of a larger trend for GKN that during this period, under its Managing Director Raymond Brookes, was working to reduce its dependence on UK auto-maker customers at a time when the domestic industry was seen to be stumbling, in response to bewildering "Government interference and fiscal short-sightedness", with British new car registrations in the first four months of 1969 a massive 33% down on the corresponding period of the previous year.
As a result of the large number of mergers, Abram Games was commissioned to develop a new corporate identity in 1969 when the distinctive angular GKN symbol was created and the new company colours of blue and white introduced. In 1974, GKN acquired Kirkstall Forge Engineering, a manufacturer of truck axles in Leeds.
By 1968, GKN Steel had recreated its downline business, and started to build its upline business through aggressive building of a steel stockholding business. In 1972 it acquired Firth Cleveland, a hot and cold rolled strip business with a downline in sintered products, reinforcement steels, wire fasteners and garage equipment. In 1973 it exchanged the remaining assets at Dowlais along with £30 million in cash to the nationalised British Steel Corporation, in return for the previously nationalised Brymbo Steelworks. After acquiring steel stockholding competitor Miles Druce and Co, by 1974 the company had created a full integrated steel production and manufacturing business.
By the late 1980s, with extensive Japanese competition in the axle and constant velocity joint business, the company started selling off its steel and fasteners businesses. By 1991, it had disposed of all of the assets within these two business lines. This included the closure of its Bilston factory in the West Midlands in 1989. The factory buildings were demolished soon after. The offices (built in the late 1950s) were not demolished until 1995.
Having disposed of its steel production asset, in 1986 the company renamed itself GKN, and focused on military vehicles, aerospace and industrial services. In 1994 it acquired the helicopter manufacturing business of Westland Aircraft.
In November 1995 associate Dana Corporation bought GKN's axle group. At that time GKN held 34% of the world market for constant velocity joints. At the same time GKN took larger shares of its other driveline joint ventures with Dana in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. From the late 1990s, the company built a major global business in powder metallurgy, which operates as the GKN Powdered Metallurgy group.
In 1998 the armoured vehicle business was sold to Alvis plc, and subsequently incorporated into Alvis Vickers Ltd. In July 2000 Finmeccanica and GKN agreed to merge their respective helicopter subsidiaries to form AgustaWestland. In 2004 GKN completed the sale of its 50% shareholding in AgustaWestland to Finmeccanica.
In 2002 GKN acquired a significant stake in - and by 2004 took over the whole concern of - the Japanese manufacturer of differentials and driveline torque systems Tochigi Fuji Sangyo K.K, based in Tochigi, Tochigi. GKN went on to acquire Monitor Aerospace Corp in Amityville, New York and Precision Machining in Wellington, Kansas in 2006, part of the Airbus plant at Filton near Bristol for £150 million in 2008 and all of Getrag's axle business and axle manufacturing facilities in 2011.
In 2011 GKN Aerospace Engineering services division was acquired by QuestGlobal.
In July 2012 GKN agreed to acquire the Swedish aerospace components manufacturer Volvo Aero from AB Volvo for £633 million (US$986 million). Following Kevin Smith's retirement at the end of 2011, Nigel Stein took over as Chief Executive on 1 January 2012.
Melrose Industries bid £8.1 billion for the company in March 2018. The UK Government allowed the transaction to proceed, having reviewed objections by GKN workers and unions, and after Melrose agreed national security measures.
The company is organised as follows:
AgustaWestland was a helicopter design and manufacturing company. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Leonardo S.p.A. (previously Finmeccanica). It was formed in July 2000 as an Anglo-Italian multinational company, when Finmeccanica and GKN merged their respective helicopter subsidiaries (Agusta and Westland Helicopters) to form AgustaWestland, with each holding a 50% share. Finmeccanica acquired GKN's stake in AgustaWestland in 2004.
Since 2016 it has been merged in Leonardo where it became the company's helicopters division under the Leonardo Helicopters brand.Alvis plc
Alvis Ltd. was created when United Scientific Holdings plc acquired the Alvis division of the nationalised vehicle manufacturer British Leyland in 1981. United Scientific maintained its own name until 1992 when the group was renamed Alvis plc. Alvis acquired Swedish armoured vehicle manufacturer Hagglunds AB in 1997 and the armoured vehicle business of GKN in 1998. Finally, it acquired Vickers Defence Systems from Rolls-Royce in October 2002. Alvis was acquired by BAE Systems in 2004 and became BAE Systems Land Systems (Weapons & Vehicles), now part of the BAE Systems Land & Armaments operating group.GKN Driveline
GKN Automotive is the leading automotive driveline technology and systems engineer. GKN Automotive is a global partner to the automotive industry. More than 50% of the 80 million new cars sold every year contain GKN Automotive technology.
GKN has a global network of 54 production facilities in 23 countries supplies over 90% of the world's car manufacturers. It's 29,000 dedicated employees design, develop, manufacture and integrate driveline technologies that add value to vehicle programmes. GKN's manufacturing quality, advanced engineering and system integration capabilities are continuously evolving to ensure the drivelines of tomorrow meet the mobility needs of the future.GKN Sankey F.C.
GKN Sankey F.C., previously known as Sankeys of Wellington F.C., was an English association football club based in Wellington, Shropshire, which was incorporated into the new town of Telford in the 1960s. The club competed for a number of years in the West Midlands (Regional) League but disbanded in 1988.GKN Simba
The Simba is a wheeled armoured personnel carrier designed by GKN Sankey (acquired since then by Alvis plc and now part of BAE Systems) and is currently in service with the Philippine Army.Gokana language
Gokana (Gòkánà) is an Ogoni language spoken by some 130,000 people in Rivers State, Nigeria.Hardy Spicer
Hardy Spicer is a brand of automotive transmission or driveline equipment best known for its mechanical constant velocity universal joint originally manufactured in Britain by Hardy employing patents belonging to US-based Spicer Manufacturing. Hardy and Spicer soon became partners. Later Spicer became Dana Holding Corporation.
Since the commercial success of front wheel drive cars began in the 1960s the industry manufacturing universal joints has grown enormously.
The Hardy Spicer and Laycock Engineering group of businesses, later known as Birfield, have been part of the GKN Driveline group since 1966.John Lysaght and Co.
John Lysaght and Co. was an iron and steel company established in Bristol, England and with later operations in Wolverhampton, Newport, and Scunthorpe. The company was acquired by GKN in 1920.Kevin Smith (businessman)
Sir Kevin Smith (born 22 May 1954) is a British businessman who was the chief executive, from January 2003 to 31 December 2011, of GKN plc. He joined GKN in November 1999 as managing director of GKN Aerospace.
Born in Nelson, Lancashire, he attended Burnley College and the University of Central Lancashire, earning a bachelor's degree in business studies.
Prior to GKN, he had been with British Aerospace (BAE plc) since 1980, first as a contracts officer. He advanced into the Commercial Directorate, where, by February 1990, he had become commercial director, as well as having been appointed to the Military Aircraft Ltd board. He served, lastly, as group managing director of the New Business division.
Smith was created a Knight Bachelor in 2007. Smith joined Unitas Capital as a partner in 2012. Smith joined Rolls Royce in 2016.Laycock Engineering
The Laycock Engineering Company Limited of Archer Road, Millhouses, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England was an engineering business established in 1884 by W S Laycock which made small and major components for railway rolling stock.
After Laycock died in 1916 the business passed through the hands of Charron, a French automobile manufacturer, into receivership from where it was bought by Sheffield engineer and shipbreaker Thos W Ward. Laycock was bought from Ward by a group of investors and put into the ownership of a new holding company, Birfield Limited, along with Hardy Spicer. Both Laycock and Hardy Spicer made transmission or driveline components for the automotive industry.
In 1966 Birfield, with Laycock and Hardy Spicer, were bought by the GKN group which was entering the automotive components field following government's announcement of the intended nationalisation of its GKN Steel.Melrose Industries
Melrose Industries plc (LSE: MRO) is a London-based company that specialises in buying and improving underperforming businesses. Its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange as a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.Neckarwestheim Nuclear Power Plant
Neckarwestheim Nuclear Power Station is a nuclear power plant in Neckarwestheim, Germany, sometimes abbreviated GKN (for German: Gemeinschaftskraftwerk Neckar), operated by EnBW Kernkraft GmbH.Pallet
A pallet is a flat transport structure, which supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, a pallet jack, a front loader, a jacking device, or an erect crane. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies. Goods or shipping containers are often placed on a pallet secured with strapping, stretch wrap or shrink wrap and shipped. Since its invention in the twentieth century, its use has dramatically supplanted older forms of crating like the wooden box and the wooden barrel, as it works well with modern packaging like corrugated boxes and intermodal containers commonly used for bulk shipping.
While most pallets are wooden, pallets can also be made of plastic, metal, paper, and recycled materials. Each material has advantages and disadvantages.RMD Kwikform
RMD Kwikform is a company based in Aldridge, England, that hires and sells temporary works and engineering design for building, construction and infrastructure projects.Saxon (vehicle)
The Saxon is an armoured personnel carrier used by the British Army and supplied in small numbers to various overseas organisations. It was developed by GKN Sankey from earlier projects, AT 100 IS and AT104, and was due to be replaced by the Future Rapid Effect System. It was first produced by Alvis plc.Volvo Aero
Volvo Aero was a Swedish aircraft, guided missiles and rocket engine manufacturer. In 2012, the company was acquired by GKN, becoming GKN Aerospace Engine Systems.Volvo RM12
The Volvo RM12 is a low-bypass afterburning turbofan jet engine developed for the Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter. A version of the General Electric F404, the RM12 was produced by Volvo Aero (now GKN Aerospace Engine Systems).Warrior tracked armoured vehicle
The Warrior tracked vehicle family is a series of British armoured vehicles, originally developed to replace the older FV430 series of armoured vehicles. The Warrior started life as the MCV-80, "Mechanised Combat Vehicle for the 1980s". One of the requirements of the new vehicle was a top speed able to keep up with the projected new MBT, the MBT-80 - later cancelled and replaced by what became the Challenger 1 - which the then-current FV432 could not. The project was begun in the 1970s. GKN Defence won the production contract in 1980. GKN Defence was purchased by BAE Systems, via Alvis plc.
A total of 789 FV510 and variants were manufactured for the British Army, and 254 of a modified version (Desert Warrior) were produced for the Kuwaiti Army.Westland Helicopters
Westland Helicopters was a British aerospace company. Originally Westland Aircraft, the company focused on helicopters after the Second World War. It was amalgamated with several other British firms in 1960 and 1961. In 2000, it merged with Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta to form AgustaWestland, which in turn merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica in 2016.