GKN today – a global leader
Today, GKN is established as one of the world’s leading technology and engineering companies: a key supplier of components for everything from cars to F18 fighter jets, and even the Space Shuttle – quite an achievement for a single South Wales ironworks.
Having refocused the business in the 1990s – and without Chep and Cleanaway – GKN had become smaller and less highly valued – and was relegated from the FTSE 100 Index. The Financial Times even forecast that it would decline into obscurity like so many other UK engineering companies.
Sir Kevin Smith, who became chief executive in 2003, saw things differently. In 2004, GKN sold its share in AgustaWestland to Finmeccanica for £1.063 billion – 1.2 times the acquisition price. Driveline was re-orientated from low-growth, high-cost Western economies to high-growth, low-cost markets in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Torque management expanded from its base in Japan. Powder metallurgy grew strongly in Europe and Asia. Selective acquisitions expanded the off-highway business.
Perhaps most significantly, the aerospace business was built into the world’s leading independent producer of aerostructures, culminating in the purchase in 2009 of the Airbus wing manufacturing and assembly plant at Filton near Bristol in the UK.
Today, GKN employs 40,000 people in 30 countries and supplies the world’s leading automotive, aerospace and off-highway companies. Its rich and varied history has created a modern company with a unique reputation for quality and innovation – GKN is the only non-Japanese company to be named Toyota’s best supplier three times.
Throughout the past 250 years, GKN has welcomed change, not feared it. It has never been afraid to innovate. It has always been practical: it has always been a proud company, but the pride has always been tempered by an immense realism. That is why it is still here. That is why GKN occupies a unique place in global industrial history.