AFAC Director Lee Mullins retires after 35 years at the top.
Lee Mullins had worked in the industrial fastener industry, both in spring and plastic clips, before entering the world of weldable fasteners. It seemed that most companies in that industry had restrictive practices regarding sizes of fasteners stock and minimum quantities. Lee decided he could address some of these shortcomings by forming his own company.
It was 35 years ago that Lee Mullins launched Applied Fastenings and Components as a supplier of captive fasteners for manufacturers. The company did however deviate shortly after into the supply of masking products to protect the threads of its captive fasteners as powder coating took over from wet paint spraying, the business focus moved and silicone rubber became the material of choice. Designs were developed and the masking products division launched. AFAC was born, using the initials from the original company.
We caught up with Lee to hear about the highs, lows and what the future holds.
What will you miss most about working for AFAC?
The relationships I have developed over the years, with both customers and suppliers. I’ll also miss the daily challenges presented by different industries. We have solved masking problems from the masking of tractor wheels, oil well electrical enclosures, motor yachts, automotive structures and even aircraft undercarriages and railway rolling stock.
How have you seen the engineering and metal finishing industry change over the past 35 years?
As most of AFAC’s customers are manufacturing products from metal, it has become apparent that many of the smaller companies have been absorbed into larger organizations, with many establishing overseas divisions, to take advantage of lowers costs. With the advent of the container ships, transport is no longer a major cost consideration. AFAC now exports a significant proportion of its products to Europe and the Middle East as a result.
What is your proudest working moment?
Designing and developing a practical masking system for powder coaters in the mid 1980’s that is still used extensively today. Proving that my ideas to give customers what they wanted, rather than dictate what they could or couldn’t have. We tried, and usually succeeded in giving the customer exactly what they needed and in the quantity they wanted. My original designs are still popular and effective over 30 years after stepping into the unknown and developing a practical masking system for powder coaters. At the time there were no products to fulfill the needs of the embryo powder coating users. Now you see so many products in day to day life and I can say “That was made cheaper and quicker, thanks to my ideas.”
Where do you see AFAC moving in the future?
Under the wing of my son Ryan, I can foresee increased sales into overseas markets, particularly in custom designed parts. This will be largely as a result of Ryan’s expertise in maximizing our internet presence, which now attracts far higher traffic levels than I would have thought possible. I will remain available to AFAC as Chairman, though I think this means I may be consulted if experience is needed!