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By Howard Wheeldon

17 Jun 10. Just as it has successfully done so often in the past GKN is once again setting out to exploit new opportunities that may already be in the house. There is never a dull moment in this company! This time and linked to vast experience the company has in its already well established global automotive driveline, industrial products, the highly specialist off-highway product base, aerostructures and the interesting and specialist powder metallurgy product arena a fourth division to be called Land Systems has been formed bringing together Off-Highway, GKN Aerostructures plus GKN Industrial and Distribution units. Designed to exploit growth opportunities in areas such as high speed rail, military vehicle equipment markets, UK offshore wind-power and to hope open new doors to provide through-life support by potential upgrade of existing large engineering product equipment making use of recent new GKN technology and innovation plus availability of new lighter materials the company is targeting to more than double current annualised divisional sales of £700m within five years.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new division is that it is designed to exploit next generation technology either already developed by the company within for instance driveline, aerospace and powder metallurgy product or that will likely evolve in the future. It is a great idea and should allow a useful degree of organic expansion for the Redditch; Worcestershire based company as well as opening new engineering based doors and opportunities. Equally important to me is that the decision makes use of existing engineering investment and motivates others to exploit this for other purposes. Thus we see this as seeking to better exploit each and every conceptual engineering idea that the company has more recently been involved ensuring that no possible opportunities are lost. Clearly there is ample scope to exploit existing Off-Highway mining and agricultural equipment within the new division and with pressure from all side to develop more efficient and lighter weight products we see this as an excellent time for GKN to position itself to exploit engineering based opportunities wherever they arise. The new division will primarily focus on two key technology product areas – Power Management and High Performance Structures in which customers are frequently under pressure to find more engineering sophisticated solutions utilising lighter weight materials.

With the long time existing expertise in agricultural, mining and construction vehicles (Off-Highway Product) and GKN Driveline technology and that accounts for an ever increasing percentage proportion of the actual product today we would see potential for the company to exploit many new product based activities. Amongst these would be high speed rail which although often pushed back on the basis of cost will inevitably be an increasing feature of future national infrastructure investment,, heavy military vehicles such as armoured car market (worth noting that back in the late 1980’s GKN Sankey built 1,000 plus Warrior Armoured Personnel Carriers for the British Army – hugely successful vehicles that it is hoped will shortly undergo significant upgrading) and which the UK government is already committed to various developments under the FRES (Future Rapid Effects System) exercise. Low carbon emission projects are also on the increase and we would note here that off-shore wind-power is yet another very fast growing area of engineering expertise in which GKN is very well placed to add substantial value in the years ahead.

As a highly successful UK engineering company and one that has stood the test of time by continually adapting and changing to meet new requirements what GKN has announced in the formation of a new division today will be seen by some as just continuation of existing strategy. However, it is more than that in our vie

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