Gripple began as one man’s ingenuity to solve a problem. Today, it’s a global brand, servicing five key sectors, employing over 700 people across 14 global locations. Characterised by our commitment to people and a desire to challenge convention, the business has experienced consistent growth and evolution since its foundation in 1989. Read more about our key milestones, accolades and innovative Gripple solutions - cornerstones of the Gripple story.
One particularly damp day in 1985, a wire-salesman and budding entrepreneur named Hugh Facey found himself on a wet hillside in Wales discussing the woes of fencing with a frustrated farmer. Aggravated by cumbersome ways of joining fence wires by bending and knotting, he bemoaned the lack of alternatives. Hugh listening intently convinced he could think up a better way of connecting two pieces of wire together. The seeds had been planted, and the idea for the Gripple fastener was born.
Gripple Production Begins
Hugh Facey started production in a disused furniture factory in the Birley area of Sheffield - manufacturing field fencing, barbed wire and fencing staples. Wafios supplied the fencing machines.
The Gripple idea
The idea of a small 'widget' to join two wires together, incorporating spring loaded steel balls, was born out of a fact finding visit, where Hugh observed a Welsh farmer erecting a field fence by knotting the horizontal line wires together.
Initial Stages of Development
The first phase of development saw the 'Gripple Joiner idea' developed through a number of prototypes to produce a possible production design by Cheshire Engineering in Knutsford. Brian Shawcross (who went on to join the Gripple team in 1995) worked specifically on this project. A second study ran into 1987, which confirmed using steel loaded balls was the most promising basic design. The task now was to identify a material that resisted the action of the steel balls on the surface of the casting and gave consistent resistance under load.
Zinc Allow proved to be the best material and a first two piece die-cast housing with six integral spin riveted heads was produced. This was too brittle, so a second version was produced incorporating ten rivets and used spot welding to secure the rivet heads in place. This was a success and the first commercial model was ready for launch! The Gripple brand was invented, which, as the basis of the name, combined the words 'Grip' & 'Pull'.
Bob Forster of BHP (now known as OneSteel) in Australia, under the Waratah brand, commits to selling the Gripple product when it becomes available, even though he had not seen the first commercial model. The partnership with OneSteel carries on today.
The Launch of the First Gripple Wire Joiner
In September, the first Gripple wire joiner was manufactured and sold in boxes of 8 pieces.
The riveted version of the Gripple fastener had an inherent flaw - the weakness of a split line between the two halves, which was in direct alignment with the forces being subjected on the product. The answer to this, was to produce a one piece housing, with metal end caps to retain the balls and springs. Production now started in earnest with the product factory-fitted directly onto the rolls of fencing before they left the factory. The medium was designed for wire diameters from 1.6 - 3.2 mm. Also, the Gripple fasteners were available as an accessory for retro fitting and repair.
Gripple Limited was registered as a separate company.
Gripple Inc. was incorporated in the USA on December 22.
Alfredo Carmo Partnership
The partnership with Alfredo Carmo of Anglo Portuguesa in Portugal began. They initially bought container loads of factory-fitted Gripple fencing before becoming our biggest global seller of Gripple wire joiners for viticulture, operating throughout Iberia and France. The alliance continues today.
The Jumbo Gripple fastener was developed for large diameter wires from 2.5 mm - 4-0 mm.
Gripple Tensioning Tool
To complement and complete 'System Gripple', the Grippler tensioning tool went on sale. It was cleverly designed to work equally effectively for left and right handed users, ensuring a totally clear view of the tensioning process, by incorporating a twin cam and mouthpiece design. The farmer could not only secure the trellis wires with the Gripple joiner, but also tension them at will, and seasonally as required for the viticulture market. The tool also complemented the process of repairing field fences, by allowing the farmer to re-tension repaired sections at the point of repair.
Mazzoleni became another long-term partner when Gripple met them at a fencing show in Birmingham, where they were selling their own wire products.
Trading commenced with BHP for the first time as a result of inventing the toothed roller for improved grip on high tensile wire. Gripple continues to trade with them under their current name of OneSteel.
Toothed sintered rollers
As export markets were explored, it soon became apparent that the product had to operate properly on high-tensile wire, the most prevalent product. The steel ball was too smooth and needed to be able to bite through the galvanised coating and directly into the wire to create a secure lock. So 1990 saw the development of toothed sintered rollers which replaced the steel balls as the primary means of locking.
Small Gripple fastener
The small Gripple fastener was developed for smaller diameter wires from 1.0 - 2.0 mm.
Special handle extension kit
A special handle extension kit was made available for modifying the Grippler tool by increasing the leverage (pulling power), from 4 to 6.
The Gripple Barbed was launched for use on twin strand 2 x 2.5 mm barbed wire and 4.0 mm soft wire.
Plastic End Caps
Volume was now increasing significantly and it became necessary for the Medium to undergo a further re-design. Plastic end caps were introduced for the first time into a shorter, one-piece housing, with slightly changed internal geometry but offering a product of greater strength. The picture shows the change in design from the original product launched in 1988.
Estate Wire Sold
Estate Wire was sold to Trefil Arbed of Luxembourg. The company traded solely as Gripple Limited, but remained in occupation, leasing their premises from Trefil Arbed for the next two years. The sale proceeds were invested in new development of the Gripple range and the company turned from a domestic supplier to an International trader.
During this year, the performance of the Gripple Barbed was improved to meet tensioning practices in the USA by using FEA. FEA allowed us to identify high stress areas in the casting and make improvements in strength by moving material around without adding additional amounts.
The Mini Gripple was launched for use on light load suspension wire ropes in the construction market. This market was serviced by customers and distributors in the lifting gear sector. This was the first product in a 'releasable range' to incorporate the 'wedge' with a key for releasing the lock prior to loading.
The Maxi was the 2nd model to be launched in the "Adjusta" range. It accommodates wire from 2.5 - 4.0 mm.
Old West Gun Works
In September, Gripple moved to the Old West Gun Works. The number of employees totalled 19 people and the factory possessed just 2 automated assembly machines. HRH Prince Charles opened the OWGW on December 12 and described it as "one of the finest refurbishments of a listed building that I have ever seen." In the run-up to the opening of the OWGW, a local sculptor, Johnny White, was commissioned to use his laser cutter to produce the spider, its web and 'spiderlings' - now a landmark in the Sheffield region, and a tourist attraction.
Adjusta Midi and Mega
The Midi and Mega models were added to the "Adjusta" range in early 1995. The complete 4 product 'Adjusta' Gripple range was finally launched comprising Mini, Midi, Maxi & Mega, accommodating an overall range of wire rope diameters from 2.0 - 6.0 mm.
MK 2 Tensioning Tool
The MK 2 Tensioning Tool allowed the company to source components and build the tool in-house for the first time. This meant that stocks could be controlled more responsively to meet the peaks and troughs of demand. Also, costs were brought back under control and reversed the trend of an ever escalating price from external suppliers.
Gripple Rope Grip
Gripple attacked the conventional rope grip market with a comprehensive range of 8 Gripple Rope Grip [GRG] models, accommodating wire rope diameters from 2.0 - 13.00 mm. The Mini, Midi and Mega models were drafted into the GRG range to cover sizes from 2.0 - 5.0 mm. Five new models covering sizes 6.0 - 13.0 mm were developed to complete the range.
ISO 9002 Accreditation
ISO 9002 Accreditation - management of quality system (officially changed its description to ISO 9001, in 2001).
Two brand new models, the Rapido and Rapido Super were developed exclusively for Bekaert in Belgium. Bekaert was the leading fencing and trellis wire brand in Europe and the world's leading manufacturer of wire drawing machinery.
GRG Setting Key
The attraction of the GRG was clear. As well as offering the market a product with a simple push fit, only one Gripple Rope Grip was required to make a joint. This compared with the conventional rope grip which specified the fitting of 1 - 4 grips per joint depending on diameter. GRGs also offered a unique setting key that allowed the wire rope to be adjusted in the pre-load stage of installation.
The White Elephant
After one year of selling the GRG range, everyone's efforts were without reward. The launch of GRGs turned out to be a 'white elephant'. The distributor trade support that had underpinned our development, dried up during 1996. The company had a product, but no market...
The Construction Market
The team identified during the course of 1997, that putting kits together, comprising wire rope and Gripple fasteners, was a genuine alternative to threaded rod. This opened up the opportunity of moving into the unexplored sector of mechanical and electrical services in the construction market. The result was a product the contractor loved. It was easy and fast to install and adjust, lightweight to carry, supplied in ready-to-use load-rated kits and significantly reduced labour costs.
The New Hang-Fast innovation was launched in January. Selling directly to the contractor, the company wanted to change the way people do things, set standards that were transparent and build universal trust in a new innovation. The market demanded products with higher load ratings so the range comprised 4 sizes from No.2 - No.5, with load ratings from 35 kg (77 lbs), to 325 kg (715 lbs) and included a safety factor of 5:1.
Gripple Europe opened its sales office and warehouse facility in Obernai, near Strasbourg, in France. Denis Anthoni moved across from agriculture to manage our new company dedicated to selling to the mechanical and electrical services sector.
100 million units sold
In Period 6, our combined sales, since 1988, of agricultural and construction Gripple fasteners, topped 100 million units.
Hang-Fast No. 1
The No.1 size was added to the Hang-Fast range for hanging lightweight M&E services, decorative interior space fittings and signs.
Without compromising the 5:1 safety factor, the No.2 and No.3 hangers were re-specified to 45 kg/100 lbs and 90 kg/200 lbs respectively.
The Gripple logo was updated in appearance and the 'G' icon was added to its design. This change eliminated 45 different variants of the 'standard' logo.
Mk 3 Torq Tensioning Tool
Made from steel inserts and glass-filled nylon, the innovation of the Mk 3 Torq Tensioning Tool used the latest technology available. It has a built-in tension gauge, which will measure from 150 kg to 400 kg. It provides consistent tension every time and helps maximise the life of the wire by preventing over-tensioning.
Loadhog Limited was established as a registered company and began operating out of the academy training room in the Old West Gun Works.
The new logo was used to sponsor a Sheffield Gripple Taxi and advertise the brand around the city, with the strap lines "Engineering the Future" and "Driving Innovation".
200 million units
In Period 3 of 2005, our combined sales, since 1988, of agriculture and construction Gripple fasteners, topped 200 million units.
Loadhog moved from the Old West Gun Works into its new site next to the River Don. The factory was opened by HRH Prince Andrew.
Gripple Europe Move
Gripple Europe moved into purpose-built facilities on the outskirts of Obernai. The operation is wholly owned by Gripple and provided greatly improved warehousing and office space. It was a natural sign of the confidence the company had in its European operation.
Gripple Inc. began manufacturing in 2006.
The patent on the existing range of agricultural Gripple wire joiners was heading towards expiry in 2008. It was therefore of vital importance to maintain the confidence of Gripple's long term partners, by developing a new flagship range that was better than anything the competition could offer. The new Gripple Plus range did exactly this. It comprised of a newly designed Small, Medium and Large, covering wire diameters from 1.4 mm - 4.2 mm [wire gauges 17 - 7½]. In addition to sporting a new, sleek, ergonomic shape, the products had increased working loads and featured positional adjustment both forwards and backwards prior to tension being applied. All this was covered under the new Fire-Fast patent, incorporating ceramic toothed rollers for greater operational strength and longevity.
Awarded ISO 14001 Accreditation
Awarded ISO 14001 Accreditation for minimising the impact of materials and processes on the environment.
The Sheffield Floods
The Old West Gun Works became a refuge after the River Don burst its banks, causing extensive damage throughout the Don Valley area of Sheffield. Gripple played host to the stranded public and team overnight but spirits remained high and amazingly, production commenced as usual the following day.
Gripple Inc. occupied their current location in 2007. It is located in Aurora, close to Chicago, dedicated to selling to the mechanical and electrical services sector. Aurora is the centre of Gripple's North American enterprise and accommodates a comprehensive sales and marketing function as well as a full range manufacturing operation.
The original 20 year patent expired.
The innovative Universal Clamp combined two of our core technologies in one product. The Zinc die-cast housing provided the means of anchoring and securing a length of wire rope, and attaching the clamp to threaded rod; the integral length of wire rope simply allows the clamp to secure pipes across a range of diameters, giving it universal function.
Gripple Express No.2
Gripple Express No.2 (XP2) incorporates a unique push button setting key to allow positional adjustment prior to loading.
300 million units
In P2, our combined sales, since 1988, of agricultural and construction Gripple fasteners, topped 300 million units.
In November, the Hang-Fast range was expanded to include Stud-Fast in No. 1 & 2, Toggle-Fast in No. 1, 2 and 3, and Y-Fit in No. 1.
Loadhog vacated the Riverside site and occupied the 11,000 square metre (110,000 sq. ft) Hawke Street factory. This move provided significant space to allow Loadhog to add additional plastic moulding capacity, a wash plant for the Smart Pad operation and house the Ideas & Innovation team supporting both Gripple & Loadhog.
The launch of a Brazilian venture in 2010 became "a bridge too far" by 2013. The bureaucracy and tax regime created many obstacles and difficulties for the way we like to do business. In spite of these factors, we did demonstrate that the M and E industry did appreciate the simplicity of using Gripple hangers. No doubt this market will be revisited when trading allows.
Gripple moves into Riverside Works
Production space in the OWGW had become extremely tight and was having an adverse effect on efficiency. The packing area had become very cramped and additional space was required to meet bespoke product manufacture, a growing part of the business. When Loadhog moved out of the Riverside Works, Gripple fastener production moved in. All wire rope sling production remained at the Old West Gun Works.
Gripple India opened its office/warehouse/factory in New Delhi. Shaun Khan, who had been a product manager for 6 years, and his family, moved from the UK to establish this new sales and manufacturing enterprise.
All-metal Contractor Tool
The all-metal Contractor Tool was launched primarily to meet the requirements of the Australian fencing market.
Wire strand production
Gripple does a 'first' by introducing wire strand production back to the UK. This capacity, housed in the Hawke Street site, covers diameters from 1.50 mm to 3.00 mm and supplements our growing wire rope requirements for both industrial and agricultural products.
Soil erosion is a sector which is receiving a lot more attention worldwide, as a result of harsher weather conditions becoming the norm. The invention of the Terra-Lock, combined with Gripple earth anchors for securing geo-synthetic matting anti-erosion products, has given us the opportunity to set up a serious new business division, centred in the USA.
The company invested £1.2 million in a new extension and refurbishment of Gripple Europe's Obernai office and warehouse. This upgrade prepares our European operation to meet their next 3 year vision of doubling sales by 2016.
Dynamic 6 - the first of the dynamic rope grips - was launched for netting wires protecting fruit crops. This product effectively begins to obsolete products within the Lockable range. Its unique feature is the 90 degree lockable cam in the centre of the housing, which takes a fraction of the time compared to fiddly screws of its predecessor. The Dynamic 6 accommodates 6 mm diameter wire rope.
400 million units
In P4, our combined sales, since 1988, of agricultural and construction Gripple fasteners, topped 400 million units.
In July, the Dynamic 4, [4.0 - 4.75 mm diameter wire rope] was released into agriculture. Also, in August, the first modified Dynamic 5 [for 6.0 mm wire rope] was introduced into the industrial market, as a direct replacement of the 6.0 mm lockable supplied in catenary kits.
We were proud to achieve 100% Employee Ownership.
Gripple celebrates its 25th Anniversary with celebrations taking place throughout the year at all sites.
Gripple Inc. refurb
Gripple Inc. "Grippleize" their office and warehouse. A main feature being the impressive 1200 sq ft mural designed by talented local artist Joe Gangepain.
Gripple Poland office opened in Warsaw on the 26th May.
The launch of a new, patented, 1.5 mm single channel, architectural hanger - the Angel - for suspending lightweight lighting, acoustic baffles and signs. Available with a selection of different feet for simplicity of attachment.
500 million units
In P8, our combined sales, since 1988, of agricultural and construction Gripple fasteners, reached 500 million units. Some 16,000 tonnes of zinc will have been processed to produce these products. The company celebrated this achievement at the company's 25th Anniversary on 4th July 2014. 2014 acknowledges 25 years of international business. 2014 also marks the 20th year anniversary of the Old West Gun Works and the 15th anniversary of Gripple Europe.
Ed Stubbs Appointed MD
Ed Stubbs who had been MD of Loadhog since 2011, was chosen to fill the MD vacancy at Gripple, from the beginning of 2015. Coincidentally, in the final quarter of 2014, Shaun Khan, who had returned to the UK after a four year spell establishing Gripple India, based in New Delhi, was appointed as Ed’s successor at Loadhog.
Gripple Awarded Queen's Award for Enterprise
We were delighted to receive our 5th Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2016, this time in the category of International Trade.
EOA Award - Employee Owned Business of the Year
The EOA acknowledged the significant change in the company’s fortunes compared to 2014. This award recognised the massive turnaround in culture, employee engagement, manufacturing efficiencies and financial achievements in sales, overhead control and profits.
600 Million Units
In P1, our cumulative sales since 1988, of Gripple fasteners across all market sectors, surpassed 600 million units. Some 20,000 tonnes of zinc was processed to manufacture these products.
In 2017, Hugh Facey built on the foundation of establishing the GLIDE company in 2011, by acquiring a building, built in 1874, as a school to accommodate some 730 scholars. After undergoing substantial renovation, the House was officially opened in September 2017 by the Rt. Rev. Jack Nicholls. GLIDE House now offers members of all associate companies a social environment with food and a bar, conference and meeting room facilities. It is also home to the People & Culture department and the Gripple training Academy.
Gripple Canada Inc. Established
The newly registered Canadian company located in Toronto, Ontario, was opened in May 2017. The premises offer both office and warehousing facilities. The new company provides a solid presence and opportunity in Canada, and was set up under the leadership of Clare Puharré, a dual French/English speaker and sales manager from Gripple France.
Riverside Extension Unveiled
Progressive growth since the start of 2015, was testing manufacturing capacity. On 14th July 2017, the new Riverside Works extension was formally opened by the Master Cutler, Richard Edwards. The modern design increased factory floor space by 55% to a total of just over 15,000 sq.feet (5,000 sq. metres), and added improved office, meeting, leisure and car parking spaces.
The launch of Fast Trak was an exciting innovation for the business. A prefabricated solution ideal for projects where ceiling space is limited, it opened doors onto projects where Gripple had previously struggled.
Boasting higher load performance, easier adjustment and a range of ‘feet’ options to suit all building services applications, UniGrip was launched as Gripple’s most comprehensive wire suspension solution to-date.
Why use Gripple?
- Significant time and cost savings on your project
- Complete, off-site solutions which minimise health and safety concerns
- Innovative, patented solutions designed by an in-house team of engineers
- Considerable reductions in packaging, vehicle movements & embodied CO2
- A range of support services at every stage of your project, provided by a dedicated technical team
- Aesthetically pleasing solutions; lightweight and virtually invisible