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250 Years of GKN

GKN 1759 - 2009 250 Years of Exceptional Engineering

From a single blast furnace fuelling a tiny iron works on the Welsh hillside, GKN has evolved over two and a half centuries to hold its place at the forefront of the engineering industry.


GKN’s geographic expansion started in 1921 with its first venture overseas to New South Wales, Australia, followed by a significant expansion into India in 1934. Today the Group operates in over 30 countries, from the US West Coast to the eastern shores of Japan, from northern China throughout Europe to South Africa, Brazil and Australia. In 2008, GKN opened new facilities in China, India, Turkey and Argentina, further enhancing its global footprint.

World Map
In the beginning

1759

Dowlais Iron Co. established in South Wales

1767

John Guest appointed works manager at Dowlais

1854

John Nettlefold opens a woodscrew mill in Smethwick with Joseph Chamberlain Snr

1856

The Patent Nut and Bolt Co. (PNB) is founded by Arthur Keen and Francis Watkins

1900

Dowlais and PNB combine to form Guest, Keen & Co.

...More Recently

1902

Company acquires Nettlefolds and is renamed Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, Ltd

1920

Acquisition of Joseph Sankey & Sons, supplier to the motor industry

1966

Interest in Uni-Cardan acquired giving access to the CVJ market

1974

GKN Chep Ltd, a pallet pooling business, is established with Brambles of Australia

1986

Name changed to GKN plc to reflect the change in composition of the Group’s businesses

1988

29.9% stake acquired in Westland. Majority control achieved in 1994

1997

Acquisition of Sinter Metals Inc. marks expansion of powder metallurgy business

2001

Demerger of industrial services businesses. Creation of the AgustaWestland joint venture

2004

GKN sells its interest in AgustaWestland for more than £1 billion

2009

Acquisition of Filton wing component and sub-assembly facility from Airbus

Throughout its history, GKN has used advancements in process and material technologies to deliver leading edge products to its customers.

In 1856 the Dowlais Iron Co. acquired the first British licence to use the new Bessemer process for making steel. The process, which enabled molten pig-iron to be turned into steel by blowing air through it in a tilting converter, revolutionised the manufacture of steel.

In 2008, GKN developed a new generation of pre-alloyed steel powder for use in the manufacture of sintered components. The powder has a lower alloy content than traditional alloyed powder yet offers improved compressibility and performance allowing manufacture of higher strength, more complex components.

Tilting Converter

Constant velocity joints (CVJs) revolutionised the motor industry in the 1960s enabling the manufacture of a new generation of front wheel drive cars, including the iconic Mini.

GKN has since developed breakthrough CVJ technologies which reduce weight and improve driveline efficiency.

In 2008, GKN partnered a European car manufacturer to develop its first application of an electric rear axle for hybrid vehicle use. The technology offers improved fuel efficiency and the option of an ‘all electric’ drive mode with zero emissions.

Countertrack - GKN Technology
Mini and Electric rear axle

GKN Aerospace can trace its origins to 1901 and Sam Saunders, an aviation pioneer responsible for patenting a revolutionary technique of constructing lightweight material which was widely used in the manufacture of aircraft until the 1950s.

Today our business continues to pioneer the use of new materials and process technologies. In 2008, GKN secured a significant order to design and produce major composite wing structures using the latest material and automated manufacturing technologies for the next generation of fuel efficient, low emission aircraft.

Aerospace