Founder of the ‘European Fencing Industry Association’ (EFIA), Bob Jennings, has been made an honorary life member by the trade association. Turning 90 years old this May and with a career spanning more than 60 years in the Fencing Industry, Bob Jennings has been at the forefront of industry standards and progression.
The founder of both the European Fencing Industry Association and ‘Fencing and Landscaping News’ magazine, Bob has enjoyed an illustrious career, having worked in the industry for more than two thirds of his life.
He attended Loughborough Technical College from 1944-1945 and went on to set up his own company, PAWEC, based in Birmingham. After PAWEC was bought out by Peerless Fencing, Bob stayed on at the organisation as the Managing Director. Following a number of years at Peerless Fencing, he once again founded his own company, Security Fencing, which expanded to open several branches across the UK.
It was whilst attending a fencing trade show in the USA in the 1980s however, that Bob came up with the novel idea for a new trade magazine across the pond:
“He saw a magazine in the United States that was purely for the fencing industry.” explains his son-in-law, Paul Carter. “Bob returned to the UK and decided to set up his own publication for the trade. That’s when the magazine, ‘Fencing News’ (later to be renamed ‘Fencing and Landscaping News’), became a reality.”
Initially, the magazine distributed quarterly issues, but interest from the trade was encouraging, resulting in monthly issues. It was the only magazine available for the fencing industry at that time, later to be joined by additional trade publication ‘Perimeter Systems’.
In addition to founding the very first publication for the trade, Bob can also be credited with founding the industry’s first inclusive trade association. When setting up Security Fencing, the only trade association available to the industry at that time was the ‘Fencing Contractors Association’ (FCA), but their criteria of a certain level of turnover to join, rendered many smaller businesses unable to become members.
“There was a gap in the market for a trade association for smaller fencing businesses and more inclusive in nature.” continues Paul. “Bob’s principal ethos was to offer his members good value for money, and to encourage and support smaller businesses to grow. His vast industry and business knowledge, covering all aspects including health and safety, employment and company law became indispensable to members.”
Bob set up ‘Fencing Industry Association’ (FIA) in the late 1980s, which in the early 1990s became the ‘European Fencing Industry Association’ (EFIA). It enabled smaller companies to be represented alongside major manufacturers and suppliers of fencing systems and equipment. Today, EFIA continues to provide manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, installers and all organisations with a professional interest in the fencing industry, access to the contractors/installers and has therefore, been a direct link to the evolution of the fencing industry. Although a UK organisation, EFIA has served European, Icelandic, Malaysian and Chinese members.
“EFIA continues to operate as a hands-on organisation for a hands-on industry, offering real and practical benefits for sensible money” says current EFIA Chairman, Bernard KilBride, who took over the running of the organisation from Bob in 2010.
Through the EFIA, Bob was also extremely pro-active within the BSI, providing significant input for the development of BS1722 fencing standards, in addition to playing an active role in other industry trade associations and industry bodies for the development and implementation of quality standards, training and regulation for the fencing industry. He was also instrumental in the founding of the EFA (Electric Fence Association) as a separate section within the EFIA, to provide a trade association and voice for manufacturers and suppliers of electric fence systems in developing National and International Electric Fence standards.
“It’s certainly fair to say that the industry would not be at the stage it is today without Bob.” adds Bernard. “He’s made it inclusive as opposed to exclusive and progressed standards, training and regulation across the entire industry. Despite holding traditional values, Bob was also an innovator and something of an IT pioneer; he had one of the very first internet web servers in the UK, and consequently, EFIA was one of the first associations to be able to offer affordable email and website hosting to its members, at a time when this was largely the domain of universities, scientific communities and large businesses. Today, EFIA continues Bob’s legacy in leading the industry in the use of IT, social media, website services, and cyber security.”
At almost 90 years old, he is still involved. He served as a director at EFIA until 2015 and is now an honorary member for life. A consummate professional, leader and Chairman, Bob brought together some of the most respected names in the fencing industry over the years.
“We are so grateful for the invaluable contribution he has made and I am personally honoured to continue the all-important work that he started,” concludes Bernard.