Firm switches headquarters with RDA help
Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
An electronics engineering firm inspired to launch on the back of NASA space technology, has marked the official opening of its £400,000 purpose-built facility in Lee Mill.
Fairford Electronics was backed by £95,000 Regional Development Agency Funding, to support its move from the Kingsbridge premises where it was established in 1982.
The new building, Bristow House, was named after the company’s founder, Ray Bristow. He established the business, after securing patents for a pioneering technology which applied a space-age solution to fulfill the needs of an industrial market.
Fairford Electronics designs and manufactures soft-starters used to power up machinery used in industries ranging from quarries to breweries.
The technology was designed to ease torque upon machinery that would otherwise go from a standing start to full throttle, when switched on. As well as reducing stress upon the machinery, the soft starters also minimise the amount of power consumed.
It was inspired by work NASA scientists had done to maximise the battery power supply to technology used on the Apollo space missions.
“In the early days, Fairford Electronics was a pioneer. Ray didn’t just found a business, but an industry,” said company managing director, Mark Shepherd.
Fairford, which includes Siemens among its international client base, experienced a dip in its fortunes when its patents expired in the mid 1990s enabling competitors to move in and clients to manufacture their own soft-starters in house.
But a global move towards energy-saving technologies has seen Fairford bounce back, with new and improved variations on its original patent. Its turnover grew by 26 per cent, to £3.1 million in 2010/11 and is anticipated to rise a further 25 per cent by the end of March next year.
It currently exports 85 per cent of its products to manufacturing clients in 60 countries around the world. Key markets are in the US, South East Asia and Australia.
Mr Shepherd said that the new Lee Mill facility not only served the company’s needs in terms of size for its increasing output, but that its location was key in recruiting new staff to its 29-strong workforce, which is evenly split over R&D, production and sales and administration.
The company is about to appoint its first apprentice, after a year-long search to find a candidate. It plans to recruit a further apprentice in the autumn and is hoping to find a school leaver in whom it can develop skills up to degree-level.
Mr Shepherd said: “That’s a significant investment for a company our size, but we hope to find someone who will build a career with us.” He also anticipates a further five roles will be created within the business over the next two to three years.