The group is actually over 100 years – it was formed in 1911 in the north east of the UK and previously made things like motorbike helmets with injection moulding, so it has been around a long time, says Brabham who joined in June from XP Power. In the 1980s it got involved in the contract manufacturing business, building boards and enclosures for other people and is currently one of the few companies to manufacture transformers and power supplies in the UK.
“The business is changing from EMS which can be challenging – EMS is highly competitive with a lot of people in it, and as Stadium has acquired various technology businesses these have become our future,” said Brabham. “The EMS business is a good backbone, but we also have power, human machine interface (HMI) and wireless, so that part of the business – technology – is over 60% of the group’s revenue. That’s quite exciting.”
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“We have a factory here in the UK that can build world class supplies and also have a much bigger factory in China,” said Brabham. “We have the custom supply business which I’ve known for some time and they have dedicated Regional Design Centres, plus Asian power engineers who are doing lower cost designs, and then we bought the Stontronics business in August and we are integrating the two businesses – Stontronics focussed on standard products such as adaptors and wall plugs, so we can go to customers as one group with a range of products. The idea is to build it into one business with announcements in the near future on branding,” he said.
“We are making transformers here, and we are one of the few UK companies that still makes them from scratch. It’s quite a specialist business but one of the nice thing about transformers is that they are very heavy so it has to come on a boat from China and the requirements are unique so it does suit a local manufacturer. We don’t do massive volumes, a few thousand a year, for people that want to work with a local engineering company. People will pay for the local support and the local business.
He sees significant advantages from the combination of power with other technologies.
“The other bit I really like is the whole Stadium group story, not just EMS to technology but using the other bits of the business with wireless, touchscreens and keypads. Our customers use all three parts of the business, and we can also build it for them. We have expertise with M2M wireless and touchscreens and these are areas where customers don’t have the design skills. There’s a lot of interest from customers who are using all three technologies,” he said.
“Traditionally power supplies are the thing you see at the end of the design cycle and squeeze it into a small space but when you start to offer these advanced technologies you become part of the design team and get in earlier. Power is not the lead technology, but wireless and touchscreens are areas where customers need help,” he said.
“If you look outside of power there’s lots of things happening in the environment with an emphasis on lower power and using less energy when things aren’t plugged in. That’s created a lot of changes in the industry and we have to keep up with that regulation and that’s brought us new customers especially in Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) in homes and offices.
“We have been designing standard products for this market and the specification is 92% efficiency between 25% and 10% of the load and these are used for powering these MVHR systems so they have to be efficient
He doesn’t see much impact from the UK leaving the EU. “Technically we sell our products globally and so have to design for the global market, not just the EU. If the EU needs an approval it’s a huge percentage of the market so we will definitely have to follow their rules and we know what the rules are, and in the industry the rules change from time to time. The Chinese created their own approval, CCC, you just keep up with this.
“These are crazy times. We are sticking very much to the plan that was set out before I joined. We’ve opened a design centre in Sweden, we are upgrading our factory in Asia and we have a clear plan for where we are going, and if the rules change we’ll adapt to them.
“There’s lots of positive drivers in healthcare and there’s lots of possibilities for power and the other technologies there,” he said. “We also like security and Stontronics customers have traditionally been in CCTV, security, alarms and so on, so we like that space. It’s growing.
“We’ve also seen a lot of interest in specialist lighting especially LED. They use less power which is unfortunate but there’s a lot more of them and we have expertise in this. Architectural lighting is huge right now and we are dealing with customers right now that specialise in this.
“I guess consolidation is both good and bad,” he said “If your customer gets bought by a larger group where’s more opportunities. In the power industry there is consolidation but it’s an industry without standards so it isn’t as if one big group is driving the products forward. I haven’t seen it having a big impact. Semiconductor suppliers are always quite interesting though. Interesting technologies will get snapped up by the big players and the worry for our business at £55m is we have to be very careful about the components that we chose as we don’t want to have obsolescence issues or price hikes.”
This is where the EMS business has also been helpful. “The good thing we have is we have a strong global sourcing team based in Asia so that team gives us a seat at the table and allows us to negotiate pretty good deals and if we have to exit a technology we at least have visibility,” he said.