Global success for SA manufacturing company

South Australian electronics manufacturer, REDARC, has been recognised as Manufacturer of the Year at the annual Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Awards, thanks in no small part to its close relationship with suppliers.

REDARC was eligible for the major award due to its nomination, and subsequent win, in the ICN-sponsored Global Supply Chain Integration of the Year category.

This award recognised REDARC’s BCDC In-vehicle charger’s successful entry into the European motorhome market. The charger takes power from the main battery of the vehicle and distributes it to the “house” batteries that run appliances in the motorhome, making sure they are fully charged during the day.

“Around 2005 we started to investigate the motorhome market in Europe,” managing director Anthony Kittel said. Initial market studies showed the centre of that market was in Germany, but entry was “extremely competitive”.

“The number two market was in France and we thought if we could quietly enter into the French market, it would help us expand into places like Germany and Italy.”

It took a few years, but REDARC eventually made a deal with a major distributor to get the battery charger into the European aftermarket for retrofitting motorhomes.

“Our ultimate goal was to get into original equipment market (OEM) where you are supply products direct to the factory line, but we knew that would be a process,” Anthony said. “At an early meeting, one of the customers regarded Australian manufacturing to be of similar quality to China. Not that they had a bad experience, just because we were in the same part of the world. We had to educate them that Australian products are world class.

Fortune favoured REDARC as European countries introduced stricter fuel emission laws requiring “stop-start” technology. “As it turned out, our product was already compliant,” Anthony said.

But the OEM market in Europe was very competitive and price sensitive.

“We had to cut 30 per cent of the cost out of the product which was no mean feat,” Anthony said. “It didn’t need all of the features and so we could bring it back to basics. We also had to work with local suppliers, looking at every single component and how we could all work together to reduce cost. The carrot being that if we can do that and if we win the contract, there is some big volumes to follow.

“It was very much a collaborative effort with our suppliers.”

REDARC won the contract and is now supplying thousands of units from its Adelaide factory, via its 3PL warehouse in Poland. And with COVID-19, the motorhome industry is booming due to the lack of international travel.

“The whole project was based around understanding customer need. We had to take the product and look at how to adapt it to suit the market need at a competitive price. But even though we had to drop the price, we never scrimped on quality”.

Anthony said the award recognised the quality work of all REDARC staff, as well as the commitment the company has made to keeping its manufacturing in Australia.

“It’s nice to get the acknowledgement that there is a strong future for manufacturing in Australia. You need to be innovative, you need to continuously improve, you need to employ great people and you can be successful globally.”

“It shows that it does take a long time to build an international footprint. You can’t go in there and expect an overnight return. We stuck at it. We never gave up and are finally reaping the rewards.”

He thanked ICN for its sponsorship saying without sponsors “you don’t have an award and therefore the opportunity for manufacturers to be recognised for their global success”.

REDARC has been a Gateway subscriber for some time, and the company’s involvement with ICN is likely to ramp up as they make a big push into the defence sector, where they have already won several large contracts.

“That’s where ICN are planning a key part in linking SMEs like ourselves to the primes,” Anthony said, mentioning a recent connection with ICN NSW regarding Northrop Grumman’s - JP9347 CE1: Multi-Tactical Data Link Network (MTN) Program.

Anthony knows that gaining traction on Defence projects is, again, not an overnight prospect. But REDARC is a great example of an Australian manufacturing company that has an innovative and strategic approach to its success.

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