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Exclusive: Redarc defies local auto sector downturn

Secret to success: Redarc reinvests 15 cents in every sales dollar into research and development for new automotive electrical products and funds numerous employee development programs.

Adelaide-based Redarc bucks local manufacturing gloom with OEM, export push


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11 Oct 2016

AMID the gloom cast over Australian manufacturing by the exit of Ford, Holden and Toyota, fast-growing Redarc Electronics is bucking the trend and moving rapidly into the supply of homegrown auto-electrical products to a number of car brands for sale as dealer-fit genuine accessories.

The company, which was established in 1979, also recently secured a $2.5 million federal government grant under the Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Program that will help its export push into Europe and the United States, enable it to diversify into the defence and medical sectors and contribute to an almost doubling of its workforce by the end of this decade.

Locally, Redarc is expanding on its supply of product to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), having already established a relationship with Mazda to help deliver a comprehensive towing pack for the BT-50 ute and CX-9 large SUV that bundles a customised version of its Tow-Pro Elite electric brake controller with the usual dealer-fit towbar and wiring loom.

Former Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited accessories manager Rob Chadwick joined Redarc 18 months ago as OEM program specialist and told GoAuto similar Redarc products were about to go to market with five other manufacturers locally.

“The installation is customised for each vehicle platform,” said Mr Chadwick.

“People go in (to the dealership) and ask for a tow pack, and our electronic brake controller is the one that is standard fitment.”

He explained that under Australian Design Rules, any vehicle with a towing capacity greater than 2000kg must have a driver-controllable brake system that is either fully electrical or a combination of electric and hydraulic when used for towing.

“It’s one of the things that is not widely understood out in the market,” Mr Chadwick said.

“Currently many OEMs only supply the towbars and wiring … Then it’s up to the customer to go to an aftermarket supplier to source a controller, so the area we’re working on with the OEMs is that the dealer can deliver to the customer a vehicle that can tow to its capacity as it drives out of the showroom floor.”

Redarc managing director Anthony Kittel added that similar regulations apply in the United States, providing a key export opportunity and the reason for the company’s presence at the upcoming SEMA exhibition in Las Vegas.

“Export is a key focus and the electric brake controller is definitely an opportunity for an OEM target in Detroit, for instance,” he said.

The company also supplies Toyota Australia with DC-DC chargers on mine-spec HiLux and LandCruiser 70 Series vehicles as genuine Toyota product.

Emissions regulations in Europe have presented further export opportunities for the DC-DC product, which incorporates the smart electronics required to successfully charge auxiliary batteries in vehicles fitted with fuel-saving systems such as regenerative braking.

“Motorhome platforms like Fiat, Iveco and Renault obviously have this sort of technology so we are in discussions with all the majors over there (in Europe),” said Mr Kittel.

In addition, Redarc is targeting European caravan and motorhome manufacturers as a supplier of in-vehicle energy management systems for connecting, distributing and storing power from solar panels, wind turbines, generators or mains electricity.

To this end, the company has established a distribution network across Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, plus a warehouse facility in Poland. It also exhibited at two major German trade shows last month, the Caravan Salon Show in Dusseldorf and Automechanika in Frankfurt.

“Emergency services is another key market for us export-wise,” said Mr Kittel.

“Those vehicles have so many electronic loads now with communications and computers and other loads they are adding to their systems.”

State-of-the-art testing and validation equipment will be purchased with some of the federal grant money and enable Redarc products to comply with international regulations.

Closer to home, Mr Kittel said Redarc also supplies a third-party to GM Holden for Australian police vehicles that have dual batteries.

“We make a smart solenoid that charges the rear battery and protects the start battery from going flat,” he said.

Mr Kittel also reeled off the names of heavy truck brands Redarc directly supplies, including DAF, Iveco, Kenworth, Mack, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, Scania, Volvo and Western Star. He said Redarc has been supplying the commercial vehicle industry for 27 years.

In that market, Mr Kittel said Redarc developed the only Australian-made battery isolation switch for fuel tankers and was soon to release an add-on product that senses if the vehicle is about to roll over, then signals the isolation switch to cut the electrics.

Further up the size scale again, Redarc has devised what Mr Kittel described as “the silent horn” for mine sites with noise limits, which senses the presence of an approaching large truck and alerts the occupants of nearby vehicles via a cabin-mounted siren, rather than the larger vehicles disturbing the peace of nearby residential or farming areas by blasting a loud horn.

Redarc’s Lonsdale premises is around 50km south of GM Holden’s Elizabeth production line, where around 1000 workers stand to lose their jobs when the plant closes before the end of next year.

In addition to a 2000 square-metre factory expansion, the grant awarded to Redarc will help the company create an additional 100 jobs, and Mr Kittel told GoAuto his company has “written to Holden and made ourselves available for ex-employees to apply to work here and simplify the process”.

He added that Redarc has close ties with local TAFE colleges and universities, and prides itself on “creating opportunities for young people in the community, particularly those who are keen to develop themselves”.

“We fund their studies as part of their employment,” he said. “Part of our people development program is continuous learning, so we fund training programs for the staff.”

Mr Kittel considers employee development as a key driver to Redarc’s success in defying the doom-and-gloom image surrounding Australian manufacturers, along with a healthy research and development spend.

“In the last five years we’ve grown on average 20 per cent per annum and I guess the secret is the amount of money we are investing into R&D. We invest 15 cents in every sales dollar back into R&D,” he said.

“The talent, the people we are developing to implement that R&D spend to get the results that we want … Part of that is having the relationship with universities to get the very best graduates that are available on the market.

“The other part of it is the relationship with the customer and understanding what their needs are and then designing a solution to fit.”

Mr Kittel explained that the flow-on effect of a well-trained workforce was increased company agility.

“We have the flexibility within manufacturing to turn things on and off where needed, with people who are really well trained so they can move into different roles as required,” he said. “Everyone is flexible, which gives them more variety and more opportunity to step up.

“Everyone says manufacturing is dead but we are showing that if you have an integrated manufacturing facility and supply just-in-time to your customers, then you are effectively joined at the hip because they can give us requirements and we can ship it within 48 hours rather than waiting for your normal overseas supply chain of between six and 16 weeks.”

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