Bigger and better: Redarc’s expanded manufacturing facility includes in-house testing and validation equipment that will help it get products to market faster.
ADELAIDE-BASED automotive electronics manufacturer Redarc now has the ability to increase production capacity by 250 per cent, with the opening of a $22 million factory expansion that will create 100 new jobs within five years to support its growing export business and diversification into defence and medical industries.
The 3000 square-metre facility upgrade at Lonsdale has also enabled Redarc to bring more testing and validation in-house, including an electromagnetic compatibility chamber and a highly accelerated lifetime testing lab that can simulate 10 years of vibration, temperature and humidity conditions in two days.
A $2.5 million Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Program grant received from the federal government in 2016 helped fund equipment upgrades, among which are an additional ‘surface mount technology’ circuit board production line and three collaborative robots that will help Redarc remain competitive in the global market.
Underlining Redarc’s role as a defence supplier was the presence of federal defence minister Christopher Pyne at the opening event on Friday, who described Recarc as “one of the companies that will be part of our burgeoning defence industry into the future”.
“We are building sovereign capability in (defence) manufacturing and Redarc is very much part of that story,” he said.
Among the defence projects with Redarc involvement are the Bushmaster and Hawkei protected mobility vehicles produced by Thales, the M113 armoured personnel carrier built by BAE Systems, Rheinmetall’s Boxer 8x8 combat reconnaissance vehicle and HX Truck and the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.
Redarc is also a preferred partner of BAE Systems for the Hunter Class Frigate project that will be based in South Australia, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Raytheon Anschutz to deliver navigational bridge systems and another with MARL International to produce and support LED lighting systems for military vessels.
Speaking with GoAuto, Redarc owner and managing director Anthony Kittel said the defence market was a good fit for the company’s expertise and technology that also provided the opportunity to “take our standards, procedures and quality to another level”.
In parallel, Redarc has been growing the number of car brands in Australia that offer its products as genuine accessories, such as the Tow-Pro Elite trailer brake controller that is supplied as part of numerous dealer-fit towing kits.
As GoAuto has reported, Mazda was an early adopter of Redarc products and has since been joined by Holden, Volkswagen and others. Mr Kittel told GoAuto there were now around 10 OEMs onboard.
“It’s about us providing a solution to the manufacturers … Now that they’ve lost their major activities here in Australia, we can provide a lot of engineering support to their product development processes,” he said.
Further afield, Fiat Professional has tested and validated Redarc’s BCDC in-vehicle auxiliary battery charger for vehicles sold on the European market equipped with fuel-saving variable-voltage alternators.
The Italian company now officially recommends the BCDC to motorhome builders and other body-builders that integrate multi-battery systems, which Mr Kittel agreed could provide flow-on business from the broader Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group.
“What we can do now is leverage that (Fiat Professional) announcement; it definitely gives us credibility in talking to their US colleagues,” he said.
In the meantime, Redarc is making inroads to the North American recreational vehicle scene, which Mr Kittel expects to become the company’s biggest market.
“Europe has been substantial, but personally I think that over the next few years there's no reason why the North American market won’t be a bigger market for us than Australia,” he said.
To this end, Redarc signed aftermarket equipment and accessory wholesaling giant Keystone Automotive Operations as a North American distributor, along with e-commerce and wholesale towing equipment specialist eTrailer.
“We’re selling our Tow-Pro and our BCDC family through the keystone network, which is hundreds of stores throughout North America. Then etrailer.com is an online ecommerce business that specialises in trailer parts. They’re selling Tow-Pro and BCDC on their site as well,” said Mr Kittel.
Mr Kittel told GoAuto that in addition to Europe and North America, Redarc also exports to South Africa, South Korea and Russia.
Speaking at the Redarc opening event, South Australian premier Steven Marshall described the factory expansion as “emblematic of the future of manufacturing in South Australia”.
“It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying that our best days, in terms of manufacturing, were well behind us, but I actually think our best days are in front of us,” he said.
In his speech at the factory opening, Mr Kittel told the audience that Redarc’s policy of investing 15 per cent of sales revenue into research and development was key to its success.
“We all know the effect the global financial crisis caused on the industry and Redarc never stopped investing in R&D during that period,” he said.
“In the eight years since the GFC, since 2010, we’ve created 135 new jobs, we’ve invested $30m in research and development, we’ve placed more than 75 university undergraduates in work experience and we’ve averaged 25 per cent sales growth per annum.
“I think that’s testament to our strategy and our commitment to taking this business globally.”