RF Solutions

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by RF Solutions's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from RF Solutions is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.rfsolutions.co.uk

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
24 | RF SOLUTIONS LTD
John Fairall, owner and founder
Our 20,000 square foot
purpose-built site, just south of
Gatwick airport
Based in West Sussex, RF Solutions Ltd specialise in radio
frequency electronics. As designers and manufacturers of
radio modules and remote control systems, they are at the
cutting edge of technology. They supply a worldwide market,
from SMEs to blue chip corporations, with their products being
used in high-profile applications, including
Top Gear
’s test track,
various James Bond movies and even JeremyVine’s election night
“swingometer”. Below is a more elaborate profile ofthecompany.
A modest inception
After graduating in electrical and electronic engineering, John started as a design
engineer in the nuclear industry at GEC Energy Systems, embedding the first
microprocessors in control systems and gaining knowledge of engineering reality.
Moving on to applications engineering, John spent time in technical support roles
before being headhunted by Phoenix-based Microchip Technology Inc., the world’s
leading supplier of microcontroller semiconductors. With a flair for design and
commercial reality, John swiftly rose through the hierarchy from UK to European
technical posts, to become the regional manager of Asia Pacific Region (based in
Hong Kong).
In a career U-turn, John’s decision to come back to the UK to start a company
designing and manufacturing radio technology was a gamble, and after completing
her degree in business and engineering, his wife Kay came on board too.
With no regular income from the company, having just got married, and with
their first child on the way, this was a risk. With long hours and perseverance, the
FACTS ABOUT
RF SOLUTIONS LTD
»Owner and founder:
JohnFairall
»Established in 1992
»Based in Burgess Hill, West
Sussex
»Services: Designers and
manufacturers of high-tech
radio electronics
»No. of employees: 50
»Supply radio remote control
technology worldwide
»Philosophy is “success through
quality”
»Growth through research and
development
RF Solutions Ltd
25RF SOLUTIONS LTD |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
company began to evolve, and now,
after 25 years of commitment, the
gamble has paid off for the two owner
directors.
The company ethos is based around
having a common goal “to succeed”,
placing the emphasis on forming a
relationship between the company, its
staff and the needs of its customers.
As a company, we decided to
implement rigid structure by immersing
the company into ISO 9001 quality
and IPC-610 manufacturing standards,
despite being a small-scale facility.
Company policies and procedures
were put in place, a skills matrix and
training policy was written for staff to
aspire to and an accounting structure
was established. All this laid down the
foundation blocks for the success story
we are today.
Because we invested in recognised
quality standards and staff training
and development early on, despite
being only a small-scale production line
placing 20 components per minute,
we were able to attract reasonable-size
contracts from reputable companies
even in the early days.
The turning point
Our first £250,000 contract was with
Microchip Technology, supplying a
branded version of our ICEPIC in-circuit
emulator development tool, which
they sold worldwide.
John’s successful track record within
Microchip (and subsequent start-up
strategy) meant RF Solutions were
respected despite being above a pet
shop in Lewes, Sussex. This was the big
break: turnover grew, staff increased
and stability became a reality.
We couldn’t have envisaged one day
we would be 50 people with two
fully automated SMT lines, placing
40,000 components per hour, capable
of large-scale manufacture in our
purpose-built facility.
We pride ourselves on high-quality
design and manufacture and have the
original structure firmly in place, even
though it has evolved to accommodate
the growing company needs.
Our greatest asset is our people,
with staff retention being high (some
with 10-20 years of service). When
customers choose our products, we
provide quality, and this can only
be achieved through our dedicated
team of skilled operatives and
multidisciplinary experts across all
departments, everyone tasked with the
responsibility of consistently producing
high-quality products, all with one
goal: “to succeed”.
Our manufacturing facility
We are always
focused on
designing ever
newer and
more
functional
products
Rugged remote control
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
26 | RF SOLUTIONS LTD
Competing in the market
What makes us unique is that we
provide more than a standard range
of products; this flag-waving exercise
demonstrates our capability to design
and manufacture bespoke systems,
right down to branding and packaging.
We have Asian manufacturing
to contend with – a sector-wide
problem in the UK. We’ve overcome
this by constantly investing in the
latest manufacturing systems and
technologies. Components are ever
reducing in size; therefore the need
for manual labour (where Asia scores)
reduces. There’s a size threshold below
which the human hand and eye cannot
work, so our automated high-tech
production environment can compete
on a small or larger scale.
For our customers, the key benefit is
the direct supply chain interface, the
opportunity to visit to monitor our
processes and the reality of seeing
their products in manufacture.
Asia manufacture carries risk.
Normal practice is payment prior to
manufacture and without knowledge
of the actual manufacturing site.
There’s significant risk that the finished
product may not meet expectations
and it’s expensive to monitor.
Expansion
Our growth is fuelled by innovation
and by an ever evolving product
range. Moore’s law states: every two
years the number of transistors in
an integrated circuit doubles, which
means we constantly focus on research
and development.
We are “enabling technologies”, in
other words, realising products that
previously could never have been
created. We were one of the first
companies to launch a product using
“spread spectrum modulation”,
providing a ten-mile range from a
module the size of a postagestamp.
Obstacles to work around
We have a great workforce, but we fear
the future may not be so rosy. For young
people with the potential for a career in
STEM, research shows the opportunity
to study engineering doesn’t come soon
enough, in either secondary or further
education. For instance, our son cannot
study an electronics A level as this
subject has recently been dropped from
the curriculum.
The world is increasingly dependent
on electronics and technology;
encouraging young people to join
this sector should be a priority for
government and employers.
With all that said, we are optimistic,
and are anticipating 30 per cent
growth this year. Our industry is
ubiquitous and a staple part of the
modern world, and we therefore feel
safe in this marketplace, so long as
we’re committed to innovation. Our
only struggle is meeting the insatiable
demands for new technology, which is
the perfect challenge for our modern
engineering company.
Encouraging
young people
to join this
sector should
therefore be a
part of the
government’s
work strategy
Miniature modules
achieve a range of up to
16 kilometres

www.rfsolutions.co.uk

This article was sponsored by RF Solutions. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy