South Australia’s REDARC Electronics is taking Australian quality global.
REDARC Electronics is a poster boy for successful Australian advanced manufacturing, boasting impressive growth, sales and a solid “Australian made” reputation. Many mechanics will be familiar with REDARC’s innovative products, especially those working on 4WDs used for towing motorhomes, caravans, and trailers. One of the brand’s key products, and familiar to most mechanics, is the Tow-Pro Elite Electric Brake Controller offering User-controlled or Proportional electronic braking for trailers and caravans. The telltale sign that is fitted to a tow vehicle is a small REDARC-badged rotary dial tucked away on the dashboard. If it’s installed well, it looks like it was factory fitted straight from the OEM.
While trailer braking products have been important to REDARC’s success, the South Australian firm offers a mighty amount of electric vehicle accessories. These include battery charging solutions, portable solar, pure sine wave inverters and monitoring gauges. It’s come a long way since its current owner, Anthony Kittel, bought REDARC in 1997 together with his wife and father-in-law. At the time the company and its eight staff offered a single product manufactured in a tin shed in Lonsdale.
The last few years have seen REDARC’s biggest expansion to date where it currently employs more than 200 people across production, IT, project management, sales and marketing, engineering and more, “It’s due for completion in November,” said Ben Marsh, REDARC’s National Sales and Marketing Manager, “with another 2000 m² of manufacturing space allowing us to employ more people and incorporate new testing and validation equipment. This will give us stronger capabilities in the areas of defence and medical devices on top of what we’re already doing now.”
This is very much a company on the move, made possible by a strong focus on innovation and reinvesting in the company’s research and development. It would impress Bob Mackie, the electronics engineer who founded REDARC in 1979. Designing and manufacturing vehicle ignition systems and voltage converters, the company name is believed to have come from the spark developed in the first ignition system having a “red arc.”
Rapid growth has seen the premises move several times, but always remain in the same Adelaide suburb of Lonsdale where the large and ever-expanding facility is a beacon to this manufacturing success story. The expansion will boost REDARC’s export capabilities, with new machinery allowing the business to increase its capacity by 250 per cent and provide product assembly twice as fast as before.
“We’re trying to actively push products like the brake control range and dual battery chargers into North America,” Ben Marsh said. “Their market is much larger than Australia’s, but their demographics are quite similar to ours. Our Tow Pro Elite brake controller is something they don’t have there. Having two types of braking is something they’ve not seen before, and our unit can be neatly installed under the dash away from air-bags and drivers knees.”
“This Is Very Much A Company On The Move, Made Possible By A Strong Focus On Innovation And Reinvesting In The Company’s Research And Development.”
REDARC already has an America-specific website, and cracking the US is a realistic goal. “The biggest challenge for us in the US is brand awareness,” Marsh said. “There are so many competitors which is a larger barrier to entry. The North American website means we can tailor our messaging and products to exactly what the market wants in a strategic way.”
A badge of honour for REDARC is its Australian developed and built reputation. “All our products are built and tested in Australia for our conditions, so can serve any other harsh environmental conditions all over the world. Some competitors may have their engineering done here, but the manufacturing is done overseas. For us, it’s really good to know from a consumer point of view that not only is everything built here, but if there’s ever an issue customers can pick up the phone and speak to someone at REDARC with an in-depth knowledge of the product.”
Trading on the “Aussie tough” image is not a bad thing, and has seen REDARC’s products head not just to the USA, but Europe, the Middle East, South Africa and beyond. “We’re starting to spread our footprint quite wide in these areas,” Marsh said.
A challenge for REDARC, shared by many others, is the influx of cheaper imported products. “It’s hard to remain competitive when a lot of consumers are looking at products on price alone,” Marsh continued. “It’s why we have to hammer home our quality and level of service. But when it comes to people going somewhere remote, be it in Australia, the US or Europe, the last thing they need is a flat battery. Safety is paramount to these people so they’re willing to pay more to ensure the products are going to get them there and back again.”
Wanting to stay “two steps ahead of the competition,” REDARC regularly carries out trade and customer surveys, takes feedback from area sales managers and through social media and direct contact. “We are constantly improving our products and as a result, are dedicated to innovation and continuously train and educate our staff,” Marsh said.
It’s an exciting future. With the company expansion there’ll be more exports and an increase in defence and medical devices.
“We’re an SME (small and medium enterprise) partner to BAE Systems Australia with its successful bid on the SEA5000 Future Frigates project,” Marsh said. “That’s a $35billion contract delivering advanced combat systems to the Royal Australian Navy. That’s a very exciting project for us starting in 2020.”
But REDARC isn’t forgetting its bread and butter customers, installers and auto electricians. A range of AC chargers will be available to maintain most 12v auxiliary batteries, while a 50 amp dual battery charger will provide advantages for users requiring extra charge power.
Innovation and development continues apace at this impressive South Australian business. Securing significant defence and medical contracts along with huge export potential suggest REDARC’s future looks very rosy indeed.