Celebrating Thirty Years in Manufacturing
Updated: Nov 28, 2019
In 1984, four ex-employees of Hawker Siddeley decided to embark on a career change from world-wide power production to enter the fast moving environment of electronics. Two of the original founding members are still closely involved with the company today.
From the outset, the company was more than just a PCB assembly house, having always possessed the capabilities for full product manufacture, encompassing the electronics, cabling, enclosures, and full product integration.
The past thirty years has seen many changes within the company. Through organic growth and acquisitions it has developed from a start-up unit on the Loughborough University campus, with merely a desk and a chair, to a company recognised for robust electronics design and manufacturing.
The acquisition of Quasson, a UK based manufacturer, took the company into the broadcast industry through the manufacture of the renowned Autocue prompters for TV companies in both the UK and USA. Following that came the acquisition of a manufacturing plant in Nogales, Mexico to support low cost manufacturing under the North American and European Free Trade Agreements. This company was seeing the benefits of investment in equipment and training when the financial crisis of 2008 hit and all manufacturing was consolidated back to the modern premises in the UK.
From the outset the company has placed workforce management as key to business growth and future success. This has involved attracting, training, developing, and retaining the best talent from shop floor to top management. Some of the original employees remain with the company today.
Jenny Ottey, Finance Director, recalls her development with the company:
“I joined Datalink Electronics in 1989 on a three month work experience placement, as part of a Youth Training Scheme. I was employed as an Accounts Assistant within a team of just 10 people. At that time we were based in two small units at the Technology Centre near the University. We shared our office space with the storage and the second unit contained the production facilities, which consisted mainly of soldering benches. Since then, around 18 years ago, we’ve moved to our current building. Initially we occupied a twenty percent share but we continuously grew our facilities, taking on more of the building along the way, until we eventually took it over completely.
“I’m now in my 25th year with the company, a milestone which I also saw my colleague Phil, our Production Supervisor, reach last year. I feel privileged to be part this team and to have contributed to the significant growth of Datalink over the years. Having gone from a few workers soldering on benches to a state-of-the-art, automated surface mount line, adding many customers to our portfolios, and now with 50 employees, I have no doubt that the company will continue to grow and grow.
“Our Chairman, Eric, has not only succeeded in driving the company forward but has also always been an advocate of staff development, fervently investing in people and bringing them up through the ranks. During my time at Datalink I’ve developed along with the company, and have witnessed similar career progression for many fellow colleagues. With fantastic support from the board of directors I’ve gone from entry level, through to supervisor, then manager and ultimately became Finance Director in 2005, an achievement of which I am still very proud. Eric and Ian, in particular, encouraged me greatly to develop my skills by putting me through extensive training. I was actually still completing training courses right up until 2003! It’s great to be part of a company that genuinely values people and this ethos extends to our customer base as well.
“Currently I’m really enjoying being involved in the company’s strategic planning, where innovation is high on the agenda. We have become experts in electronics design and manufacture across numerous market sectors, taking complex challenges off our clients’ hands and allowing them to focus on what they do best. Furthermore, we are making constant advances which improve efficiency and keep us at the forefront of our field.”
The fundamental principle of developing our people alongside our service offering, has resulted in a highly skilled workforce able to cope with the demanding dynamics of the electronics industry. However, this is currently the biggest challenge facing UK manufacturing, with fewer people entering the sector. Datalink has embarked on a continuous intake programme of apprentices across the company to confront this. There are currently five apprentice employed out of a total workforce of fifty.
In the year 2000 the company made another significant change. Dr Jim Allen, whose background is in the oil and gas industry, was appointed to the board as Technical Director. This added the additional dimension of electronic design to the company, particularly in the area of gas pipeline inspection and ATEX applications.
Over time, the design department has expanded to specialise in Healthcare products, and mobile payment and processing systems. The subsequent years has built Datalink’s reputation of designing and manufacturing creative, high-technology electronic products. The company has built an excellent understanding of legislative and regulatory aspects of placing electronic products in the market, further strengthening its wide-ranging capabilities.