Michelle Winny, Editor of Electronics talks to Steve Roberts, Managing Director of Amphenol about the company’s restructuring initiatives for meeting the demands of military and defence applications

The human machine interface is a phenomenon that is also quickly infiltrating the military and defence market as the trend for wearable electronics is proliferated by shrinking device geometries. Along with the HMI, the concept of interaction is also shaping the way we do business, as the acumen of ‘listening to and interacting with your customers as a route to innovation’ continues as a driving force.

Companies such as Amphenol are taking the HMI revolution a step further and are running the gauntlet with a worldwide vision of connecting people and technology through its manufacturing capabilities by giving its customers a direct involvement with the company’s vision of the future.  To keep at the fore of innovation and to drive towards this ideal, literally with a futuristic vision of manufacturing, the company is planning a £2.3 million capital investment into its manufacturing facility in Whitstable, Kent.

To help spearhead this mammoth project the company has recently appointed Steve Roberts as General Manager who is already rising to the challenge with a clear vision of driving this project forward.  Roberts advises: “Amphenol has already begun plans to develop its prototyping facility in the UK at its manufacturing facility in Whitstable. The capitol investment includes bringing on board seven new engineers to focus on customer requirement.  The investment will centre upon state-of-the-art manufacturing lines for our UK production of new interconnection development technology in areas of specialisation which includes hermetics, miniature and filter products for industrial as well as aerospace and defence sectors.”

The company is also undergoing a 20 month programme, which commenced in April 2013, which is under the ‘Future Site’ initiative, a vision to incorporate new manufacturing lines together with contemporary work practices.  “We are literally asking our customers what they need most from a facility such as this and their feedback is now forming the basis of the services and capabilities of the new facility and what we are planning on implementing,” said Roberts.

In the age of globalisation, the company has endeavoured to retain its full end-to-end manufacturing capability for its products in the UK, whilst having opened access to low cost manufacturing sites around the world to complement its offering to customers globally.

According to Roberts: “The first objective is to structure the business – the systems, planning etc. to equip the company for the plan ahead. The second objective is to significantly improve the flow and responsiveness in prototyping and new product development and attach this to a greater international sales activity.  Thirdly, the aim is to use a combination of low cost plants in India and Mexico in conjunction with the latest standards of operational performance in the UK to make the company as competitive as is possible.”

Roberts is indeed the man to drive these operations forward with an already established career within the Amphenol Corporation, having originally joined the company with the acquisition of Jaybeam in 2008.  He served as General Manager of Amphenol Jaybeam UK from 2006 through 2010.  Most recently Roberts has held the role of Global Director of Worldwide Site Solutions for Amphenol RF and Microwave.  “Amphenol is a business that has been in the industry some 50 years and has this knowledge and experience as a solid foundation. We are now looking to the future by refocusing our markets and the manner we concentrate on them.”

With $4 billion yearly global revenue, the company currently employs around 300 people at its site in Whitstable, Kent and provides a full design and manufacturing service for a large range of connectors and interconnect solutions; including cable assembly, over-moulding and electronic packaging.

“It gives me pride to join one of Amphenol’s leading sites with such a strong history and pedigree in this sector, as we now look to the challenges of growing business in the UK and to forge a stronger position within the global industry and the Amphenol group,” said Roberts.