A niche in the wide world of electronics

Features Posted 06/01/22
From MRI scanners to renewable energy power units, DiscoverIE’s custom electronics solutions are helping pioneering organisations around the world thrive

DiscoverIE is a UK-based company with a powerful international agenda. It was established in 1986 as a distributor of electronics and technology products. Since 2009, the group has been designing, manufacturing and supplying innovative customised components for electronics applications.

Have you ever had an MRI scan at a hospital? Do you notice the escalating number of wind turbines popping up in the hillsides and out at sea? If so, you’ve probably unknowingly experienced DiscoverIE’s products. There are thousands of application examples spanning the renewable energy, medical, transportation and industrial connectivity markets. “We help customers looking for innovative solutions,” explains CEO Nick Jefferies. “We enable them to achieve something they couldn’t previously achieve. Our products are unique. We’re a niche in the huge, booming electronics industry.”

The organisation has 20 manufacturing locations around the world – from China to Mexico, Germany to Sri Lanka. However, you can find DiscoverIE’s headquarters much closer to home at Surrey Research Park in Guildford. “We’ve been based at the Park for 20 years,” says Nick. “You can arrive at Guildford train station and every taxi driver knows where we are. The location is excellent, the facilities are very well-maintained, and the landlords are lovely. What’s more, we’ve got access to a diverse, technically qualified workforce. Moving forward, we’re looking to establish a graduate recruitment scheme. Surrey University is one of the leading electronic universities in the country, so it makes sense!”

In recent years, DiscoverIE has witnessed increasing demand for its electronic solutions for wind turbines. “Vestas, a global leader in sustainable energy solutions, is a big customer of ours,” says Nick. “You see all the wind turbines going up in the North Sea? There’s a 50% chance that they contain our solutions. Right at the top of the mast, there are power units used for control purposes. A wind turbine feeds the electricity it generates straight onto the grid, so you need a very clean signal. Our products ensure this.”

Of late, the team have also been busy designing and manufacturing control units for defibrillators, as well as an electronic component for refrigerated transportation that controls and remotely monitors temperature in trucks. The solution has been used throughout the pandemic to transport Covid-19 vaccines.

Like many companies, DiscoverIE had to adapt and overcome the various challenges the pandemic presented. Nick explains that, at the start of the outbreak, there was a lot of concern surrounding how each of the manufacturing sites, which all have different local legislations, would respond. “Simultaneously, we went through this massive adjustment to our working practices to establish social distancing, which is quite a challenging thing to do in a factory. All the while, we were trying to preserve cash, minimise working capital, cut costs and control our environment to maintain a strong balance sheet.” Fortunately, the electronics sector wasn’t hit as badly as some others, and over time, more orders came in and sales began to pick up. Now, Nick points out, business is strong.

We chat briefly about Brexit and the supply chain disruptions affecting the UK. Nick explains: “Our UK base felt it harder than many of our other countries. Brexit created a lack of confidence. People were more cautious. On top of Covid, there were shortage conditions and clogged up import and export channels at the beginning of the year due to all the paperwork changes. This added chaos showed. I’d say the UK is recovering well now though.”

DiscoverIE has an ambitious ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) agenda in place that focuses on two central areas – sustainability and diversity. A year ago, the company launched its Carbon Reduction Plan, which will see it reduce like for like carbon emissions by 50% by March 2025. “We’re doing this through two primary routes,” says Nick. “We’re switching all our sourcing of grid energy to renewable sources, and where we can’t do that, we’re installing our own renewable energy sources. Many of our factories are in hot areas, so we’re taking advantage of that by putting solar panels on the roofs.” The team have just completed the first of three stages of solar installations at DiscoverIE’s Sri Lanka factory, which, once installed, will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 75%.”

Looking to the future, DiscoverIE will continue to increase its international presence – growing with its existing customers organically and discovering new businesses that fit with the organisation’s ethos. “We have the discovery DNA, as we call it,” says Nick. “We’ve bought 19 businesses over the last 10 years and there are more to come. Everything we do is with a 15-year view – it’s all about long-term sustainable growth. Our ambition is to be a British-based international specialist electronics engineering firm. We want to help clients internationally create their product of the future.”

Originally published as part of South East Business’ December/January edition

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