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© stadium Electronics Production | March 16, 2016

Stadium Group shifts focus to design-led technologies

Following a couple of years of transition, the UK based manufacturer has grown into a bigger suit: the label of 'local manufacturer' does not fit any longer.
In a conversation with Stadium Group's CEO Charlie Peppiatt, I was shown the – new – blueprint for Stadium Group, as a business.

The company has been around for quite a while, more than a 100 years actually, but back then the company was working with injection moulding. In 1980 the group established its EMS business, which had been its focus up until just a few years ago.

“In 2013, we embarked on a very clear strategy of transition; transforming Stadium from being a pure-play EMS-provider to a design-led, integrated electronic technology solutions provider”, explains Mr. Peppiatt.

This is quite different from what the company has been in the past. We are essentially talking about a company's new blueprint; how it conducts its business. What it means in practical terms is that the company has brought all of its accumulated manufacturing knowledge and expertise to the table and is designing, producing and converting its own ideas into marketable products.

In many ways, this has been one of the reason why Stadium has changed from a UK-based EMS-provider into something – well – more. Sure, Stadium is still as British as they come; but also a UK company now playing on a global playground. Through fast and aggressive advancements – both via acquisitions and expansions – the company has grown out of 'local'. A bigger suit was needed and the design operation provides just that.

The scope of the services has expanded, from pure-play EMS, via design all the way to its own solutions.
In line with this, the company has kept busy in 2015 and opened a number of regional design centres. They also moved their Asian manufacturing into a bigger facility, to accommodate future growth and expansion.

“We have opened a number of regional design centres in the UK and one over in Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, Shanghai, deliberately aligned to support our technology product strategy – making sure that we're in the right locations and at the very centre of the different technology ecosystems,” Mr. Peppiatt explains. “We are now providing design solutions for wireless products, power supplies and human machine interfaces (HMI), and have reconfigured our global manufacturing facilities to build the products we design for our costumers.”

Stadium, however, is still a service provider. Just the scope of the services has expanded, from pure-play EMS, via design all the way to its own solutions.

“Stadium has done and still does a very good job as an EMS-provider, but contract manufacturing in the electronics space is a scale game. So regardless of how good Stadium was and is in that space – to get the scale that is required to get the value we look for – it is a very big uphill challenge.“

Which is really only one part of the reason why the company evolved to what it is today.

“When I did my initial review of the company, I noticed that there were some very skilled technical staff working for the group. We had a rather significant footprint in Asia, which – for a company our size – gave us an advantage. So evolving from offering purely EMS-type solutions at quite a general level into a company highly specialised in certain key technologies that align to vertical growing markets was a rather clear strategy. And from my previous experience in wireless – if you build your own product – you hold an enormous advantage over your competition and our strategy is to design and manufacture wireless solutions.”

This has been a rather quick turnaround for the company, but it has paid off. Mr. Peppiatt points to the fact that – in 2015 – the company was able to build a strong order book within the Wireless segment, which continues to grow.

© Stadium's Design Centre in Shanghai
“Another highlight of the year was the flawless execution of the relocation of our Asian manufacturing facility, we completed the move in just three weeks with no disruption to customer orders. And of course the setting up of our design centres was key,” Mr Peppiatt adds.

In fact, the strong order book has positioned the company rather well when going into 2016, he believes. He is positive about continued growth, especially in the Wireless and Power segments.

“We are looking to continue to grow the business by focusing on our key growth markets; automotive, smart home, energy management and healthcare. I am optimistic, but I am also very realistic. After some 20 years in the industry we know that it is a fast moving market and you can't take anything for granted – but we will continue to focus on execution in order to maximise our chances.”

Another reason why the company has done as well as it has; a more focused and specialised approach in market segments it supports.

“I think that another reason for the success is that we've stayed at the forefront of technology. We've invested in the set up of design centres where Stadium is seen as the go-to-player. And this is linked to and supported by the technical capabilities that we have.”

The transition from a pure-play EMS provider into a company that also offers design solutions started some years ago and is now well underway. A lot of the heavy lifting from the restructuring is done, now what's left is the fine tuning. And then Stadium will be back to the strategy planning board to form the next expansion plan.

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