Electronics Production | April 20, 2012

Talking with Stevenage Circuits

UK based Stevenage Circuits Ltd (SCL), a family business, is bigger than you might imagine. Managing Director, Robert Brown, and Director of Sales, Les Browne, discuss the company’s global offering and how family roots have helped the company deliver high-end technology and develop advanced engineering solutions capability.
Robert Brown was around seven years old when his father, John Brown, started Stevenage Circuits over 40 years ago. Now the company’s Managing Director, he says the company benefited from his father’s passion and groundwork.
Robert Brown, Managing Director, Stevenage Circuits Ltd. © Stevenage Cicuits Ltd.

“My father treated SCL as his own personal play-ground for 40 years and many of our clients will tell you John spent 12 hours a day on the shop floor making boards and perfecting processes” says Robert. “He was forever buying and installing new equipment and then advancing equipment capability by designing custom up-grades. As a result I have a shop floor that has some of the best equipment of any PCB factory in Europe and highly trained staff, the majority of which are PCB technicians as opposed to machine operators”.

“Our core employee base has been with us for many, many years. I grew up knowing them, working alongside their own children and family who joined the company, having successive generations of families has provided us with a very quick transfer of knowledge and skill".

This knowledge base is becoming increasingly important, particularly in the UK where high-end PCB production is an important differentiator from other producers in lower end markets.

With a staff of 110 people, the company now produces medium to high volumes for an international list of clients – located in the Far East, Australia, the USA, Russia and Mainland Europe.

“Last year we shipped in excess of 1 million GBP worth of boards to Australia alone,” says Robert. “Our medical market in the USA continues to grow as more US companies learn of our micro implantable PCB capability”.

With clients predominately involved in advanced technology and HiRel markets, more and more clients are taking advantage of the company's engineering services for evaluation orders, materials and substrate R&D, quick turn around and fast ramp up production according to Robert.

The company has invested over £30 million since its inception, £2.2 million of this in 2010/11. In particular SCL have focused on systems control investment, to aid and support the quick turnaround of high-end complex boards.

“Our clients ask for ‘Smaller Lighter Faster’ chip on flex (COF) system in package (SiP) cavity PCB’s incorporating wire bond devices. This type of micro-feature manufacture is growing fast and partners like Orbotec have helped Stevenage circuits achieve some very challenging client requirements,” explains Robert. “Technology wise the trend is also for copper filled Vias, the majority of UK manufacturers cannot do this in house and those that can have little capacity. Our suppliers in this technology now believe SCL may have the largest ‘in-house’ UK capacity for copper filling”.

The focus on high-end technology hasn’t been without challenges.

“The biggest market trend is Far East manufacture or preferably the security of a UK manufacturer with a Far East partner. This has been a difficult one for SCL because of our high level of technology - finding a Far East partner to match our capability portfolio has taken time but we are pleased that we have found such a partner,” Les Browne, the company’s Sales Director explains.
Les Browne, Director of Sales, Stevenage Circuits Ltd. © Stevenage Cicuits Ltd.

Another challenge? Letting more companies know about SCL's offering. While founder John Brown set up the groundwork for advanced capability and research, he spent little time (outside of the client base) promoting the company’s capabilities. This is where Les and his sales team will focus their future efforts.

“In the past SCL has conducted little public promotion and the company’s growth has been as a direct result of referrals. While this is commendable, SCL have capacity and, as we often read in popular publications, the market is constantly searching for advanced innovative companies with engineering and technology development capabilities, just like those of SCL. Our priority is to address this by promoting SCL through technology networks, workshops and supplier collaborative road shows, as currently SCL is Europe’s best kept secret!”


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