Being different for 50 years

Being different has allowed Charcroft to support high-end and mission-critical sectors with specialist distribution and manufacturing for 50 years, according to Debbie Rowland.

Alot has changed in the electronics industry over the last 50 years, but not the way Charcroft goes to market. The company’s approach is significantly different to global giants and most other distributors, with a focus on high-reliability components used by high-end and mission-critical sectors.

These sectors manufacture in relatively low volume but need high levels of specialist knowledge and support to achieve failure- free procurement and design. This is not a model that fits easily into the high-volume, semiconductor-led focus of other distributors.

When the business started in 1974, the line card was exclusively passive components used by sectors such as mil-aero, space, industrial, rail, instrumentation and specialist transportation. As demand grew, other high-reliability components were added such as power semiconductors, power supplies, sensors, optoelectronics and circuit protection components.

Being a privately-owned distributor, the objective has always been to deliver innovative and individual solutions which satisfy customers rather than shareholders.

In 2003, Charcroft added production, when a manufacturer was acquired to prevent specialist capacitors becoming obsolete. With this and other acquisitions, legacy mica and film capacitors, high-end audio capacitors and custom passive assemblies are UK manufactured. Charcroft’s manufacturing capability led it to become the first Vishay Precision Centre approved outside the USA for VPG Foil Resistors.

Support needed by mission-critical and harsh sectors doesn’t stop when components are delivered. A custom IT system means each order’s CofC and delivery note is held by Charcroft in a digital archive. This is crucial for components used in end products with lifetimes measured in decades. The archive replaces the need for customers to retain copies of all CofCs and provides the details which can address any question arising long term.

A dynamic approach to managing obsolescence is also important. Rather than wait for an obsolete passive to be re-ordered before identifying an alternative, each obsolescence or change of approval triggers a check on all customers
of that component, and an alternative is identified. Proactivity prevents delays which could occur when an obsolete component is re-ordered.

Technical expertise must include a detailed understanding of approvals. Designers of space and mission-critical systems often begin with a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) passive before moving to space- grade for the final design. Not every COTS passive is available in space-grade so the distributor must check the same value, voltage and case size is available at the required reliability level.

Innovative commercial solutions are also essential, including long-term stabilised price agreements to help customers to maintain supply continuity when lead times extend.

As an independent UK-based distributor, Charcroft’s priority is delivering the expertise and high-reliability components needed by customers in high-end and critical sectors. That’s the difference between global scale and delivering specialist solutions.