UK partners—first port of call

Solsta explores the benefits of partnering with UK-based distribution and manufacturing partners from technical support to local warehousing and same day delivery.

Globalisation brings many obvious benefits, but if the pandemic taught us anything, it was the importance of maintaining partnerships with local suppliers. This is especially true for value-add relationships where close communication and collaboration are essential to the supply chain’s smooth running.

Particularly when things go wrong, a local team is better placed to act swiftly and effectively, not least because they are in the same time zone. Technical and commercial support teams are on hand when needed. Distributors offering local warehousing can arrange speedy shipments when needed, possibly even same day, with the added advantage that physical stock inspection and auditing are quickly and easily achievable. UK distributor Solsta offers kitting and bespoke stocking packages, plus supplementary services including small batch programming, tape/reel and bake/seal, all in the UK.

Too much reliance on international channels can lead to vulnerability—but if OEMs are looking for specialist design and manufacturing capabilities in a particular field, it can be challenging to find UK suppliers with the right facilities and credentials. The medical and military/aerospace sectors each have especially demanding requirements, and not all UK providers offer the right skills and experience to address them. OEMs in these sectors have found the specialist help they needed at Solsta, part of the AIM-listed Solid State Group. The company has demonstrated its prowess by successfully taking on extremely challenging projects, typically with a sensing, photonics or display leaning, via its Special Projects Group. Based at Solsta’s UK Custom Solutions Centre in Dorset, the team has electronic, optical and mechanical design capability and can call on production resources including a ISO14644-1 class 7 cleanroom with class 5 enclosure for critical builds.

For marine, aerospace and defence applications, processing, control, comms, display/user interface and power circuitry all need to be designed for hostile environments. The equipment is often mobile, needing to withstand extreme temperatures, high vibration and shock, potentially in IP-rated housings, with EMC shielding and environmental sealing.

Due to the longevity of equipment in medical applications, the challenges here are more likely to revolve around obsolescence and sourcing. If a vital component part is discontinued, a replacement product must be sourced that’s ‘like for like’ both mechanically and electronically, to avoid lengthy, costly re-verification and re-validation processes. In this situation, finding a new manufacturing partner for replacement parts can be preferable to investing in a large last-time-buy of stock that could degrade and become unusable.

Special Projects Group manager, Barney Mitchell, explained: “We developed our UK optoelectronic and sensor design and build capability in response to customers asking for help with difficult-to-fill gaps in their BoMs. In some cases, we’ve even acquired manufacturing equipment so we could continue to build discontinued parts for a customer by taking over the manufacture of the products. We worked hard to acquire our ISO13485 accreditation for the design and manufacture of medical devices, and we’re proud of that achievement. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep the customer’s production running.”