Like a Phoenix - Pulse Electronics celebrates its best year on record
Christmas tends to be a time of reflection for all - but few more so than for Pulse Electronics, the UK-based and privately-owned designer and manufacturer of power supplies and systems. 2009 marks Pulse’s best year on record for sales; a remarkable achievement considering the current economic climate and that, six years ago, the company was almost destroyed by fire.On 22nd December 2003 a charging Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack went into thermal runaway and triggered a fire which, despite the efforts of 70 firemen, destroyed Pulse’s premises.
Thankfully no one was injured and the company’s policy of backing up electronic data in a fire safe certainly paid off. However, the fire rendered the building uninhabitable, completely destroyed the engineering and production departments, and resulted in the loss of virtually all stock.
Chris Austin recalls: “The fire could not have happened at a worse time, as six major manufacturing projects were about to commence round about that time.” Thanks to a fantastic team spirit, additional investment from parent company Ipeco and the flexibility of (and support from) customers, Pulse Electronics recovered quickly from the catastrophe.
Operating from temporary accommodation, within four weeks Engineering Design was fully functional and limited production available. In March 2004, the company moved into new premises and a full production line was running by early May. By September, Pulse Electronics was back on track to meet its 2004 targets; despite a lack of full production capability for the best part of four months.
Since 2004, Pulse Electronics has enjoyed a year-on-year growth of approximately 10%. There remains a steady demand for Pulse Electronics’ modular power supplies, within the defence and aerospace sectors (and, increasingly, traditional embedded systems). Also, it is worth noting that one of the contracts due to commence in December 2003 was for PSUs needed for a customer’s global positioning anti-jamming system. This remains an active contract and to date more than 6,000 units have been shipped.
Austin adds: “At the time the fire was devastating. We saw no future. We did recover though and, looking back, the fire actually made Pulse Electronics stronger. It forged a team spirit that enables us to face virtually anything – and has earned us great respect within the industry.”
In conclusion, Austin says that Pulse Electronics learned some very important lessons from the fire of 2003. “Whilst all company directors and managers no doubt concentrate on day-to-day business, staffing issues or just generally coping during the downturn, it is essential to take time out to consider how you’ll cope if the unthinkable happens. Insurance policies, fire extinguishers and systems, and safety checks are all good and well, but what contingency plans do you have in place if something does happen? How quickly could you resume business?”