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Complex repairs are all in a day's work

In many ways they are the unsung heroes of industry - the backroom boys who swing into action when the wheels come off the wagon, metaphorically speaking. Assistant Business Editor, Ian Bullock visits Richmond Electronic Services, a Norwich-based company that repairs equipment for a range of industries and helps firms get back into production quickly. Pictures by Bill Smith.

Richard Fisher has always been fascinated by how things work and how to fix them when they don't. In his younger years he would repair washing machines and televisions for friends and colleagues as a hobby. Carrying out repairs is now a full-time business for the 53-year-old Norfolk company director, though tweaking domestic appliances is no longer on his agenda.

Richmond Electronic Services, based in Hurricane Way, Norwich, instead specialises in repairing crucial items such as temperature, speed and traction controllers, power supplies and welding equipment. It serves industries including food processing and plastic moulding as well as research and welding companies, and can repair anything from a printed circuit board for a hand-drier to a giant laminating machine or printing press.

"The core of our business used to be pretty local but we are widening it out and working further afield now. We work for companies in America, regularly repair welding equipment for a customer in Norway and have repaired temperature controllers for office blocks in Ireland. We have around 200 clients." says Richard, managing director of Richmond Electronic Services.

Richard worked for 20 years for instrument makers, Wavetek-Datron, now Fluke Precision Measurement, in Norwich as a technician and production manager.

RICHARD FISHER: Pictured with his staff in the workshop at Richmond Electronic Services.
	'We have a good team here, which is vital in an operation like this,' he says. "At the end of the 1990s companies were downsizing and I was made redundant in one of a wave of redundancies. I left in 1997," he recalls. "I was unhappy at being made redundant, to put it politely, but I had always had a hankering to run my own company and this seemed an opportunity. It was a chance for something good to come out of a difficult period."

Out of work at the age of 47, Norfolk-born Richard initially felt he should find a job with another firm. "I wrote to 53 electronics companies in the area from Yellow Pages and, unfortunately, I didn't get a reply from any of them - but I refused to be defeated."

In November 1997 he launched Richmond Electronic Services in a garage on a farmyard at Felthorpe, with one assistant. "I had a private loan and some redundancy money - and I lived on a shoestring, taking hardly anything out of the business," he says. "We stayed away from domestic appliances and office equipment, concentrating on industrial electronics, which remains our core business today."

Generating clients was his first task.

"Most of our work came through personal contacts and making many phone calls. I rang everyone I could think of, obtained a list of companies from Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, and collected as many trade journals and lists of trade show exhibitors as I possibly could," says Richard. "It's a bit like selling double-glazing - the more doors you knock on, the more business you get."

Richmond Electronic Services remained mostly a two-man operation for four years until Richard decided it needed room to grow and a higher-profile location. In June 2001 he switched to a 3,500 sq ft unit in Hurricane Way that includes a workshop, office, heavy engineering area and storage space.

SPARKS FLYING: Richard Fisher uses a plasma cutter at his firm's premises in Hurricane Way. His team has since grown to four engineers - Steve Campbell, Barry Evans, Ramiro Perpenia and Raymond Harwood - and office administrator Malcolm Farrow.

Among workbenches covered in complex coloured wiring and electronic testing equipment, he and his staff concentrate on fixing the seemingly unfixable. They also travel to companies to mend equipment on site.

"Our turnover has grown tenfold since the business started and I see a lot of scope for potential growth, particularly because industry is being pushed towards recycling and re-use of equipment by the Government and the European Union," says Richard.

"I would hope in the next year to take on one or two more staff if things progress as they are."

Despite the "throw-away society" of the 21st century, Richard says companies are eager to repair equipment wherever possible. "Finance directors are keen to keep the plant they have going - some of the machines we work on would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to replace. Therefore, if we can repair them for a few thousand pounds there is an enormous saving," he says.

"For some companies the repairs we effect can make a difference between production coming to a halt or proceeding. A lot of firms are delighted that we can get them out of some difficult situations."

Richmond Electronic Services has just been awarded ISO 9001 certification, the prestigious quality award.

Richard says: "We have always been proud of the service we offer our clients. Now, with the award of ISO 9001, this has been confirmed by outside experts who are used to judging service on a daily basis in a wide variety of trades and industries. We have a good team here, which is vital in an operation like this."

Richard's advice to would-be entrepreneurs is: "When you start up in business get as much information as you can about the work you want to get into. Listen to all the experts and write as much as you can down. We are great collectors of information here - we have records of all the equipment we have repaired, all the faults and how we repaired them so we can use that information in future. That's been one of the keys to our success."

Richmond Electronic Services can be contacted by phone on 01603 416304 or by e-mail at info@richmondrepair.co.uk. The firm's website is www.richmondrepair.co.uk.

ISO 9000 Accredited 42 Hurricane Way
Norwich. NR6 6JB.
United Kingdom.

Tel +44 (0) 1603 416304
Fax +44 (0) 1603 416312
Email info@richmondrepair.co.uk
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Last Update : 24 November 2014