Putting on a display
By combining innovation, reliability and customer service to great effect, Infotec has set the standard for passenger information systems across various transport industries
Passenger information display systems have arguably come to be as synonymous with transportation hubs and applications as the respective modes of transport themselves, providing invaluable real-time information to customers. For 25 years, award-winning company Infotec has manufactured a wide range of electronic displays for sectors including rail, bus, tram, urban signage, roadside and airport applications, and to this day remains one of the few UK display companies that designs, manufactures, tests and distributes its own products.
“Our ability to carry out the complete manufacturing cycle, from electronics to the finished article, allows us to effectively control product obsolescence over the lifetime of the display, which can be between ten and 15 years.This places the company in a unique position and has allowed us to become a leader in our field,” explains Infotec’s Managing Director,Tim Court
The rail industry represents the largest business segment for the company. It is here that Infotec has forged a reputation for delivering products of superior reliability and longevity that can be found amongst the most prestigious stations in the UK, including St Pancras International, Kings Cross, Waterloo, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London Bridge, to name just a few. In more recent times, the company has also employed its expertise and experience to develop a range of bespoke and ‘commercial off the shelf’ displays for on-vehicle applications.The light and underground rail sectors are also beneficiaries of Infotec’s products, with customers including London Underground, Manchester Metrolink, Edinburgh Tram and Sheffield Tram, while its displays can also be found in operation at hundreds of shelters, interchanges and bus station locations throughout the UK.
“The key to our product’s success begins with getting the design right from the start,”Tim continues.“We build our systems from the electronics up, working to the strictest of production levels, before taking them through comprehensive heat, cold, vibration and shock testing procedures at prototype level, and then obtaining all of the necessary certifications.”This attention to detail and quality has also allowed Infotec to establish itself in a number of prominent global markets, delivering products and services to the light rail sector in the United States, displays for metro systems in South America and on-vehicle systems in Canada.
Whereas in the past the company would have many of its high volume, high labour products and systems built in the Far East, in more recent years it has embarked on a sustained effort to bring all of its manufacturing back in-house to the UK, investing in new machinery, automation and additional technology in the process. “What this in-house capability allows us to do is better manage our volumes so that we can do very short, as well as medium and high volume runs, and because we spent so much time in perfecting our manufacturing techniques we can do all this at a relatively low, competitive price,”Tim states. “What we are also now doing is working on ways to better capture shop floor data and process this information in order to make more informed managerial decisions on investment, and to further improve efficiencies.”
Having experienced an altogether steady year in 2017, turnover and profit wise, Infotec has seen a significant upturn in activity in the first few months of 2018.“Relative to the size of the company, the projects that present themselves in our field can be rather large, and if several come along at once the result can be a huge influx of work, which is exactly what we are experiencing right now,”Tim enthuses.“As you can imagine, we do our best to anticipate such events, building the business around the capacity that we estimate we will need to deliver these projects as required, and we anticipate that the end result of this will be one of biggest years ever, come the end of 2018.”
This level of demand, while always appreciated, can nonetheless pose challenges to smaller manufacturers, a fact that Tim and his team are all too aware of.“In such conditions, it is important that you keep your processes clean and your personnel trained to the highest level,” he adds. “A lot of multi-disciplined people make up the Infotec team, a quality that is needed in a business which handles many different processes, from electronics and wiring to assembly and mechanical build, and this has only been made possible by investing in our workforce.
“What the size of the business does do for us, however, is provide us with a degree of flexibility and agility that a larger player in this industry would not have. It is this that allows us to freely produce both bespoke and high-volume products, systems and equipment at a cost that helps to make us the go-to provider of passenger information display systems for our customers.”
Product: Electronic passenger information displays