Martin Gaffney, Commercial Director, has walked a well-decorated career path to his position with Tharsus Group (Tharsus). Having started out as an engineering apprentice at IBM, he found a lifelong passion for electronics and manufacturing, and was even involved in the enterprise’s first server blade project in the late 1990s. As a result, he solidified his place in the contract manufacturing world, and all it has to offer.
“So I grew up as an engineer and then decided to move into business,” he explains. “I had my engineering degree, but went back to acquire my master’s in strategy, to focus on the world of sales and business development. As a result, I’ve worked for the likes of BAE Systems and TT electronics, and explored market sectors such as medical, retail, communications, and aerospace and defense as areas for growth. My heart always remained with electronics manufacturing, however, so when the opportunity arose to help lead Tharsus on its next journey, it was one that I was thoroughly ready to seize.”
Tharsus was established close to 60 years ago, and, up until the last couple of decades, was primarily based in complex metal fabrication. These operations are still the mainstay of its sister company, Universal Wolf. Over the last ten-to-15 years, however, the group has shifted its attention to focus on advanced manufacturing and complex electro-mechanical assembly work.
“One of our largest milestones regarding this change of direction, was our meeting and subsequent work with Ocado on its warehouse delivery robots,” Martin continues. “As a result, the growth of both Tharsus and Ocado has been aligned in many ways, and it’s been a journey that is now evolving into the next phase of our business.” Part of its five-year strategic plan is to focus on key market sectors including electrification, health tech, warehouse logistics, and food – and as a consequence, fulfilling its mantra of “delivering tech that matters.”
“We involve ourselves in three key areas with our customers: we want to solve their problems, scale what they do, and supply their products. We’ve got a really strong engineering presence to facilitate this, which can provide design development for hardware, software, or firmware, and ultimately anything that makes the product work. On the manufacturing side, we can do anything from electrical assembly, electronics, wiring, hardware, fabrication, and electromechanical exoskeleton work, right up to full volume manufacturing, such as 20-foot-long assembly cabinets for fully integrated engineering systems or turbine based engines that can generate up to 40 megawatts. So really, from highly precise electronics up to large scale footprints or formats.
“Tharsus is the engineer’s contract manufacturer,” he states, “which means problem solving has always been paramount to everything that we do. And those 60 years in UK manufacturing has helped inform our new strategy. For instance, we’ve now headed down the route of interpreting what EV charging networks will look like in 2030, and how we can help provide the necessary infrastructure.”
Sustainability sits at the core of Tharsus’ operations, but in a wider sense than most businesses choose to adopt. “We want to be a good citizen across a broad spectrum: not just for the environment, economy, or even our local area,” he adds. “Tharsus is about creating a legacy of goodness in the North East, and we want to provide an environment in which a skilled workforce can take on local apprentices, and pass on their skills.
“Equally so, we’re heavily involved in a lot of game-changing logistics automation technology, that will help others across the UK and Europe to reduce their carbon footprints. Back to EV charging, we also want to support the consolidation of our charging infrastructure manufacturing to the UK, saving on the carbon associated with manufacturing in China, for example.
“There are three key strands that we’re looking to evolve over the next five years,” Martin concludes. “The first being the core business of manufacturing, which we are excited to shape with a really strong blend of customers across our strategic sectors. Next, is optimizing the added value of vertical integration with our sister company, Universal Wolf, and having access to complex electro-mechanical assembly and metal fabrication all under one roof.
“Finally, it’s the development of our own product and logistics platform, to move material around a warehouse in a smart format. This will be developed and launched over the next 12-to-18 months. Once we get there, we’ll have our manufacturing, vertical integration, and product sectors all working in alignment towards our ultimate purpose as a business – delivering tech that matters.”