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17 January, 2021

Taiwanese partnership brings automation range to the UK

29 March, 2013

Great Yarmouth based Softstart UK has formed a strategic partnership with the Taiwanese industrial automation manufacturer Delta Electronics to sell and support its AC drives, PLCs and HMIs in the UK. Although Delta is not well-known in the UK, its products have been available before carrying the names of some major automation suppliers.

Delta, whose turnover in 2011 was more than $7bn, claims to be the world’s largest supplier of switching power supplies and DC fans, and the third-largest supplier in of AC drives and servomotor products to the Chinese market. Its wide-ranging portfolio includes dedicated lift motors and drives, power quality products, encoders, CNC controllers, machine vision systems and temperature controllers.

Softstart UK’s managing director Stuart Harvey (above) describes Delta as “a hidden treasure”, adding that it is “probably the world’s biggest manufacturer of VSDs by volume”. He says new partnership is “very exciting”.

Softstart UK and its sister company Silverteam were formed in 2003 as a joint venture between Harvey and Hitachi Europe to sell Hitachi drives and PLCs in the UK following the receivership of Hitachi’s previous UK distributor, HID. The venture worked well and, by 2010, Silverteam was selling around £1.4m worth of Hitachi drives a year. Then Hitachi revealed that it had reached an agreement to sell its drives under the Omron name in Europe, and was terminating its contract with Harvey.

Although he could still sell Hitachi products, Harvey’s turnover plummeted by two thirds and he had to lay off nine of his 12 members of staff.

Harvey looked around for an alternative drives supplier and initially reached an agreement with the Korean manufacturer, Hyundai Heavy Industries, to sell its automation products in the UK. According to Harvey, this worked well “for a while” but he found it “a pain” doing business with the Korean company which had no presence in Europe, demanded cash payments upfront and could take six months to deliver products.

So he started to look for an alternative supplier and discovered Delta at last year’s Hannover Fair. “The partnership with Delta Electronics is a good fit with Softstart UK,” says Harvey. “It gives Delta access to the UK, wider European and Middle Eastern markets, and it gives Softstart UK another level of automation technologies.”

The Delta products will be sold via a network of UK sub-distributors as well as directly by Softstart UK. Harvey believes that his business is now well-known enough for its name not be confusing to purchasers of the wider range of automation products.

Soft-starts – both LV and MV ­– currently represent about 40% of the business and will continue to be an important part as they have done since 2006, when Harvey started working with the Israeli soft-start specialist, Solcon. Softstart UK assembles MV soft-starts in-house, many of them for export to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In the past six months, this business has generated a turnover approaching £0.5m.

Last year, Softstart UK acquired the long-established Lowestoft systems builder SCS and incorporated it into a new systems-building division.

Together, Softstart UK’s operations are generating a turnover approaching £1.4m and, according to Harvey, the business has been growing at an annual rate of around 12%. The company now has 14 full-time employees and eight sub-contractors and Harvey is planning to take on more staff this year.

He is aiming to expand his business by around 23% this year, driven largely by the Delta products. He may add further Delta items to his portfolio, including servodrives and motors.




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