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Interview with Andy Naisbitt – Gen3 CEO

Gen3 is a specialist British manufacturer and distributor of test and measurement equipment used to predict reliability and maintain quality in the production of electronic circuits. It consists of a team of experts offering not only equipment and test services but also full customer training and consultancy services in specialist areas. We recently spoke with CEO Andy Naisbitt to find out about his leadership strategy as well as his plans to continue growing the company and making it even more successful.

Andy, we understand that you are the CEO of Gen3. How long have you been involved with Gen3? What is your background and experience that has gotten you to where you are today?  

I started with Gen3 the week after my last exam at Oxford Brookes University in the summer of 2010, so I’ve been with the company for 12 years now. I started out working in our Kinematics division (specialist gym equipment) that, whilst very different from the electronics industry, enabled me to gain experience running a business. I was always involved in the main arm the electronics sideof Gen3, and this grew more and more until I was appointed Operations Director in 2016 and then CEO in January 2021.

As the Operations Director, I built up a good deal of experience in running the day-to-day operational side of the business and everything that entails. I have undertaken improvements in the efficiency of how the factory runs, as well as introduced processes to streamline orders coming in/going out thedoor. I also introduced a plan to develop both our brand and our company to sustain our UK market as well as our competitive position as the worldwide industry leader of test and measurement equipment for the electronics circuits industry. Added to that, I oversee our distribution side of the business, which makes up an important part of what we do to support the UK market.

I have always enjoyed business and being able to combine that with my passion to continue growingmy family’s legacy in this business is one I find to be incredibly rewarding, but still very hard work. Whilst the business has been going for 40 years, I am a firm believer in continuous improvement and constantly challenge our staff to come up with better ways to improve all aspects of our business.

What are you most proud of during your time at Gen3? As the CEO and leader, what do you see in the company’s future? What is your growth strategy?  

Gen3 stands at the door of a unique opportunity. Thanks to our efforts in helping to develop new industry standards over the last 20+ years, requirements for our equipment and test instruments are growing rapidly. In 2016, our export business was approximately 50%, but by 2019, that had grown to almost 80%. Thanks to the effects of Covid-19, we were at almost 90% export until the UK market returned as markets reopened.

It would be easy to say that I want to see continued growth, that much is obvious. I want our staff, distributors and customers to be happy with the services/equipment we provide. If they are, then I am positive the reward of success will go hand-in-hand.

Currently, we are undertaking a large R&D program with investment going into every product. Over the next two to five years, I am confident that we will grow our business from its extremely strong foundations. As we enter into 2023, we are on the back of five solid years of consistent growth, including 2020.

Graham, the President, is your father, correct? So if Gen3 is a family business, and does the company name come from three generations of Naisbitts? In your opinion, what is the single greatest benefit to being part of a family business? What advantages does this provide?

Gen3 is indeed named after three generations of Naisbitts. Working in a family business has many benefits, but the single greatest one is that it gives us flexibility. It enables us to respond quickly to any number of scenarios that come up either in a daytoday situation or when looking at bigger picture questions. We can adapt without having to go through levels of decision makers that you see in big corporations. If we need something, we get it done.

Additionally, it enables us to have great relationships with our staff members, some of whom have been working with us for 20+ years. I believe that you look after your staff and, in turn,they look after you. Loyalty and trust go a long way.  

For readers who may be unfamiliar with Gen3, can you please tell us about the company? How has it grown and evolved over the years?

My grandfather started the business in 1969 and then Concoat was formed in 1979. Gen3 was formed after selling Concoat to Humiseal in 2005. So we’ve been going officially for over 50 years, but more than 40 years in the electronics industry, and 17 years as Gen3.

The business started in my grandfathers garden shed and has grown into our factory and office unit in Farnborough, UK where we have 21 employees and over 40 distributors worldwide. So, in effect, we are actually 250+ people strong, meaning we have no geographical barriers and we are internationally accessible. We are also proud to be one of the few companies who export into China.

Being around for as long as we have, however, provides itsown set of challenges. We have numerous internal legacystructures that need to be updated and brought into today’s technology. For instance, we are currently overhauling our IT infrastructure to better facilitate communication both internally and externally with customers and ensure all of our documentation is easy to access. It is these changes in our approach that will lead to more success in the future. This same strategy is also in place with the equipment we build, and we currently are investing significantly into R&D to ensure that the products and services we offer are the best they can be.

We’ve read over the years that Gen3 is both a manufacturer and a distributor. What are the main products you manufacture? What caused Gen3 to enter the distribution side? Are you growing that side of the business?

We manufacture equipment to test the reliability in electronics. We focus on surface insulation resistance(SIR), cathodic anodic filament(CAF) testing with our AutoSIR andAutoCAF equipment, Ionic Contamination testing with our CM Contaminometers and solderability testing with our MUST. We also manufacture conformal coating equipment such as dip coaters, spray booths, UV booths and Gensonic stencil cleaning equipment.

We also have a strong distribution network in the UK as it reinforces relationships with our customers and principles. We offer Nordson selective soldering equipment, MB Tech Cleaning equipment, Finetech advanced rework and micro assembly as well as MEK AOI equipment. This is an area of growth we are focusing on as we come out of Covid and the demand for these services increases.  

Gen3 has a solid global reputation for valuing its people, performance and technology. How does this focus help the company be successful? How do you think this helps your position in the market? How does this mindset play into your growth strategy?

Being around for as long as we have is not an accident. We have always prided ourselves on being world leaders in what we do and that will always be a strategy we continue. We have been involved in the writing of industry standards for over 25 years, which places us at the forefront of new technology and requirements from customers.

My main focus isn’t about how good the products are, that is a given, but it is about what the customer wants to achieve, and how we can best facilitate their requirements. We take the approach of: Here’s your problem, we understand it. We know how hard it is and, luckily, we have a product that solves it.

With the recent changes to the IPC J-STD 001, we are seeing many new customers, some who have never heard of SIR testing. We consider ourselves educators to the industry and that is something we building upon to ensure we can offer the best service we can to our existing and new customers.

What strengths does Gen3 provide to customers that make the company stand out from competition?

In my opinion, we have four key standout strengths: experience, knowledge, global support anddevelopment.

Experience: No one has manufactured the test equipment we make for as long as we have. No onehas done the testing we do for as long as we have.

Knowledge: We have a fantastic team of experts from industry leaders (and legends to some) in Graham Naisbitt and Dr. Chris Hunt who look after our standards work, and our inhouse engineers who are all dedicated product specialists and know every detail of the equipment they are building. Our equipment has also undergone several projects with customers and partners that have proven Gauge R&R and approved accuracy and reliability.

Global Support: Our sales & service team and our global distributor network who ensure we support our customers and distributors quickly and efficiently. We want their experience to be as welcoming and helpful as it can possibly be.

Development: We are continuously improving our products and services and have a significant investment into new product research at the moment. The testing we provide is not necessarily simple or easy to do, but we want to provide a service and product that takes the difficulty away from the customer.

What would you like our readers in the electronics manufacturing industry to most know about Gen3?

For three generations, we have designed, engineered, manufactured and distributed our test and measurement equipment into the electronics industry to shield circuits from failure in the field. We are at the forefront of technology and strive to help our customers achieve reliability in their manufacturing processes.