New facilities on opposite sides of the globe have confirmed Radio Frequency Systems’ status as a pace-setter in the broadcast industry. A new purpose-built manufacturing center at RFS’s broadcast headquarters in Kilsyth, in Melbourne Australia, became fully operational in January, 2008. Meanwhile, at Haddenham, 125km (78 miles) from London in the UK, RFS has constructed an antenna assembly facility and test range, closely modeled on the larger, 10,000 square meter Kilsyth site.
These cutting-edge facilities have opened at a time of growth and change in the global broadcast industry, initiated by the rapid introduction of digital services. Alternative delivery models, convergence of technologies, and the prospect of mobile TV are fueling further advances. In this fast-moving environment, RFS has undertaken innovative broadcast projects across all parts of the globe—from Vietnam and Indonesia to Brazil and the UK. Such an extensive geographic reach reflects RFS’s determination to provide customized broadcast engineering solutions, backed by advanced technology and premium support, regardless of location.
In recent years, however, the successful implementation of this strategy has applied pressure to RFS’s broadcast group to expand its operations—both at its Australian headquarters and globally. In response, the initial step was to re-develop and expand RFS’s broadcast design and manufacturing headquarters.
Designing ’down under’
According to RFS President Broadcasting, Towers and Defense, Martyn Kemel, a central aim during the design-phase of the Kilsyth upgrade was to ensure optimized work flow at all stages of production. Rather than arranging the manufacturing activities around existing infrastructure, the design team reconfigured the entire site to suit the ideal flow of work in a broadcast design and manufacturing facility. Ease of communications across the site was equally important. At the new Kilsyth facility, design engineers are deliberately located close to the manufacturing area, to foster constant interaction and exchange of ideas.
“We sought input from the entire workforce to optimize the design of the new facilities,” says Kemel. “Through a system of project consultations, everyone had a chance to put their views forward and ensure that any production requirements could be addressed. This process led to the original plans being changed and improved. From the streamlined cleaning and painting areas, to the specially-designed cranes, efficiency and safety have been designed into every stage of the manufacturing process. The result is a purpose-built environment, ideal for manufacturing our entire range of broadcast solutions.”
Kemel says that maintaining full production during the construction phase was a critical requirement. Building contractors were aware that RFS’s manufacturing deadlines took higher priority. “If an antenna had to be tested, for example, construction in that area would be halted until the testing was completed,” he says. “This added to the complexity of the project, but the reasons for this approach were well-understood.”
The new Kilsyth facility incorporates a number of innovative developments to minimize its environmental footprint. Internal walls are insulated to maintain ambient temperature and reduce noise levels, and modern skylights enhance natural light and reduce energy usage. Processes that require water employ recycling systems, and hot water is provided by solar heating. Instead of being wasted, heat from air compressors is diverted to the paint drying area. Such innovations have earned the new RFS Australia facility local awards for its contribution to improved sustainability.
In Europe, RFS’s heavy involvement in the digital switchover (DSO) program in the UK inspired the decision to expand operations in the region. A strong local presence would simplify participation in a project requiring the upgrade of some 1,150 sites across the country. Existing RFS premises at Haddenham afforded an ideal site for the establishment of a broadcast antenna assembly facility and test range.
The design principles of the Haddenham facility were identical to those at Kilsyth. Attention to safety, streamlined workflow and communications were paramount. Opened in April 2008, the new assembly and test facility also serves as RFS’s Europe, Middle East, Africa and India (EMAI) distribution center for switch-frames, combiners, and monitoring systems.
As well as upgrading its facilities at Haddenham, RFS has strengthened its UK-based team of broadcast specialists. In conjunction with the RFS broadcast technical sales and support center at nearby Warwick, this team is able to provide unsurpassed support to clients, not only in Europe, but also across the entire EMAI region.
According to RFS UK Managing Director, Brian Vines, the local RFS engineers worked closely with broadcast experts from RFS Australia throughout the upgrade process. “Following a successful period of technology transfer, we have now developed a strong engineering team here in the UK, with detailed knowledge of the entire broadcast RF chain—including antennas, filters and combiners,” he says. “Thanks to the expertise we have acquired, the RFS UK team not only assembles and tests antennas, but can also provide value-added services such as on-site filter or combiner re-tuning, a common requirement when equipment is re-deployed or upgraded.”
The Haddenham assembly and test range facilities represent a significant step in the development of the broadcast industry in the UK. “Local assembly and testing is reducing lead times, and importantly, the strengthening of the engineering group boosts support in Europe and the wider region,” says Vines. “With the opening of the Haddenham facility, and completion in April of RFS’s first UK-assembled 144-panel antenna, RFS has embarked on a new era in serving the region’s broadcast industry.”
The close ties between the two new broadcast facilities in the UK and Australia have enabled RFS to provide new levels of engineering service and logistical support to broadcasters in both hemispheres. Whether taking delivery of a single antenna array, or a fully-engineered broadcast solution, broadcasters and transmission service providers have access to quicker turnaround times, enhanced delivery profiles, and optimized tracking and reporting processes.
“RFS takes the approach of working closely with broadcast network operators,” says Kemel. “It is important to have resources readily available. This proximity also allows us to better understand the requirements of local broadcasters. With two state-of-the art broadcast facilities providing complementary services from opposite sides of the globe, this latest expansion means access to RFS’s extensive portfolio of broadcast solutions is never far away.”