Building on success

Building on success

Jeremy Malies visits Paxton as the access control company shows a new manufacturing facility to the media at its headquarters in Brighton, East Sussex

Arriving early for the event, I begin reading a Bear Grylls book in the mini library within the Paxton rest & relaxation centre at the company’s headquarters to the north of the city. But you wouldn’t need to be a survivalist to prosper in this set of functional modernist buildings and caring environment. The breakfast I had at the in-house restaurant sustained me for the rest of the day. And that is all part of a philosophy of treating staff at every level across the organization with the kind of respect that creates a team ethic I’ve rarely seen in the business world.

The logo is green and the green credentials are impeccable; they are deep-set within the company. Solar panels (south-facing) mean that Paxton is currently self-generating such that it supplies itself with enough electricity to cover at least one month every year. The aim (and this is a company that sets itself demanding targets which it achieves) is to be carbon-neutral. Whenever possible, raw materials are shipped by sea rather than air, and our group of security writers watch excess plastic being harvested carefully on the production line as components are being made.

Staying with green matters or at least the natural world, there is a living moss wall whose insect inhabitants would have fascinated Darwin. A Darwinian awareness of the need for being adaptable to one’s environment characterizes this set of buildings which you could justifiably call a campus.

Our focus today is the Paxton Electronics Centre, a repurposed building that the company has acquired. It now forms an industry-leading manufacturing hub that characterizes Paxton’s continued global expansion amid growing demand from existing and new customers. This is now a cluster of buildings and they can truly be called a campus or technology park from which Paxton manufactures and exports to 63 countries.

The company employs more than 400 people at 12 locations with offices in the US, France, Germany, South Africa, UAE and Benelux. This set of attractive modernist buildings will allow Paxton to continue its planned rapid growth over the next decade which is based around everything from the very first conceptual discussion of innovative game-changing products to assisting integrators with their installation on site.

The new Paxton Electronics Centre is our focus but like the other security magazine writers and publishers in the visiting group, I’m also fascinated by an onsite testing laboratory. It represents a significant investment and will be a focus in this piece. It is a public-facing product test facility and forms a sizable Faraday Cage to keep procedures calibrated.

Presiding over the lab today and surrounded by grey foam cones which I took to be a sound suppressions system is Ray Miller, RF Engineer. He is a senior engineer with something of a high-priest mystique about him. Ray is able to explain complex technical topics involving electro-magnetic compatibility and compliance testing to us in simple terms that we can understand.

This is a theme that runs through the company: later in a talk to us, Adam Stroud (Group Chief Executive) and himself a first-rate communicator, stresses how simplicity lies at the heart of the methods here. There is a simple logical quality to everything from design values to the language used in marketing literature.

More formally, the lab is known as Brighton EMC and it is UKAS-accredited. Other companies come here to test their products at development, interoperability and compliance stages in a reproducible environment. Naturally, Paxton make no claim to be an approval body, but this kind of testing can ease a product’s path to certifications.

A quality I detect in Paxton is foresight. They and other users of the lab can identify product shortcomings and snags early in the cycle so benefiting from time savings, avoiding major redesigns and reducing development costs. “We make decisions that are right for the long term” is a soundbite I note down from Adam’s presentation. At least 50 companies have come here to assess and fine-tune their own products. We leave Ray supervising a vibration test and preparing for a thermal shock test.
Back to Darwin or at least development in the natural world. Apart from the Covid year, Paxton’s turnover has shown impressive year-on-year growth. Crucially, the growth is organic. This is not an acquisitive organization that buys up smaller companies and aggregates their sales into its own reports.

Paxton is growing through excellence in product design, insightful analysis of likely market trends and outstanding support of installers both by phone and in-person. Our group of reporters passes several seminar rooms in which installers are keeping abreast of recent products. Paxton’s route to market is primarily through distributors but relationships with installers are a priority.

This is a company that is truly part of its local community. • Founded in 1985, it is the creation of Founder Tony Ratcliffe who retired in 2022. From a base in East Sussex, he began to realize and exploit the potential of access control not through a traditional key but using a single door keypad reader. Not quite Darwinian this but more of a single conceptual leap by which the way people move around buildings and other premises has been revolutionised.

Sholto Ratcliffe took over upon Tony’s retirement as the Owner, and continues with other executives to oversee the continuing success of Paxton (against a turbulent backdrop in the last few years) and he provides guidance during regular meetings. This is a multi-talented team that works through grassroots development (apprenticeships and scholarships for ambitious young local people) right through to learning from and exploiting manufacturing knowledge acquired in other industries such as the automotive sector with a hiring at senior level. The company comprises a resourceful and combined multifaceted skillset that will continue to flourish.

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