RICHARD STEVENSON SALES DIRECTOR AT UNILITE

Richard Stevenson is the sales director at Unilite. He’s worked for the company for over 10 years and has a wealth of experience in his field. He is the main sales contact at the company, with a national remit.

 

Tell us about Unilite.

We are a well-established portable lighting brand founded in 1981, headquartered out of Redditch, West Midlands. We are known across the industry for producing high quality portable lighting that can be trusted and relied upon. Our reputation is one of innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction.

Our bread and butter is portable lighting, so the likes of head torches, inspection lights and site lighting. We also have a few unique product lines such as our rechargeable signal light, which replaces the old bardic lamp. This has three separate colours, Red, Amber & Green, available in both a solid and flashing mode. This is a product that is already used within industry and we expect it will be used extensively on the rail.

Across the board all our lighting is built tough with quality construction materials and high IP ratings. We also use quality chip manufacturers such as CREE, which deliver consistent and reliable lighting for both flood and spotlights, depending on what you need.

In addition to our work light range, we also have some more traditional torches and searchlights, for that long distance lighting. These are all portable and can fit inside most pockets. Some of the latest ones can also take disposable batteries as well as being rechargeable, so very useful when you’re looking to reduce downtime.

As well as lighting, we’ve also moved into some additional carry essentials such as: tape measures, safety glasses, cutters and gloves, all carrying our tough build quality and finished in our iconic high vis yellow colour.

We are constantly pushing greater technological advancements and development. This is based off customer feedback and our own experiences. This proactive approach has enabled us to stay on top of our game and deliver what our customers want.

One of our core strengths is our unwavering dedication to safety and compliance. We rigorously ensure that our products meet the stringent safety standards and regulations in various industries, including the rail sector. This commitment to safety has made us a trusted and reliable partner for professionals who depend on top-notch lighting equipment. The company has ISO9001 certification as well as other
safety standards.

In addition to this, we have a very distinct high vis yellow brand, which is put onto our products, helping them to be seen and enhancing user safety.

 

What is your role within Unilite?

My role within Unilite is as the Sales Director, where I hold a pivotal position in advancing our company’s presence and success in the rail industry. I lead our dedicated sales team, orchestrating our sales strategy to meet and exceed our growth targets, while ensuring that we are aligned with the specific needs and challenges of the rail sector.

In the rail industry, building and sustaining strong client and partner relationships is crucial, and I take that responsibility seriously. This involves not only understanding the unique requirements of our rail clients but also staying attuned to the latest industry trends and market dynamics.

As Sales Director, I play a crucial role in identifying new opportunities within the rail sector, from innovative product offerings to strategic collaborations. I am constantly meeting with rail organisations to get product feedback and to give demonstrations, as well as attending various special events for the industry.

Ultimately, my aim is to contribute to the rail industry’s growth and development by helping Unilite deliver top-quality products, while also enhancing our position as a trusted partner within the rail community.

 

When did you join the company?

I’ve been with Unilite for over ten years now and have learned so much about the industry. During my time with the company, I’ve had the privilege of gaining extensive knowledge and witnessing first-hand the remarkable evolution of Unilite’s products and services.

Unilite is not just a workplace; it’s a community of dedicated and passionate individuals. What stands out the most is the warmth and friendliness of the team. Working with such a supportive and
collaborative group of professionals has made every day a rewarding experience. The culture here fosters a sense of belonging and a shared commitment to our mission. It’s a great place to work!

 

Which sectors do you work in?

We operate within a diverse range of industries, including mining, trades and manufacturing. At the heart of our offerings is a commitment to innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction. This commitment has solidified our reputation as a trusted brand in the field of portable lighting.

The rail industry is one of the key sectors we serve, where our lights are designed to meet the specific needs of rail professionals. From inspection lights to head torches and site lighting, we offer a comprehensive range of lighting designed to excel in challenging railway environments.

Beyond the rail sector, our products are used a lot in the trades and you do find a lot of crossover between the two industries.

 

How has technology developed since you started in the industry?

Over the past decade, since I started in the industry with Unilite, technology has advanced in remarkable ways. These developments have had a significant impact on the portable lighting solutions we offer to the rail sector.

One of the most notable advancements has been in LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology. LED lighting has become more energy-efficient, durable, and versatile. This technology has allowed us to create lighting products that are not only brighter but also have longer battery life, making them ideal for extended use in the rail industry. The transition to LEDs has also improved the environmental sustainability of our products.

Additionally, advancements in battery technology have been instrumental. Lithium-ion batteries, for instance, have become more compact, lightweight, and capable of providing extended power to our portable lighting devices. This means rail professionals can rely on our products for longer periods without worrying about frequent battery replacements.

Another significant advancement in the last decade has been the improvements in product design and materials. We’ve focused on making our lighting solutions more ergonomic and user-friendly. This has involved refining the form and function of our products to ensure they are easy to handle and operate in the rail environment. We’ve also made strides in using more durable materials, ensuring that our lighting equipment can withstand the wear and tear associated with rail work. These improvements have led to greater user satisfaction, as our products are not only brighter and more efficient but also more comfortable to use for extended periods.

Furthermore, there have been significant improvements in ruggedness and durability. Our lighting has evolved to withstand harsh environmental conditions and rough handling in the rail industry. Products have high IP ratings across the board to ensure they keep working, even when used in the worst of the British weather! This durability ensures that our lights are reliable tools for rail professionals, even in challenging situations or simply in dark spaces such as cupboards and lofts, which is where a reliable and tough lighting brand like ours really shines.

We also serve the needs of industries and manufacturing facilities, providing reliable lighting for inspections, maintenance, and other tasks. We are currently supplying to some of the largest companies in this field. Our products are well-suited to meet the demands of these industrial environments.

Additionally, we also cater to the emergency services, offering durable lighting to police, fire, and rescue personnel. In critical operations, our lighting products contribute to safety and efficiency, enabling these professionals to carry out their vital duties.

 

What challenges have you faced in the industry?

We’ve encountered specific challenges that are unique to this market. First and foremost, the stringent regulatory framework governing the rail sector has been a significant hurdle. Rail safety standards are paramount and ensuring that our portable lighting products meet these exacting requirements has been a continuous and rigorous effort. We have a dedicated legal and compliance department here that ensures all products meet these high standards as well as monitoring any changes within the regulatory framework.

Furthermore, intense competition among lighting equipment suppliers in the UK rail market has driven us to differentiate ourselves through innovation, product quality, and impeccable customer service. Providing tough, high quality lighting solutions that cater to the specific needs of rail professionals has been a key focus.

The economic and environmental fluctuations in the UK also impact the rail sector. Economic conditions, government policies, and environmental considerations can influence the demand for rail services. We must remain agile and responsive to these changes while upholding our commitment to sustainable practices.

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing the rail industry?

Undoubtedly, one of the most pressing challenges currently facing the rail industry is the recruitment and retention of skilled personnel. This multifaceted challenge involves several critical aspects.

Firstly, there’s a growing concern about the aging workforce within the industry. Many experienced rail professionals are nearing retirement age, taking with them a wealth of industry knowledge and experience. As they retire, the industry faces the significant task of finding capable replacements.

Simultaneously, there’s a noticeable shortage of skilled labour in the rail sector, which makes the recruitment and retention of individuals with specialised skills, such as rail engineers and technicians, a daunting challenge. These roles demand extensive training and education, and they are in high demand across various sectors, making it challenging for the rail industry to secure and retain such professionals.

Additionally, the challenge is compounded by high turnover rates, particularly in entry-level and intermediate positions. Factors such as pay, demanding work conditions, irregular hours, and limited growth opportunities contribute to this high turnover. This dynamic further compounds the overarching recruitment and retention challenge.

Safety is, of course, of paramount importance in the rail industry. The recruitment and retention challenges directly impact safety standards. A well trained and experienced workforce is vital for ensuring safe operations. However, the prevalence of high turnover and the shortage of skilled personnel can potentially compromise these safety standards.

 

What’s next for Unilite?

We’ve recently launched the MTB site light which is powered by multiple power tool batteries, such as DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee. This has been very well received, so we are looking to expand this technology into a few new site lights.

In addition, there’s a whole host of new product lines we are looking to bring out that will be perfect for the rail. These will incorporate more efficient battery technology, allowing the lights to work for longer whilst delivering the same outputs.

We are also looking to incorporate an App, so that some of the lights can be monitored and controlled remotely on a mobile phone or tablet. Its exciting technology and we’re interested to see if it can help rail professionals.

In addition to the lighting range, we are going to continue to expand our other product offerings. These will follow the same successful blueprint of great build quality and reliability as the rest of the
whole range.