Specialist distributor F C Lane is celebrating its 50th birthday – a great achievement for a privately owned company and one made all the more impressive given the fast changing and constantly developing nature of many of the industry sectors in which Lane operates.
Fred Lane established the business in 1966. He was not new to the electronics industry since, at the time, he was running a division of a sizeable electronic components business dealing in a broad variety of device types.
He discarded this approach for his own company. His decision from the outset was to specialise in connectors, an essential part of practically every electronic product or system ever manufactured.
As the electronics industry rapidly evolved through the decades that followed, the connector industry developed newer, more sophisticated and smaller products to keep pace with and help the industry’s development process. Fred Lane has mapped that progress to ensure ensured his company remains at the forefront of interconnection technology.
F C Lane Electronics represents many of the industry’s leading connector manufacturers as well as manufacturing and assembling interconnection products in-house from its UK facility at Slinfold, near Horsham in Sussex. The company is also well known for operating at the high end of the connector industry working with market-leading customers in sectors which include military, aerospace, motorsport, geophysical and communications.
Currently, F C Lane Electronics holds many Defence, Quality and Supply Chain approvals including ISO 9001, QPL, AS9120, CECC and SC21 and is a certified assembling distributor for Souriau’s MIL-DTL-38999 product ranges.
The strategy is to concentrate on connectors designed to be used in high performance applications and the connector manufacturers that the company represents are testament to this. The best example in the early days was Plessey Connectors, part of the massive Plessey organisation which at the time was a major force across many sectors of the UK electronics industry including defence and communications.
Fred Lane was on hand to step in when Plessey decided to discontinue the production of its Mark 4 and Mark 7 circular connector products and he acquired the rights to the product line as well as the drawings and tooling.
As a result, today’s customers can still specify circular connectors that reflect the Plessey connector pedigree from Lane’s sister Lodge Group company Weald Electronics, established by Fred Lane in 1976.
Today, Weald Electronics is one of the industry’s leading manufacturers of connectors for military and industrial interconnection applications mainly specialising in high performance military circular connectors based on MIL-DTL-5015 and MIL-DTL-26482 specifications.
Like Plessey Connectors, some of the connector manufacturers that FC Lane Electronics represented in its early days are no longer trading. But many still are and the company continues to enjoy long term relationships with industry leading manufacturers including Souriau, ITW McMurdo, Radiall (ex Transradio) and Neutrik.
Over the years, many new franchised suppliers have been added to the company’s “line-card”. These include HUBER+SUHNER, Positronic, Pancon, Nicomatic, Polamco, AVX, Glenair, HellermannTyton and, to this day, FC Lane Electronics remains the sole distributor for Weald Electronics’ products.
This impressive range of suppliers enables the company to operate across many sectors including military, communications, aerospace, entertainment, test and measurement, mining, offshore oil and gas and most recently motorsport.
F C Lane Electronics is able to satisfy such a wide applications spread because the company can supply almost any connector type including circular, filtered, RF, coaxial, D connectors, sub-miniature, IDC, PCB connectors, edge connectors, connectors for rack and panel applications as well as a huge variety of accessories including backshells and adaptors.
For standard products, the size and scope of the company’s multi-million pound inventory means that FC Lane Electronics can offer next day delivery. For custom products, Lane and Weald’s assembly teams can put together specials in reasonable quantities on very short lead times.
This is particularly important to many of the company’s customers, none more so than in motorsport where an instant response is the industry norm.
The company’s most recent development has been the establishment of a specialist Motorsport Division. This is based mainly on Souriau’s 8STA circular connector ranges that are used throughout all types of motorsport, as well as accessories such as nut plates and gaskets from Weald Electronics and heat shrink protection devices from HellermannTyton.
A constant theme throughout the company’s history has been the quality of the people. From the shop floor to the top floor, the distributor has always hired the best talent available and many of the people that work at Slinfold Lodge have been with the company for many years.
Current Managing Director Simon Hammerton joined F C Lane in 1996, while Sales Director Pat Jarman arrived in 1991. Operations Manager Barry Clough is one of the longest serving members of Lane’s team having joined in 1983.
Since becoming Managing Director in 2009, Simon Hammerton has been keen to follow the example of Fred Lane. he has recruited top people and ensured that FC Lane Electronics meets customers requirements. Today, this means allowing customers to purchase via E-commerce.
When Fred Lane established FC Lane Electronics Ltd in 1966, customer contact was either by telephone or in person.
With the arrival of firstly fax machines and then the internet, customer contact has become increasingly electronic.
As well as making sure FC Lane has the right suppliers and stock profiles, the main challenge facing the company 50 years after its beginning is to provide customers with the latest purchasing platform.