As the owner of REDARC Electronics for over 20 years, the story of Anthony Kittel is an interesting one. Built on foundations of a dedication to customer service, innovation and continual improvement, Anthony's drive and dedication has set the tone for what has been a successful growth period for REDARC and its teams. Find out more about his story here.
What were you doing before REDARC, how did you come to be a part of the business?
Going right back to the beginning I was born and raised in Port Augusta. During my high school years, I often spent my holidays working at my Grandfather’s garage in Hawker, South Australia. I learnt a lot about running a small business and customer service from my Grandfather, Fred Teague, during these early years. When I left school, I started work as a Cadet Engineer with BHP Steel in Whyalla. Over the next five years I studied part time completing a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the South Australian Institute of Technology.
In 1991 and ‘92 I studied a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and graduated from the University of Adelaide. I then moved to ROH Wheels, firstly as a Project Engineer then the Manufacturing Manager. Shortly after I was promoted to General Manager of the Aftermarket Wheel Division.
I worked at ROH Wheels for five years before the opportunity arose to buy REDARC in 1997. This was in partnership with my wife, Michele, and her Father, Denis Brion following the premature death of REDARC’s founder, Mr Bob Mackie. In 2002, Denis retired, and Michele and I purchased 100% of REDARC.
Denis Brion and Anthony attending an industry expo
What were the early days of REDARC like, how did you plan to get the business back on track?
It was a tough initiation into small business. We put everything on the line to make it a success – mortgaged our home, sold a car and borrowed some money to make it happen. The business when we bought it was not in the best shape due to declining product quality. We needed to restore customer confidence, trust, and build the REDARC brand.
The original 8 REDARC employees
The mantra we adopted was ‘The Customer is King’. We focussed heavily on listening to our customers and delivering the innovative products that they needed. This was successful and we started to grow rapidly from the Year 2000 with ten staff in the business. The next five years saw REDARC grow at 20% per annum.
What have been some major milestones and achievements in the REDARC timeline for you?
I’m really proud of our team and there have been numerous milestones and significant achievements for me at REDARC.
In 2002, we decided to establish REDARC Technologies and invest 15% of our revenue into Research & Development. It was that year that we released the Smart Start Dual Battery Isolator (SBI12). We were awarded the Telstra SA Small Business Award in 2005, our revenues had reached $5 million and we were employing 34 staff members. We were lucky enough to be awarded a $1.6m Government Grant in 2006 to assist us in building our new factory which we’re still located in today. In 2009 and ‘10, we were first featured on TV in Pat Callinan's 4x4 TV series, Pat Callinan’s 4x4 Adventures.
REDARC was nominated and won the Telstra Australian Business of the Year in 2014, and we reached our target of $25 million annual revenue with 100 staff. In 2015, we acquired the Newcastle electronics manufacturer, Hummingbird Electronics, to further expand our product range and engineering design capabilities.
Being awarded the 2014 Telstra Australian Business of the Year
Since 2018 we have opened our significantly expanded REDARC manufacturing facility. The expansion more than doubled the size of the facility and we were able to invest $21 million in the building, and new high-tech manufacturing and testing equipment to go with it. We celebrated 40 years of manufacturing in 2019. 40 years is a significant milestone for any business especially in this global economy and we are very proud of it. Most recently, in 2020, we partnered with and adopted the iconic Australian Made logo on our products which was very exciting.
What are some essential factors that make REDARC the business it is today?
If I had to choose three; they would be our REDARC team, our continuous innovation and new product development, and our dedication to excellent customer service.
What are your thoughts on the 4WD and caravanning industry currently?
I think there is strong growth opportunity over the next ten years. It is great that it is being embraced more and more by younger people who are breathing new life and expectations into the industry. I love the innovation in the sector and the high-quality products that are being manufactured right here in Australia.
Do you have a favourite REDARC product or one that you are particularly proud of?
I think the Tow-Pro Electric Brake Controller would be my choice as it has patented technology and is the world leader in the brake controller industry. I’m really proud of our team, led by Timothy Fosdike, that developed the electric trailer brake controller as it was a space that was void of innovation for many years. Our product has raised the bar for brake controllers significantly and encouraged a flurry of competition in the industry in recent years.
The iconic Tow-Pro Elite
Where do you see REDARC in 10 years?
I see REDARC as a global brand, highly respected for our quality, innovation and performance in the sectors that we play in, including Caravan and RV, Automotive, Trucking, Defence, and eMobility.
What do you like to do to unwind on the weekend?
I love walking and hiking in the hills or at the beach. Walking Mt Lofty in Adelaide's hills area is one of my favourites, it’s such a great high intensity workout in a beautiful setting. In the last week I saw five kangaroos and a couple of echidnas just twenty minutes from home.
I enjoy a good BBQ with family and friends with a nice bottle of Barossa Shiraz. I also love getting away to the Yorke Peninsula and catching some blue swimmer crabs, fishing and relaxing with the family.
What would your dream 4x4/rig be?
Toyota, diesel, V8, custom engineered and accessorised to the max.
Where’s your favourite/ideal off-grid travel destination?
There are too many to choose from, I’ve always enjoyed the Coorong, Flinders Ranges, the Kimberley and Pilbara to name a few. But I think my choice would be Coopers Creek, as one of the most famous rivers in Australia it was the site of the death of the explorers Burke and Wills in 1861.
To find out more about REDARC's evolution and Anthony and Michele Kittel's ownership you can read about our story here.