In conversation with

Andrew Blain, Managing Director of Photonic Solutions

andrew-blainIn June 2017, Panoramic supported the Employee buyout of specialist laser system distributor, Photonic Solutions, based at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. Over a year later, Managing Director Andrew Blain gives his views on the process, prospects for the company and current trends in the sector.

How was your first year following the Employee buyout?

The first year has gone very well. Since buying the company trade continues to grow and we have also been able to consolidate our position in the UK market. Our customers and suppliers have responded well to the new management team. The relationship with Panoramic has been very collaborative and they have always taken an active role in the direction of the business, bringing their wider experience and applying it to Photonic Solutions.

What changes have happened – good/bad?

Every member of the management team, and indeed all the employees, have increased their responsibilities. With the ex-directors leaving the company, our head count dropped and their responsibilities had to be picked up by others. As we all own a share in the business we have a vested interest to make sure that it is a continued success.

What attracted you to doing an Employee buyout?

We felt it was important that every member of the team had a say in the direction of the company. One of the main strengths of our business is the people who run it. Having them invested in the company will be a real positive for the long term future of the company.

What are current and future trends in the photonics industry?

We are seeing a real improvement in the reliability and accessibility of laser systems across the board. Gone are the days when a PhD laser physicist was required to operate and maintain your average laser – the vast majority of these systems are now user-installable out of the box, with hands-free automated operation becoming the norm. We are also seeing the continued rapid growth of using lasers in a wide variety of manufacturing processes.

How worried are you by Brexit?

In general, I think the net effect of Brexit for Photonic Solutions will be fairly flat. There are some obvious concerns, specifically as many of our customers rely on government funding to carry out their research which in turn might have an impact upon their ability to purchase equipment. On the other hand, being the UK representative for many European-based manufacturers will likely increase our importance as a partner, and the role to play in promoting and providing support to their products in the UK.

What are your goals for the business over the coming year?

We have some very ambitious growth targets over the next 18 months. Our plan is to achieve this by growing our current market share whilst also addressing new markets by bringing on new products in related fields. With photonics being such a growing sector, there is always exciting new technology which brings with it real opportunities.

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