(Words: Chris Martens; Images: Alan Sircom)
Directly after the Munich High-End show, Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom and I had an opportunity to visit the Rega Research factory on the outskirts of Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, UK. During our visit, we had the opportunity to see how Rega products are developed and manufactured, but more importantly we had the opportunity to talk with a number of Rega staff members—and in particular with company founder Roy Gandy—to learn what really makes the company “tick.”
Some background information will prove helpful. 2013 will mark Rega’s 40th anniversary and over those forty years the firm has grown to become a world-renowned producer of turntables, tonearms, phono cartridges, amplifiers, digital audio components, and loudspeakers—all of them made almost entirely by hand in the Southend factory. Where many audio firms have moved product off shore, Rega has deliberately taken the opposite tack. In short, at Rega the term “made in the U.K.” means precisely what it says—as in “our products are built, in their entirety and right down to the smallest bolt, screw, and lock-washer, in England.” This distinction forms a hugely significant part of Rega’s corporate identity.
We began our tour in Rega’s engineering department, where we learned that the team works in a focused but not overly formal or regimented environment. Instead, collaboration is the watchword for the entire team. Thus, one individual might be given personal responsibility for a specific project (e.g., developing the power supply/speed control module for Rega’s upcoming RP10 turntable), but is also given the freedom to draw in additional team resources as needed. Most members of the engineering team have a significant degree of cross training in one another’s areas of expertise, so that if development problems arise, it is easy to convene brief team meetings to seek out solutions. More so than in many companies, Rega engineers appear to be ready, willing, and able to share their talents when requested, to achieve better overall product outcomes. The team’s commitment to collaboration is palpable.
This sense of collaboration also extends to Rega’s sales and distribution efforts, so that on one wall of the engineering area there is a world map surrounded with photographs of each of Rega’s international distributors. Roy Gandy said the point of the map and photos was to remind staff members that distributors “were members of the extended Rega family” and were, in a real sense, the company’s “life blood.” To better serve its distributors and to make just-in-time product shipments possible, Rega attempts to hold on hand a reasonable quantity of finished stock.