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Telecom Market Demands Force RIFOCS to Grow Up Fast


Robert Rickenbach says he never planned to expand his fiber-optics manufacturing business so quickly.

"Our long-range goal has been, and is, to build the company on a solid foundation, where we can be comfortable and provide a secure working environment," said Rickenbach, the founder and president of RIFOCS Corp. of Camarillo. "It has never been our goal to blow up the company fast."

So much for slow growth plans.

To keep up with increasing demands in the high-speed telecommunications market, RIFOCS has more than tripled in size since 1994, from 20 to 65 full-time employees. To accommodate the increasing workload and work force, the company recently moved from a 12,500-square-foot office and manufacturing facility at 833 Flynn Road to a 31,890-square-foot site at 1340 Flynn Road.

Company officials will show off their new headquarters Friday during an open house.

"The new site enables us to expand our product offering," Rickenbach said. "Every year we bring out three to four new products, and this will enable us to continue to grow with the needs of the fiber optics market. The market itself is exploding so fast, and we have grown much faster than we ever thought we would."

Rickenbach and his wife, Iris, founded RIFOCS in 1990 as an importer of high-end fiber optic connectors and a manufacturer of fiber-optic components. After establishing the company in the high-tech arena, the couple soon expanded the scope of the business to cover the manufacturing of fiber optic test and measurement equipment.

"Our clients primarily are component manufacturers supplying the telecom industry, and they ask for our test equipment and for our connectors," said Rickenbach, formerly an engineer for Photodyne. "The name of the game is to supply them quick, quick, quick, with the advent of Internet and media conferencing throughout the nation and the whole world."

As use of the Internet, modems and other high-speed communications systems has increased, Rickenbach said, there has been a corresponding increase in demand for test equipment.

"We forecast five to six years of demand for more information, faster information and less cost," he said. "Over the next five years, all networks will be building out to capacity. I think it will not stop until every home has enough data capacity, to the point that when you retrieve Internet data, it comes as quick as it would from your own hard drive. Testing is a key factor, because as we put more and more information on optical fiber, it has to be more and more precise."

While RIFOCS continues to benefit from more common high-speed communications uses, the company recently has targeted the avionics industry as well, Rickenbach said.

The company is working with the Boeing Co. as the aircraft company installs fiber optic-based entertainment networks into its commercial Boeing 777 fleet. The networks allow airplane passengers to have individual video screens. RIFOCS developed the test equipment for the project.

"By no means are we directing the world in fiber optics," Rickenbach said. "But I believe the way we've been able to grow, by responding to customer needs and being fast on the market with new products, has put us in a good position."

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