20 YEARS AGO IN THE INDUSTRY
Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM
Editor's Note: As part of S&VC's 20th anniversary, we're bringing you “20 Years Ago in the Industry,” a retrospective glimpse of the industry and S&VC through the eyes of industry notables. This month S&VC spoke to Andrew Edwards, Extron Electronics president and chairman of the board.
How has the market evolved in the past 20 years?
Twenty years ago, we were dealing basically with the IBM PC with what I would consider nowadays low-resolution video signals. Since then resolutions have really gone up, which then drives the need for higher-performance products. The increase in the number of signal sources and formats has put requirements on us to increase the flexibility of our products and required a higher number of inputs for us to switch. Then customer expectations have gone up. You have larger system integration requirements, multiple room systems, multiple locations. I've seen a lot of change over 20 years. It has given rise for us to expand into more categories of products.
How has your business changed?
I think it's been a tremendous increase in the number of products that we come out with or have come up with over the years. That has caused it to be more difficult for us to keep our dealers and consultants up to speed on the products that we have, which has increased the need for education and training. So from there we have new international markets that we have developed over the years: an office in the Netherlands, an office in Japan, an office in Singapore. That brings into play the local language and the customer support in that area, which means the support from us here in the U.S., the support of those offices. So that's been a big business change. We are in the process now of expanding our warehouse in the U.S. to include a warehouse office in Raleigh, North Carolina. Then that brings into play higher product volumes and increases in production requirements. So that's been a change that we've had to master and work with, which has also meant capacity expansions — in other words, an increase in the size of our manufacturing capabilities. We've been concentrating on nailing down the basics in our areas of quality manufacturing.
What issues does your business face today?
We're concerned about overexpansion in our dealers, and I tend to see a little bit of the desire to move out of the area in which they're strong, which puts financial pressure on the dealers. It puts pressure on them — the heart of a company is the employees that make up the company, and when you overexpand, then finding good employees that will be able to carry out your mission becomes an issue. In the industry, there's a mixture of box-sales mentality, which is one type of business. Internet sales is another approach. Integration is another approach — working all these together to where dealers are able to identify. I have some concerns about our distribution: identifying what their core business is and focusing on that long-term. We're in a slowdown right now. This industry has hardly ever seen a real recession. I'm concerned about the employees who are affected in the industry by companies that go down or have to downsize, for whatever reason that might be — overexpansion or for whatever reasons. The other big issue that I see is the convergence of the IT industry and those technologies. I see a lack of integrity in the specifications, I see overspec'ing of products that's confusing to those who might be looking at purchasing it, and I don't see a great amount of integrity in that area.
Where do you see the industry in the next 20 years?
The new technologies need to coexist with the old technologies. Change is not that rapid, and I think this is true with the integration of A/V products into the IT side of the world. Technology has not advanced. I see a long time down the road before the advancement will be where everything goes to the network. We see the network as another source. Dealers are going to continue to need to provide value-added services — in other words, more than just selling a box. There has to be a reason for the dealer to be selected. I feel like there's a certain amount of security in knowing the integration of the product and being able to integrate the products and properly install them. I see the need for dealers to continue to keep that in the forefront. I see the need for them to expand their continuing education from the past but also into the new world of the IT side. Networking will absolutely be a necessity. I see this being an area that's going to be playing in the future. There's a desire to deliver video over a network; I see it as another source. But high-resolution computer video — I see it being down the road. There will be some of it, but the technologies are not there yet. There's much more need in the industry from the customers that our dealers will be delivering solutions for, in the area of monitoring and control of rooms, systems, displays. I see that as being a focus for the industry over the next 20 years.
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