The fine and humorous literary works of Mr. Douglas Adams have been a guiding force ever since my first reading of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy more than 20 years ago. Plenty of science fiction writers are credited with predicting technological trends, but Adams did so with works that were less cyberpunk and more tea-sipping wit. In short, he made very palatable the notion that our world was changing forever by intoning, "Don't Panic."
I've been listening to the audiobook version of The Hitchhiker's Guide (read by Stephen Fry, you really must check it out) time and time again over the past two years, and I get giddy every time the narration refers to a public address system referred to as "a Tannoy." Everyone in our industry knows that in the U.K. a Tannoy is one of those appropriated brands like Scotch tape or Kleenex. But this is a work of fiction that spans cultures, and "the Tannoy" referred to throughout is certainly quite comprehensible within the context.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to share my giddy Douglas Adams enthusiasm with the keepers of the marvelous, historical Tannoy brand and legacy at the manufacturer's headquarters outside of Glasgow, Scotland. Those readers familiar with my passion for single malt scotch might guess my elation at being invited by Tannoy to visit their homeland, and in fact, I did enjoy a life-changing distillery adventure arranged by the kind and accommodating Graham Hendry, vice president of Tannoy parent T.C. Group's Application Engineering and Training (AET) division and Abbey Masciarotte, regional marketing manager for Tannoy North America. You'll be hearing stories about my trip to Islay for years to come, I assure you.
But I digress. On my factory visit, I had the pleasure of taking a manufacturing tour with operations manager Gabriel O'Donohue and then took lots more notes during interviews with director of R&D Dr. Paul Mills, director of engineering Philippe Robineau, and design and development manager Stuart Wilkinson.
I probably mentioned Douglas Adams and his "Tannoy" name-dropping a hundred times throughout the day, but it was in my interview with managing director Andrzej Sosna where my enthusiasm was gamely reciprocated. "They have a Tannoy on the Heart of Gold," he enthused. It's much like having your brand featured in a James Bond film (Tannoy marketing, make note, and I'd like a tour of the set, please).
All this talk occurred within the Coatbridge factory that opened in 1976, 50 years after Tannoy was founded, and some 30 years after the company debuted its industry-altering coaxial loudspeakers. The facility is currently in the midst of renovations, and the changes aren't just cosmetic. ISO certification is the goal, and processes have been streamlined and documented for years in anticipation of this achievement.
Efficiency was evident across the assembly line and testing facilities, but also remarkable was the human element that drew me to Tannoy in the first place. Employee dedication is everywhere present in the organization, with a great many staff approaching 30 years with the company.
In tandem with the renovation and ISO certification upgrades, Tannoy is working to carry the brand's legacy and its personnel's devotion to it into the future. New team members are apprenticing on the factory line, and top-level conversations are focused on innovation. There is a big story to tell here, and I'll be writing a profile of the company for SCN's special March Audio Issue. Stay tuned to read my analysis of what I learned on my Tannoy visit.
Meanwhile, listen for announcements over the Tannoy and Don't Panic.