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Executive Q&A: Panasonic

Executive Q&A: Panasonic

Projected Forecast

Panasonic’s Art Rankin Discusses Where The Company’s Technology Is Headed

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NAME: Art Rankin

TITLE: Director of Higher Education Sector and Head of Projector Division

COMPANY: Panasonic Solutions Company

OVERTIME: Rankin has worked at Panasonic for 23 years, and has spent more than 15 of those bringing new technologies to customers in the education market.

SCN: What is your position, and what does it entail?

Art Rankin: I am the director of the Higher Education Sector and Head of the Projector Division across all our major market segments, including education, house of worship, healthcare, hospitality, government, and commercial enterprises. My job consists of spearheading overall strategy, sales efforts and product development for the broad range of Panasonic Solutions Company products within the education market. This includes projectors, displays, mobile computers, and media production equipment.

SCN: You have a long history with Panasonic. How will that influence your new position at the company?

AR: I’ve been with Panasonic for more than 23 years and have created and maintained many positive relationships with customers and partners since coming to the company. Over this time, I’ve focused on understanding the customer’s needs and then building solutions to address them. That philosophy will play a central role in this new position.

From this experience, I believe I know the company and products well enough to accurately assess the best products for our customers.

SCN: What in your past experience will aid your work with the higher education market?

AR: Prior to this new position, I was a national sales manager at Panasonic. In this role, I managed a team of 17 sales executives and worked with channel partners to launch innovative and successful customer deployments. I also worked closely with educational institutions across the United States, assisting them in adopting and deploying innovative Panasonic solutions that best fit their needs. Of the 23 years working at Panasonic, I spent 15 years bringing new technologies into the education market, so I feel confident in my ability to effectively deliver the current and future needs of the customer.

SCN: What are some of the greatest challenges facing the higher education sector today? How can Panasonic’s technology help?

AR: We think IT and AV budgets are a big issue right now. Many colleges are focused on maximizing technology investments by deploying solutions that offer the optimal combination of performance, low total cost of ownership (TCO) and high return on investment (ROI). We help our customers achieve these goals by engineering products that meet their needs. For example, our projectors offer long lamp life, auto cleaning filters, interchangeable lenses, and future-proof features to make upgrades easier and less costly. These features keep maintenance to a minimum and reduce the inventory of parts needed to support a customer’s deployment. We design our products keeping TCO and ROI in mind—something we feel is a major factor when deciding what company to work with.

SCN: In addition to your work with the education market, you will be heading the Projector Division across all markets. Have you seen an increased demand for projectors in any particular market recently? What in the market do you think is driving that demand?

AR: The economy is in a tough place, which has a lot of people rethinking their careers. As a result, our educational institutions are seeing an influx of people trying to learn new skills. At the same time, funding is being cut to these institutions, so they need to find new and smart ways to do more with less. As a result, they are turning to technology. The right technology solutions can allow schools to reach more students in an impactful and cost-effective way. Not surprisingly, we see this as a growth market for our projectors business.

SCN: Where do you see your market heading?

AR: We see the market heading more towards 3D, not just from a consumer perspective, but also from a business standpoint. 3D technologies create an immersive experience that will allow educational institutions to more effectively communicate complex concepts, ultimately improving the teaching experience. Whether it’s showing a medical school student how to successfully complete a procedure or highlighting particular plays after football practice, 3D is beginning to play larger roles within various markets. We’re noticing a 3D buzz within the higher education market and we will do a lot of investments and partnerships with various companies across the country as this concept becomes more of a reality.

We also see the market heading towards more eco-friendly products. There is a growing demand for products with the ability to enhance the technology experience, while being environmentally friendly.

SCN: What are your short- and long-term goals?

AR: One of our short-term goals is to make sure we continue supplying the best and most cost-effective solutions and customer service for our customers. This is something Panasonic prides itself on, so it is important to maintain that positive image. A long-term goal would be to obtain new customers across all markets. It’s important to reach out to potential customers and address whatever problems they may have with their current solution. There is a lot to offer here at Panasonic. It’s really a matter of continuing to get out there and highlight how Panasonic offers a better overall solution.

SCN: Are there new initiatives we are likely to see from Panasonic?

AR: We are constantly searching and developing new products, services and solutions to support customers in government, healthcare, education and a wide variety of commercial enterprises. Our number one priority is supporting our customers and for this reason we will be working to increase our communication with our customers and make adjustments to our programs and services as needed.

We plan to introduce new technology that will improve both picture quality as well as total cost of ownership. In addition, our commitment to the environment will continue to play an important role as our new projectors will include eco-related features designed to reduce power consumption.

While we look forward to the future and several new products that will begin shipping in 2011, we are also implementing new initiatives to better support our customers by taking steps to streamline communications and by providing ‘live’ and U.S. based 24/7 technical support. These are just a few examples of initiatives; there are many more under construction that we would like to share in the new year.

SCN: How can systems contractors better position themselves to profit from products and/or services you have to offer?

AR: Systems contractors typically focus on their customer’s primary needs, projection solutions that include dependable performance, flexible operation, and minimal maintenance. The Panasonic projector line-up is broad and addresses those critical requirements with state-of-the-art technology that can meet virtually any application from a classroom to an auditorium. Whatever the market (whether the customer is a school, a business, a church, etc.), spec-in, sale, and ultimate installation of a Panasonic projector solution makes it possible for systems contractors to satisfy end users and at the same time, maximize their time and productivity.