by Mary Bakija
Neutrik’s Pete Milbery Shows How New Headquarters Will Improve Contractors’ Business
NAME: Pete Milbery
COMPANY: Neutrik USA
FORECAST: The complexity and quality of AV must keep improving to meet consumers’ expectations.
SCN: What is your position, and what does it entail?
Pete Milbery: Neutrik’s corporate headquarters, and the majority of its manufacturing, are in Liechtenstein in Europe. Here in the U.S., we distribute Neutrik’s products throughout the U.S. market. Additionally—and equally important—we provide design, sales, and technical assistance to our customers. These include systems integrators, end users, and OEMs. We cover the U.S. by combining our in-house staff with our network of regional representatives located throughout the United States.
As president of Neutrik USA, I am responsible for all facets of Neutrik’s U.S. operation. For example, in conjunction with Neutrik’s global CEO, Werner Bachmann, I decided to expand our business through our relocation to Charlotte, NC.
SCN:How has the move of Neutrik’s headquarters from New Jersey to North Carolina helped its position in the commercial AV marketplace?
PM: Our new North Carolina facility includes a much larger warehouse space, which allows us to stock more of the components that our end users need. In most cases, this will reduce the lead times our end customers experience. Additionally, the logistics of moving goods into and out of our Charlotte location are better than they had been in our prior location. Charlotte has excellent rail, truck, and air services, and there are fewer ice and snow storms here—events that used to shut down our New Jersey operations. The cosmopolitan culture is also a plus.
SCN:What are some of the benefits of the new location for systems contractors?
PM: Our new location allows us to do some things that would have been impossible in the past, due to the space limitations of our old facility. For example, we are building a new training area in our building. We will be able to have significant clients come in, learn about innovations in our product range (and maybe get reacquainted with some products that they might have neglected), and talk directly to Neutrik USA’s staff about their concerns.
With smoother logistics, more products in stock, and a revamped planning organization, we are expecting that systems contractors’ needs will be met better, and more quickly, than had been the case before the move.
SCN:Are there any vertical markets in the commercial AV space that you see growing? What are some ways Neutrik is addressing those markets?
PM: Certainly, high-def broadcasting and projection is changing the market. Consumers are a demanding bunch. When they go to concerts or sporting events these days, they expect great video. The lighting and video spectacles that were optional in a concert tour a decade ago are now required. And the complexity and quality of AV keeps improving to meet consumers’ expectations.
The recent opening of the New World Symphony concert hall in Miami provides a good example of the expanding use, and improving quality, of AV installations. It’s a purpose-built classical concert facility that includes really impressive audio and video capabilities both inside and outside the hall. This is something quite new for a classical music venue. I expect that it provides a taste of what’s to come in future years.
Here’s a possibly unexpected market: hospitals. High-tech scans now often take the form of high-definition video, and the video gets piped around the facility—often using Cat-5e solutions like Neutrik’s etherCON or fiber optics using Neutrik’s opticalCON—so it can be viewed simultaneously by various diagnostic personnel.
We’re seeing increasing implementation of high-def video, as well as really good quality audio, in all walks of life. Maybe in a couple of decades our standard, daily life will feel a bit like walking around New York’s Times Square. We’ll see!
SCN:Where do you see the connectivity market heading?
PM: Not that many years ago, when you thought about AV connectivity, you visualized the standard analog connectors—XLRs, 1/4-inch plugs and jacks, and so forth. Now, while those products are still necessary and are indeed the majority of connectors in the marketplace, it’s practically expected in the larger installations that, at some point, the signals get digitized, packetized, and routed in various ways. So, we’re seeing lots of switches in the marketplace with etherCON built in. We’re seeing an increasing number of audio and video consoles using not only etherCON but also opticalCON to route more data, faster, over practically unlimited distances.
The 24, 48, or 72 audio tracks of the analog era are becoming, as much as I hate to say it, a niche application. Concert tours are playing 100-plus backing tracks to accompany the “live” (and I put that in quotes for a reason) performances. Sequences of recorded audio, video, and lighting control are becoming the norm. I think about what Cirque du Soleil, for instance, is doing in its shows (which use opticalCON fiber optic connectivity to route all that data). It’s truly extraordinary. If history is any guide, what’s cutting edge today will be standard fare a generation from now. We’re already seeing it: etherCON is now a standard in mid-level installations. opticalCON, which just a few years ago was used for only the very biggest events, is now routinely being specified for medium-size facilities, events, equipment, and productions.
SCN:How can systems contractors better position themselves to profit from the products Neutrik has to offer?
PM: There will always be niches for real specialists in their art. High-end analog gurus, for instance—people who know how to make audio sound great, without grounding or RF issues—will always have a place.
Having said that, I expect that systems contractors who become conversant with audio plus video plus lighting control, who learn switching and routing thoroughly, and who master both the copper ethernet and the fiber optic worlds, are going to find a wealth of opportunity laid before them in the years to come. And Neutrik will be there for them. We continue to research the market, to think deeply about connectivity, and to innovate high-quality solutions for AV professionals. We really do consider ourselves to be partners with systems contractors.
Neutrik exists to support AV professionals, and it has been AV professionals’ respect for Neutrik’s quality and innovation, which has kept Neutrik at the top of the AV connector segment. We’re in this together—both of us doing our best to deliver quality, value, and innovation to our clients.
SCN:What should we look for from Neutrik in the year ahead?
PM: Our customers should look for operational improvements coming out of our Charlotte facility. I hope that they also check in once in a while to see what’s new in the Neutrik product range.
Our opticalCON fiber optic line is growing at a very fast pace to keep up with the great ideas that we’re getting from our users. For example, continuity testing has always been an issue with fiber optics. So we developed powerMONITOR to provide real-time signal strength indications. Additionally, we’ve just released a line of cables that includes both power, via our powerCON connectors, and 2, 4, or 8 fiber optic strands. So, systems integrators can transfer 240VAC power and large amounts of data over one cable. The line is called power SPLIT, and it’s doing exceptionally well for us.
I hope that our customers stay current on what we’re offering. Visiting us at trade shows is always a good way to connect. And, if we don’t offer something, tell us! We’ve got a whole team of engineers in Europe whose full-time job is designing AV connectivity solutions. We like to keep them busy!