Jan Sandri, president and a founder of FSR, has overseen the manufacturer's growth from an initial offering of two audio attenuator modules 25 years ago to more than 350 products today, including the newest FSR offering, the feature-laden Pathfinder Series matrix West Paterson, NJ-In the past 25 years, the AV installation industry has expanded in a way similar to how products have changed over that period of time. Where a number of simple modules once made it possible for various pieces of equipment to operate together in a system, there are now more complex offerings that handle more than one aspect of a job. Consultants and contractors too have grown from niche providers of technology into suppliers of complete systems. The modules and niche specialists remain, of course, and altogether these elements come together in an increasingly complex market.
There for every step of this process has been FSR, a manufacturer which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. The company was established when founders Bill Fitzsimmons, Jan Sandri and Charlie Rodriguez (the "FSR" that started it all) realized that they, like other systems contracting companies, were building a number of modules to make systems work. "At that time, we were a part of a contracting firm, so we saw that there was a need for small modules that everybody was making in their own shops," recalled Sandri, who holds the title of president for FSR, a woman-owned business. The company started with two audio attenuator modules, the LDR-1 and the LDR-2.
Ancha Electronics was FSR's first customer, and a collaborative effort with that company, the Hubert Wilke consultancy, and many others has resulted in the more than 350 products the company now manufacturers in its West Paterson, NJ headquarters. FSR's module line is now accompanied by audio combining systems, seamless video switchers, matrix switchers, and an entire line of floor boxes, wall boxes and table boxes.
From the start, Fitzsimmons, chairman of FSR, was the engineering genius who turned customers' needs into products, and today the engineering team still communicates directly with consultants and contractors in its product development. "The consultants and the dealers see the industry evolving, and the products need to evolve with it," Sandri observed. "It's always better to fulfill a need rather than trying to tell people why they should use your product."
FSR actually started out by producing both audio and video products, but the latter were designed exclusively for use in IBM's corporate boardrooms. Then the company continued to evolve with its work for the Marriott corporation, which used FSR's audio room combining systems. Soon, all of these products were offered to the industry at large, and continue to be a vital part of the catalog today.
FSR also keeps ahead of the curve with regards to regulatory issues. A few years ago, the company's UL-listed products all had to be redesigned to meet new requirements for scrub-water ratings. "Our engineering team did such a great job that we not only passed for carpeted floors, we passed for tile and wood floors as well," Sandri said.
Similarly, the company has already reconfigured its operations to be RoHS compliant in anticipation of those regulations being adopted in the U.S. "We were one of the first companies in the U.S. to put in lead-free equipment so that our products could be lead-free, which meant not only buying new equipment, but also redesigning our thousands of printed circuit boards," Sandri said. "That was a huge investment for us to make those changes, and we did it long before any regulations required it. Everything that we can do to save the environment is going to become critical. Whenever we can, we purchase steel that has the most recycled material in it. We make every effort that we can as a manufacturer to try to aim for the green concept."
Of the changes the company has seen over the past quarter-century, service and support are perhaps the most significant issues to come to the forefront. In response to this need, this month FSR launched a 24/7 tech support operation. "It's all about service and maintaining relationships," Sandri emphasized.
This month, FSR will attend its 25th NSCA Expo, a show it has exhibited at since its inception. "At the first few NSCA shows, you could shout across the ballroom to the other exhibitors, and there were only three women working for the exhibitors," Sandri said. "It has really been exciting to see the show grow tremendously with our industry, particularly in education. NSCA has expanded the education courses to reach out to architects, houses of worship, as well as the dealers and the consultants."
As it has grown from two employees to more than 90, FSR has kept more than a few members of its staff for nearly the entire time it has been in business. As a team, the company has learned how to adapt to a changing market. "In our industry, the trends vary from year to year, so you can't forecast the same way you can in other industries," Sandri commented. "You need to be very flexible and fast on your feet."