Stalwart Manufacturers Branch Out Into New Product Categories

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Name: Rob Ziv
Company: Almo Professional A/V
Title: Business Development Manager
Overtime: Ziv is CTS certified has nearly 25 years of experience in the sales/management and professional AV and recording industries. He’s worked as an independent recording engineer and has held positions at Global Crossing Conferencing, Premier Technologies, Power Station Studios, and ICB Audio & Video. He holds a B.B.A., Business Administration & Computer Information Systems from CUNY, Baruch College.

What may first appear as a trend by manufacturers towards exiting various markets may actually be masking a larger trend toward expanding capabilities. Recent announcements by industry giants LG , Panasonic, and Mitsubishi may give the impression that companies are cutting back on offerings. In reality, many manufacturers are looking to how they can capture a larger piece of the pie through expanded product lines or drawing attention to the symbiosis between their seemingly diverse business units. By itself, this is not a new trend. But manufacturers are becoming more aware of their own untapped potential and are working harder to get the various elements of their business working in tandem to bring greater value to their customers. Let’s look at just a few of the many examples.

Tripp Lite, a company well known for power management solutions, found its products connected to end-points that required signal distribution and connectivity. After successfully moving into this market, it realized that there are other related items that sit behind displays. So now Tripp Lite the power management company is also Tripp Lite the mount manufacturer. Mounts and a broad product mix are not a big stretch for Tripp Lite, as it has a solid reputation for equipment racks in the IT world and offers ancillary devices from active cooling to secure KVM switches suitable for government server farms.

Milestone AV Technologies owns several brands including Chief mounts, Da-Lite screens, and the equipment rack line Raxxess. It has recently moved toward bringing its synergies together in a number of areas. The website chiefmfg.com, which has long featured Mount Finder and Mount Builder features, has added a Rack Builder. The mount manufacturer can now provide a fully customized rack, pre-loaded with a plethora of cable-, power-, and thermal-management solutions. It can also provide rack elevations showing the third-party equipment of choice.

On the projection screen side of Milestone’s business, Da Lite has expanded its offerings to enable web conferencing via a USB camera integrated into the frame of some of its products. This line, called ViewShare, takes Da-Lite from existing primarily at the end of the signal chain, all the way to the front. Milestone is showing a concerted effort between business units to capitalize on economies of scope as similarities are becoming more evident across the lines. Examples of this include commonalities in Chief and Da-Lite custom design resources along with technologies and features shared between their interactive screens and mounts.

As long as we are talking about companies primarily known for mounts, Peerless changed its name to Peerless- AV to reflect its focus on broader markets. Taking a similar path to Tripp Lite, but starting from the mount side, the Peerless solutions have expanded to include equipment racks, wireless signal distribution with the Peer-Air series, and now Ciil weatherproof displays.

Panasonic has made significant moves toward coalescing business units with the goal of providing a “One Stop Visual Solution.” Starting this past April, Panasonic brought together several of its technology groups under the same leadership and have moved rapidly towards creating a single source for end-to-end turnkey technology solutions. The company has even started providing incentives to resellers to work across multiple lines and bring a broader range of technologies into a project.

So where can someone learn about the expanded single-source options with an objective perspective? Ideally this should be a resource with a broad view of the available options, as well as unique access to details on the strength and shortcomings of the alternatives. In the best-case scenario, this resource is motivated to look at the entire scope of your project, and not just where a few specific boxes may fit in.

Through direct daily communication with multiple manufacturers and access to the bigger picture of what is available in the marketplace, distributors are uniquely qualified to identify appropriate solutions that may not be readily apparent through other sources. The close working relationship with multiple vendors also affords a distributor insight into each company’s nuances and quirks, allowing it to help customers align with the combination of solutions or a single source to best address their specific need. Since distributors provide multiple solutions that can address a project’s end-to-end requirements, they oftentimes look at the entire project scope, not just where a certain box fits in. This allows them to provide unbiased suggestions on multiple options that are sometimes competing based up on the actual need, not based upon what they happen to currently manufacture.

The one area where manufacturers seem consistently challenged as they expand the scope is on how to effectively promote these newer capabilities without drawing attention and marketing resources away from their recognized products. This has resulted in some systems designers missing a competitive opportunity and overlooking what may be the best options available for a project. Perhaps for the next project, consider reaching out to manufacturing and distribution resources to find out what they are doing new and differently from the most recognized product mix. Who knows, this might just be the next competitive advantage.

Rob Ziv is a business development manager for Almo Professional A/V.

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