An Antidote To Outsourcing

Taking advantage of InfoComm's Anaheim location, Extron Electronics has been running press tours of its headquarters facility. Joining one proved a smart move -- in more ways than one.

Extron has introduced more than 125 new switching, control, distribution, and audio products at InfoComm, and now has something approaching 1,000 employees worldwide. Touring part of the company's facility was more than merely a refreshing change from the regular editor's trade-show beat; it gave me an insight into how Extron has got to be as big as it is, and how it intends to keep growing.

To start with, the company's training rooms are among the most comprehensive I have ever seen at a manufacturer, either inside or outside this industry. As well as theoretical learning, students get the opportunity to participate in real-world AV scenarios such as presentation and videoconferencing.

As a minimum, every one of the company's employees does at least 90 days of training as part of their induction, and much of the content might fall into the category of generic AV, rather than product specifics. Extron is happy to take the risk that it might be training people for a career with a competitor, and clearly that risk pays off: the company has an enviable record of retaining staff.

Moving on to one of the assembly plants, we are greeted with the statistic that although a small number of items are made in the Far East, Extron continues to build 95% of its product line here in Anaheim. Given the sheer size of the offering, this is no small achievement. Yet it gives the company a flexibility many competitors would envy. Tom Owens, Director of PCB Assembly Operations, reckons his team can produce a prototype within 24 hours of being handed the spec by their colleagues in R&D.

For dealers, too, Extron's preference for keeping things in-house brings tangible benefits. A sophisticated telephone inquiry system detects the area code of each incoming call, and routes it automatically to a Sales Engineer for the appropriate region of the U.S., Canada, or Latin America.

Perhaps this is the essence of Extron's success. The company listens to its customers, responds promptly, and speaks the correct language when doing so.

In a world where increased outsourcing so often results in decreased resourcing, that is refreshing indeed.

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