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The Buzz: Install of the Month:
Gates Corporation

Nov 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Clark Stone

Listeners at the Gates


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As the AV installation market continues to evolve, more and more applications present themselves. Museums and houses of worship are hot, relatively new markets. But rubber manufacturing facilities?

The Gates Corporation turned to Listen Technologies' LS-08 portable FM system to solve its tour group communication problems.

The Gates Corporation, formerly known as the Gates Rubber Company, has been inventing and manufacturing various mechanical and rubber-based products for nearly a century. Gates invented the V-shaped drive belt commonly found in automotive engines. The international company is also an OEM supplier for several major automotive manufacturers. In 1996, Gates became a wholly owned subsidiary of Tomkins PLC.

Bill Medley is the HSE (health, safety, and environmental) coordinator for the Gates manufacturing plant in Siloam Springs, Ark., which is the rubber company's largest R&D and testing facility. In this capacity, the facility often provides tours for other Gates and Tomkins employees, as well as tours for various vendors and prospective clients. The location also serves as a training facility, so clear communication is all the more important.

As part of his duties, Medley is responsible for ensuring that people can hear each other on the factory floor, especially during tours. For that reason, Medley recently chose Listen Technologies' LS-08 portable FM system for tour group communications at the Siloam Springs R&D facility.

Prior to the purchase of the Listen Technologies system, speakers or trainers would conduct a tour carrying around a small amplified monitor and a wireless microphone.

“This caused obvious problems,” says Medley, “such as noise interference from the automated systems on the factory floor and audibility problems caused by ambient noise coming from the machinery. So you had to stand very close to the speaker or trainer, and the people in the back would still have a hard time hearing what was being said.”

In choosing a new solution, Medley had two main considerations: The tour groups needed to be able to hear the speaker, and the wireless frequency used couldn't interfere with any of the automated factory equipment (and vice versa). While price was a factor, as always, for professional applications, reliability often takes precedence. Part of reliability is the quality engineering and manufacturing of a product. Another part of reliability is post-sale or customer support.

Allowing the user to switch between 72MHz and 216MHz, Listen's LS-08 system comes with 15 receivers and a transmitter in one flight case.

Listen's LS-08 portable, rechargeable FM system turned out to be the ideal solution for Gates. Wearing the receivers of the system, tour groups can hear the speaker over the factory noise. And the LS-08 allows speakers and trainers to choose among plenty of frequencies that do not interfere with the automated equipment in the factory.

The LS-08 comes in a briefcase — actually a flight case — that contains all 15 receivers and one transmitter. A single power connection to the case provides recharging capability to every slot inside. The transmitter and receivers all have the same footprint, so any unit in the system can be dropped into any of the holding spaces for recharging and transport.

The units use nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries. Unlike NiCad, or nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries, NiMH batteries have no “memory” that limits their ability to hold a charge; nor do they require a complete recharging cycle to prevent the shortening of their life cycle or their ability to hold a charge. NiMH batteries cost more, but they increase the reliability and longevity of an FM system.

Gates found many system features helpful for its tours. Operating frequencies are selectable between 72MHz or 216MHz, and each band has 57 different frequencies to choose from. The Channel Up/Down and Seek button, as well as access to the batteries, is concealed behind a small lockable door to prevent accidental adjustment. The system can be expanded to an unlimited number of receivers, so as Gates' tours grow, the system can grow with them.

To date, several other Gates facilities have purchased Listen Technologies systems. According to Medley, not only do the products meet their needs and expectations, but almost equally important, so does the level of customer service.


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