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One-Stop Suppliers

Like most CEOs of AV systems integration firms, John Miceli is always scanning the horizon for new products that can help him design and deliver better client project solutions. But if you're a product manufacturer trying to catch his eye with a new offering ? especially one that's venturing beyond your established expertise ? don't expect to get very far with him on your good name alone. ?Just because a manufacturer makes a great product or two doesn't mean we're going to love everything they do,? says Miceli, who runs Orlando, FL-based Technomedia Solutions. ?I commend companies that have tried to move beyond their niche, but product expansions have to be executed correctly, and products have to be well thought out ? not just conceived in a race to compete. Three-quarters of their vision can't be on competitors and one-quarter on themselves.? Miceli's mindset is one that a growing number of AV gear manufacturers might do well to contemplate. As more manufacturers ? from companies like Harman Pro to Loud T

Like most CEOs of AV systems integration firms, John Miceli is always scanning the horizon for new products that can help him design and deliver better client project solutions. But if you're a product manufacturer trying to catch his eye with a new offering — especially one that's venturing beyond your established expertise — don't expect to get very far with him on your good name alone.

“Just because a manufacturer makes a great product or two doesn't mean we're going to love everything they do,” says Miceli, who runs Orlando, FL-based Technomedia Solutions. “I commend companies that have tried to move beyond their niche, but product expansions have to be executed correctly, and products have to be well thought out — not just conceived in a race to compete. Three-quarters of their vision can't be on competitors and one-quarter on themselves.”

Miceli's mindset is one that a growing number of AV gear manufacturers might do well to contemplate. As more manufacturers — from companies like Harman Pro to Loud Technologies to Barco — try to become more of a “one-stop” source for an ever wider range of AV gear, many are encountering some reticence on the part of those in the distribution channel.

Some manufacturers aggressively pursuing the “one-stop-shop” approach defend it by saying it brings more synergies to project designs and more potential buying efficiencies to contractors and integrators. But while some in the channel concur with that assessment, others, like Miceli, say they're far more interested in the delivering the best solution, even if it still means buying gear the way they always have — piecemeal from specialists who have a long history of excellence in a particular product line — and assembling it into a total solution.

“We want to stick with products and manufacturers that are reliable,” he says. “If a company comes out with a product that's not part of their core, we're not likely to automatically embrace it. The real benefit comes when manufacturers develop products that are designed to work well together, not when they do it to grab more market share.”

At least one integrator, though, sees the value proposition of manufacturers broadening their lines. Bruce Banbury, president of Video Systems of the Carolinas, Charlotte, NC, says efforts by companies like Extron to move into video control systems and Crestron to move into switching gear can be beneficial.

“We think it's great because it means more competition,” Banbury says. “It means the possibility of cheaper systems and the ability to have all gear from the same manufacturer talking together.”

The “Harmanization” model

The manufacturing sector's “poster child” for the one-stop shop mentality may well be Harman Pro. Based in Northridge, CA, the Harman International division has managed to bring seven high-profile brands of diverse pro audio gear under its umbrella. Far from merely collecting disparate brand names, the company has been working to assemble a synergistic mix of products that can be brought to market as a total package. It's an approach that makes sense in a market that puts a growing premium on networkable gear that can be readily purchased, installed, and operated, says Harman Pro President Mark Terry.

“Our model is unique in that we've crafted the concept of ‘centers of excellence,'” Terry says. “At each point in the audio signal chain we have one of the preeminent companies in the business. Each of our brands still functions as a standalone business, but we can come to market with a complete offering of products.”

Having built a stable of seven brands that offer a range of products that fall at multiple points along the price-performance spectrum — allowing users to select matched gear — Harman is now honing the next phase of a long-term total solutions strategy. That, Terry says, entails engineering gear from all of the companies to work more in sync, allowing for easier setup and configuration. Harman's new HiQnet connectivity and control protocol is designed to further enhance the appeal of an all-Harman solution.



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