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Solution sales: single and multi brand product sourcing

Among the integrator community opinions vary considerably regarding the desirability of sourcing all products in a solution from a single brand family – but what are the ‘true’ pros and cons? David Davies sought perspectives from two leading manufacturers – as well as a prominent integrator.

Core Brands – ‘Seamless, connected solutions’

Core Brands engages in the audio, control and power management business segments which serve the residential, commercial and professional market spaces. Its brands include ATON, ELAN, Furman, Panamax and SpeakerCraft.

According to Joe Lautner, director business development, “the convenience of a single point of contact can benefit integrators, with regard to both convenience and programmes. In our US market, Core Brands sells directly to dealers, and our Dealer Rewards Program provides substantial benefits to integrators who carry more products from our brands. Outside of the US, we sell through distributors and, depending on the market, they carry many or all of our brands. We work with them to be the in-market single point of contact for dealers – both for products and for training. And our cross-brand solution still provides benefits. For example, our Auriel multi-room audio and control chassis is based on the ELAN Control Platform. This made it easier for us to integrate Auriel’s new internal audio streaming into the new ELAN 8, which in turn, makes it easier for dealers to install.”

However, Lautner emphasises that “it’s essential that any multi-brand or ‘group’ approach does not mistake quantity for focus. We spend a lot of time listening to our integrators and distributors, and creating solutions that help them deliver the best possible connected home to their clients.”

Understanding how various needs correlate and then delivering solutions that enable reduced installation time and fewer integration issues is pivotal, says Lautner: “For example, take system controllers, distributed audio controllers and amplifiers – three categories that are very important to us. Our expertise in these categories informs the design of our power conditioning products so that the conditioners do the best job at improving the longevity of the controllers and performance of the amps. Again, it’s not about just ‘covering the bases’, but providing seamless, connected solutions.”

Harman Professional – ‘Giving integrators confidence’

Harman Professional Solution is a leading manufacturer of professional audio, video, lighting and control systems from brands including AKG Acoustics, AMX, BSS Audio, JBL Professional, Martin, Soundcraft and Studer.

Explaining the benefits of a ‘one-group’ approach, Harman Professional Solutions’ director of systems applications, Paul Chavez, says: “Integrators want to implement systems as quickly, efficiently and reliably as possible. If they have systems that are already compatible and engineered to work together it gives them confidence they can be installed and operate without a lot of tweaking. Ultimately, this means they save time and can be more profitable. Additionally, systems that can be implemented faster and more reliability won’t require as many service calls because they are more stable.”

In any case, maintenance can be eased by taking a seamless approach to brand selection: “When programming a system and tying multiple pieces of equipment together, the ability of remote monitoring to see what needs to be fixed is a major benefit. This ease of use will make servicing a system fully integrated much simpler and faster to diagnose and repair.”

In terms of general demand from integrators for one-group solutions, Chavez believes that “we are still in an age of high complexity of incompatibility. Integrators will always have the challenge of customising the system for the end-user, but not having to put together unlike pieces that aren’t really designed to work together will save significant time. Integrators are looking for something that is designed to work together so the implementation can focus on the customer and less about getting the pieces to work together.”

Feltech –‘The right product for the job in question’

Based in St Albans, UK, award-winning integrator Feltech offers a wide range of services in the audio-visual systems, broadcast, systems design, installation and maintenance sector. The Feltech team specialises in turnkey audiovisual solutions, from concept through to design, equipment supply, installation and maintenance.

For key account director Nevil Bounds, it can sometimes be desirable to take all the products from a single brand family, but in reality it is not a common occurrence. “Of course the manufacturers would love you to do that,” laughs Bounds. “And incorporating products from one group can be useful in the sense that you are going to know how they all work together; the process of integrating them all can be fairly seamless. However, our approach is – wherever possible – to select the right product for the job in question. We are not keen on being boxed into selecting everything from one supplier on the basis of cost. That’s not to say that it cannot be advantageous to be working with a distributor or client who has a good relationship with a certain vendor, and a valuable discount may come out of that. But generally the approach has to be that you look at each specific requirement in each specific project, and then find the very best solution…always.

“The market is changing at the moment, and there is a fair bit of consolidation taking place whereby more brands are falling under the auspices of two or three big groups. I am sure that can be beneficial in some cases, but personally I wonder whether it is possible to be an expert in so many different areas of technology. It’s OK if you obtain the necessary expertise, but I am not convinced that that is always the case.

“As a company our strategy will continue to focus on delivering a bespoke approach for each project – and that includes the new areas of the market into which we are expanding, such as the development of managed services and edit suite facilities, where we have seen a great deal of activity lately.”