Manufacturers Forum Addresses Exporting Labor, Standards and Survival of the Dealer

By Alex Gibson

Moderated for the second year in a row by rAVe Columnist Gary Kayye, the panel consisted of Rashid Skaf, President and CEO of AMX Corporation, Mike Jones, VP and General Manager of Barco, Andrew Edwards, President of Extron Electronics Inc., Scott Gledhill, Director of Global Strategy for Meyer Sound Laboratories Inc., and Rick Snyder, President, Americas of TANDBERG.
The event is an opportunity for InfoComm attendees to gain insight into the industry from some of its most influential figures. During the panelists’ opening remarks, they appeared to agree that the simplicity and ease-of-use of products would be of major importance in the market in the next few years. From all of the market niches represented came the same basic idea: the more simple your products and services are to understand, utilize, and execute, the more of those products and services you will be able to sell in the years to come.

A topic of interest to this audience was that of the state of the ProAV dealers five years from now. Rashid Skaf began by explaining his view that there currently are two types of dealers in the industry – those focusing generally on the price point of the products they sell and those focusing on the engineering and design of those products. Skaf made it clear that he believes that dealers must choose their focus and become better educated themselves in order to continue to survive. Scott Gledhill took this point a step further by explaining that dealers generally must choose between high-end and low-end, and that those that attempt to do both will not be able to remain solid.

On the topic of survival, Gary Kayye introduced the idea of China, Inc. to the discussion, asking panelists to comment on the value of companies offshoring jobs to other nations. This often angers and alienates Americans who see the practice as detrimental to themselves, their coworkers, or the American economy. In response to this criticism, Andrew Edwards simply stated to the moderator, “Well Gary, we’ve got to survive.”

The final topic on the agenda was that of standards in the ProAV industry. Sparked by a question from an audience member, the topic was one on which the panelists did not agree. From the start, Edwards expressed his lack of desire to embrace the creation of new standards, explaining that Extron has been built in order to take all of the competing and complicated standards and allow customers to adapt them to their situation. Scott Gledhill expressed the difficulties facing the professional audio market by explaining how there are no real standards to which everyone adheres.

Overall, the forum was an informative and entertaining event that all InfoComm attendees should make a point to attend next year. It will be interesting to see what changes twelve months makes to the thoughts of the industry leaders.