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3 Observations from my first Infocomm Connected as a BDM for Almo

This time last year I was a few months into my role as Business Development Manager (“BDM”) here at Almo ProAV. I had spent the previous 6 years with an AV manufacturer, and we thought it would be an interesting opportunity for me to share some of my insights from seeing the Infocomm show through the lens of a distributor. This year would have been my 2nd show as an Almo BDM, and the plan was for me to do another post-show recap. Well, obviously a lot of plans have changed in 2020. The Infocomm show went virtual as a response to COVID-19, and for the first time we got to see how an event of Infocomm’s size and scope would translate into a virtual space. Here are some of my thoughts.

The Amount of options felt overwhelming – In a good way

If there’s one thing that felt like it wasn’t missing from Infocomm this year, it was the quantity and quality of things to do and places to see. I’ve been to 6 of the live shows now, and at each one I always had a bit of FOMO throughout the entire event. With trainings happening upstairs, events happening in booths throughout the day, and with so much space to explore – it’s easy to miss something good. One feels like they have to pick and choose where to spend their time because one cannot possibly see and do everything. With Infocomm Connected, that feeling was still very much present. There were trainings happening pretty much all day, and with overlapping schedules in some cases. I found myself having to build my daily itinerary each morning to make sure that I could get to as much of the content that I was interested in, and that wasn’t even including trying to carve out time to visit presenter’s microsites and more. 

It’s very Impressive How Quickly So Many Companies Have Been Able to Adjust

When you think about the wheels that were in motion for AVIXA (and really any company) in Feb 2020 and how those wheels had to be so suddenly turned in a different direction – it’s mind-blowing that there was even a virtual show to begin with. For many, Infocomm planning starts in the fall of the previous year. So to be able to re-direct a show of that scale with that energy and put something together in a few months is truly awe-inspiring. Almo went through a similar experience in coming up with the virtual E4 Evolution show this spring, and I can’t say enough for how hard everyone had to work to put that together. I can’t think of any presentation I saw that didn’t have the “current challenges of our COVID-19 world” front and center. New products have been developed, new marketing strategies rolled and new ideas for solving new challenges are ready to go. No one thought we would be here 5 months ago, but none-the-less we’re back to doing what people in AV have always done, which is figure out a way to make it work and make it better.

Nothing Beats the Real Thing

For all of the things that Infocomm did well, it still felt like something was missing. This is by no means a knock on the Infocomm Connected, so much as it is a credit to the standard that the Infocomm live events created. There were some fun features, like playing music between presentations and some fun transitions we moved through the day. But for me, nothing beats the lights and the pounding music and the 50 foot LED displays that you get from a traditional Infocomm event. Audio Visual, more than most other industries, exists to provide people with experiences. It’s these experiences that drive the manufacturers in the industry to build the best products. We can all talk about the great things that various products do, but the real magic is in seeing the finished product of a fully built out AV system. This is my way of saying that Infocomm Connected was a tremendous success and it’ll certainly be interesting to see how virtual tradeshows evolve from here….BUT, I’m really looking forward to walking the show floor in 2021, if possible. There’s nothing better.

Why Audio in the Conference Room is NOT a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

These days, video conferencing is a daily activity. What was once the prevue of only “C suite” executives is now available to everyone in the organization.  Conference rooms are becoming ubiquitous, and come in all shapes and sizes. Small, medium, or large – each size conference room has its own set of challenges that require different types of AV integration products and solutions.

Let’s break this down a little:

  • Let’s start small—AKA the huddle room. It’s estimated that worldwide, the number of huddle room installs will be in the six-figure range over the next few years. Huddle rooms are smaller spaces where AV/IT infrastructure is minimal and BYOD is the norm. It’s a collaboration environment. Folks need the ability to easily connect their computer and share content locally as well as remotely. Biamp has the solution for the huddle space environment, the Devio. A one cable connection from your computer to the Devio is all that’s required. The heart of the system is its’ beam –tracking microphone, which follows the conversation around the room.Crystal clear audio anywhere in the room is possible, thanks to the auto-setup feature which calibrates the mic and audio with the acoustics of the room. Connect a USB camera to the device and HDMI output from the Devio to a monitor and you’re all set. Two models provide interface capability with existing phone systems via the rooms’ phone headset output. The Devio even has a Bluetooth enabled version. AMX also has a player in this space, the Acendo Vibe. Included are JBL speakers and mics and a wide-angle camera to see everyone in the room.

Did you know that Almo Pro A/V offers a SOUND OPTIONS audio sourcing and engineering group? SOUND OPTIONS gives accessibility to favorite audio brands and technical expertise all through a single resource. Learn more here.

  • Medium sized rooms, AKA the “GRANDE,” are the perfect candidate for the Phoenix Stingray. This distributed array auto-mixer features mic-line inputs and can be configured as a stand-alone SIP client. The unit can be daisy-chained to add additional mics. The device can bridge two audio calls from different interfaces, has direction-finding and beamforming software which provides the ability to steer the directionality of the devices’ microphones. Speaking of mics, Phoenix has a number of mics certified to work with the device, such as the AKG CHM 99 hanging mic and the Beyer Dynamic Revoluto RM 30.
  • Large rooms — AKA the “big boy/executive conference room,” requires products like the BSS Soundweb London family of DSP processors is the way to go. The unit can come in a fixed I/O configuration or as a chassis, with a number of signal processors and I/Os in a variety of networked-audio configurations and slots for a variety of input/output cards. Available protocols include Cobra-Net, Digital Audio Bus, Dante, and AVB. The units are configurable through HiQnet London Architect.

Conferencing Taiden, AKG, and Beyer Dynamic are designed specifically for the conference room space that requires chairman/delegate assignments, remote mic control, voting, and can incorporate simultaneous interpretation as well. These systems are found in the conference rooms of Fortune 500 companies worldwide.

Taiden

AKG

Beyer Dynamic

In addition to these solutions, ALMO has the full line of Beyer Dynamic and AKG microphones, Ashly, Atlas, Crown, JBL amplification and speakers, Panasonic PTZ cameras, switchers, and a variety of video distribution options.

Small, medium, large…got a project in the works? Ring me up! We’d love the opportunity to help out!

 

Steve Alexander, CTS, PCVE, CCNA
Business Development Manager 

888-420-2566 x6648  |  [email protected]

 

Direct vs. AV Distribution: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

The Benefits of AV Distribution

“Oh, so you’re the middle man.” With implications of inflated costs and unnecessary complexity, this was the disparaging response from an old acquaintance while catching up after a time apart. Putting aside Almo’s “value add” let’s look at the real financial implications of sourcing equipment; considering both the hard- and soft-dollar costs of a purchase order. Hard-dollars are the unit cost of the equipment and freight. Soft-dollar expenses associated with purchase orders include:

  • The time spent getting quotes.
  • Receiving shipments (and associated work interruptions).
  • Reconciling packing lists.
  • Cutting checks.
  • Balancing the checking account.
  • The process of managing cash-flow.
  • Coordinating returns with vendors.
  • Warehousing and staging equipment until all items have arrived for a project.

Each of these soft dollar items has a direct cost in wages along with an opportunity cost from lost employee productivity. There are numerous studies available on the Internet discussing the costs of issuing a purchase order. Some studies show a range of $35.88 for automated purchase orders to $741 for some manual POs. To find your cost per PO, add up the time spent each week on all of the above activities and divide by the total number of purchase orders.

The following tables compare streamlined purchasing of equipment for a modest project through buying direct from manufacturers versus the same purchase from a distributor. These scenarios reflect actual prices of commonly used equipment. The soft-dollar average of $75 reflects the low-end of actual cost per PO as communicated by our commercial integrator clients. The manufacturer names and model numbers are masked to protect integrators and resellers from this information reaching the end user.

 

Scenario 1) Single Source from an AV Distributor

Qty Manufacturer Description Unit $ Ext $
1 Manufacture A Controller / switcher / amp $3,710.00 $3,710.00
1 Manufacture A 7” touch panel $2,340.00 $2,340.00
1 Manufacturer C Ceiling Mounting Plate for Projector $31.33 $31.33
1 Manufacturer D Projection screen $1,286.76 $1,286.76
4 Manufacturer F Remote Sequenced Power Conditioner $124.97 $499.88
1 Manufacturer F Rackmount Power Conditioner / Sequencer $343.72 $343.72
1 Manufacturer P Projector $2,474.73 $2,474.73
2 Manufacturer P Wall Mount for Displays $200.00 $400.00
1 Manufacturer P Ceiling mount bracket for high ceilings $823.08 $823.08
1 Manufacturer P Bracket assembly $274.73 $274.73
2 Manufacturer P 50” Display $839.78 $1,679.56
3 Manufacturer Q Ceiling Speakers (Pair) $214.76 $644.28
Sub Total: $14,508.07
Freight: $500
“Hard Dollar” Total: $15,008.07
1 Purchase Order (Soft Dollar Average) $75.00 $75.00
Total: $15,083.07

In order to provide a conservative estimate of savings: shipping is calculated to Lebanon, KS – the geographic center of the Continental US. Assumed origination point is a warehouse in Pennsylvania, even though closer options are available. This maximizes the distributor shipping cost in this example.

Scenario 2) Multi-source from Individual Manufacturers

Qty Manufacturer Description Unit $ Ext $
1 Manufacture A Controller / switcher / amp $3,710.00 $3,710.00
1 Manufacture A 7” touch panel $2,340.00 $2,340.00
Manufacturer A Freight: $75.00
1 Manufacturer C Ceiling Mounting Plate for Projector $31.33 $31.33
Manufacturer C Freight: $12.00
1 Manufacturer D Projection screen $1,286.76 $1,286.76
Manufacturer D Freight: $200.00
4 Manufacturer F Remote Sequenced Power Conditioner $124.97 $499.88
1 Manufacturer F Rackmount Power Conditioner / Sequencer $343.72 $343.72
Manufacturer F Freight: $28.00
1 Manufacturer P Projector $2,474.73 $2,474.73
2 Manufacturer P Wall Mount for Displays $200.00 $400.00
1 Manufacturer P Ceiling mount bracket for high ceilings $823.08 $823.08
1 Manufacturer P Bracket assembly $274.73 $274.73
2 Manufacturer P 50” Display $839.78 $1,679.56
Manufacturer P Freight: $280.00
3 Manufacturer Q Ceiling Speakers (Pair) $214.76 $644.28
Manufacturer Q Freight: $85.00
Equipment Total $14,508.07
Freight: $680.00
“Hard Dollar” Total: $15,188.07
7 Purchase Orders (Soft Dollar Average) $75.00 $525.00
Total: $15,713.07

Improving the Margins of Error on Your AV:

What would an additional margin of 1 to 4% do for your business? The above comparison favors using a distributor due to a 4.1% lower cost. This assumes per-unit costs are the same for purchasing direct and from a distributor. In some situations, not all, the per-unit cost for an item may be as much as 3% lower by purchasing direct. Running the above comparison with a 3% discount across all products for direct purchases brings the equipment total down $14,072.83 with a new total of $15,277.83. This is still a 1.3% savings by using a distributor. For the sake of brevity, these scenarios do not include every item necessary for a complete system. If we add in racks, cables, and all the other necessary elements for a complete system, the comparable savings would only increase. Additionally, in order to provide an “apples-to-apples”, the mount manufacturer specified above is constrained to the same manufacturer as the display and projector. However, over 80% of display and projector mounts are not supplied by display or projector manufacturers. As such, real world savings will be greater as more manufacturers are added to the mix.

But Wait, There’s More:

The reduced opportunity cost of streamlined purchasing can also result in productivity gains. This has the greatest implications for smaller firms where most people juggle multiple responsibilities. How long does it take a design engineer or sales person to regain full focus on a project after multiple interruptions by UPS, FedEx, and other freight deliveries for a single project? How much time is spent gathering quotes from multiple vendors only to find any potential savings diluted through increased shipping costs? How many “to-do” items are aging on your list and how would your business grow if more of them were completed? Regaining otherwise lost productivity through streamlined purchasing may allow for faster project completion, additional bid responses, selling more jobs, and greater efficiencies in general.

There may be circumstances where purchasing directly from a manufacturer may save a few dollars – perhaps with a single-item box sale. When considering some distributors also provide equipment staging, simplified communication with manufacturers, more flexible credit terms, technical expertise, and education; the benefits extend beyond streamlined purchasing. If you have not looked into utilizing the services of a distributor lately, you may be leaving money on the table.

I’m Ready to Geek Out

I’m an aspiring techie.  As a marketing manager in the Pro AV channel I marvel daily at what you guys and gals (girl power!) can do.  While I’m at home battling my wireless printer you’re out there day after day beaming Cecil the Lion onto the Empire State Building in New York City.  Well, maybe you don’t do that every day, but what you do on a daily basis is still quite impressive.

old school projectorI was a high school student in the 90’s.  (You Gotta Fight! For Your Right! To Partyyyy!)  We had the old school projectors that shined the lesson written on multiple sheets of clear plastic onto a pull down screen, or even a cement wall in some classrooms.  Teachers would walk away with colorful smudges on their hands from the ink they were using to illustrate their points.  Imagine how Mr. Flammond would teach me the DNA sequence of an amphibian these days!

But, I digress.  I haven’t walked the halls of BHS since back when we were sporting Members Only Jackets and fluffy Love Eric socks, but I see now what you the installers and integrators are putting inside those classrooms.  And I’m downright jealous.  I want to go back and learn the way children of today are learning!

And education isn’t the only way you are changing lives.  Making meetings more productive with amazing technology like Sharp AQUOS BOARDS and the InFocus Mondopads and Barco Clickshare in boardrooms and conference rooms is changing the way companies think and do business. Even Almo Pro AV!

Don’t even get me started on retail right now.  I just can’t.  Because if I start talking about that LG Dual-Sided Curved OLED display and how many pair of shoes that thing could sell me I may have to run to the Galleria Mall immediately.

The point is… the dealers and resellers and installers and integrators that trust Almo Pro AV with their technology needs are pretty impressive folks.  And I’m going to be lucky enough to meet some of them in person this coming Tuesday in Dallas, Texas, where our E4 AV Tour makes its last stop in 2016.  If you’re close-by, come check it out.  You can register here.  There are classes and other educational opportunities for CTS Renewal Credits and a super-cool experience by Samsung of their outdoor displays that Paris Hilton would actually describe as “that’s Hot”.

Yes, I’m going because it’s my job.  But don’t think I won’t be walking away all geeked out and excited over the technology we’re showcasing.  And when I come home I’m going to beat that pesky wireless printer!

Laser Projectors – A Game Changer

z9870u_fcs-our_690x460While lampless projectors are not brand new, the technology has evolved and continues to improve as time goes on.   Imagine an installation grade projector that can run 24/7 with virtually no maintenance and no lamp changes and carry a three year warranty.   Imagine not waiting for your projector to warm up or cool down, where the projector will reach maximum brightness and turn off almost immediately. Combine this with advanced features like projection mapping, edge blending, and an HDBaseT input packaged in a bright enough projector for large venues and you have quite a value proposition for your clients.

Laser projectors offer several benefits over traditional lamp based technologies. Let me clarify that laser simply refers to the light source, so the projection technologies like 3LCD are still a major part of these new projectors.   Traditional lamp based projectors require the lamp to be replaced roughly every 1500 to 6000 hours depending upon the projector and the mode you run it in, while the average lifespan of a laser based projector is 20,000 hours.

Additionally, with most traditional lamp based projectors it takes a few minutes for the projector to warm up after powering on, and can take up to thirty minutes to provide a stable brightness level and often need to remain plugged in after powering off in order to properly cool the lamp.   With laser based projectors they are ready to go almost immediately after being powered on and do not require a connected power source upon powering off with no worry of damaging the projector’s light source.

As far as the light source, projector lamps lose most of their brightness in the first half of their lifecycle whereas with a laser based light source the brightness loss is linear over the 20,000 hour lifecycle.   What does this mean?   This means that if you compare a laser based projector with a lamp based projector, both with the same light output rating (lumens) that within a very short period of time the laser projector will have the brighter image.   Furthermore, even lamp based projectors with higher light output ratings than a laser based projector will quickly provide a lower light output than the laser projector due to the steep curve in degradation of the lamps brightness.

Epson’s popular Pro G and Pro Z installation grade projectors will soon be joined by the new Pro L series of laser based projectors with multiple choices ranging in brightness from 6,000 lumens to 12,000 lumens and multiple lens options with all of the features that users of the Pro G and Pro Z models have grown to love.   Expect to start seeing these shipping in June of 2016. I know I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

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For more information on Epson Projectors contact Brian Rhatigan at [email protected] or 888.420.2566 x6546

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