Going Mega in LA (Professional Security)

It was a beautiful sunny day as I made my way to the offices of Arecont Vision in Glendale, Los Angeles to meet with Scott Schafer, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, Service and Quality and Jeff Whitney Vice President of Marketing.

I had also been promised a tour of the factory which I assumed was at a separate location. On arrival at my destination I entered a pristine office block and proceeded to the reception on the seventh floor. The friendly receptionist took my name and informed me that someone would be out to greet me in a moment. As I looked around the first thing I noticed was a plaque on the wall from the SIA! Obviously not the UK SIA (Security Industry Authority) but the US SIA (Security Industry Association). Feeling inquisitive this was something I wanted to know more about. Jennifer Hackenburg, Product Marketing Manager arrived at reception to escort me to the meeting. We had already seen each other in passing and did not realise we would be meeting in a more convivial environment. We laughed about the situation as we walked and talked on our way to the meeting room where both Scott Schafer and Jeff Whitney joined us. As I looked around the meeting room it was equipped with the usual high tech equipment one would expect from an organization like Arecont Vision a huge screen on the wall, teleconferencing, clean and sharp with an air of professionalism creating a relaxed and participative atmosphere. My first question to Whitney and Schafer was about how the company was formed. Whitney explained that there were two co-founders – Michael Kaplinsky, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer and Dr Vladimir Berezin, President, who established the company in 2003. Both have an engineering and technology background.

As the company has grown the founders appointed Scott Schafer to be the face and voice of the company. Schafer is a great ambassador and his involvement in the wider world of security via his SIA position is standing him in good stead as far as positioning the company as a recognized leader in the megapixel IP camera sector. I asked Schafer his background in security. He said: “Prior to joining the Company I was the Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Americas Sales at Pelco/Schneider Electric.” We went on to discuss other areas of his expertise such as ‘Reynolds and Reynolds’, the enterprise software company for the automotive industry. During that time he was on the board of directors for Reynolds and Reynolds Australia after having earlier served in key management roles at NCR Corporation during his 19 years with the firm, including as VP and General Manager of global networking and high availability services. Also as Vice President of Product and Channel Marketing for the Computer Systems Division, and as Vice President of Major Accounts for NCR’s USA reseller division. Schafer has a B.S. in Finance from Ohio State University and a Master of Business Administration from Capital University. However, it is his present role that lights him up. I asked him to explain his current role further and he said: “As Executive Vice President for Arecont Vision since March 2009 my responsibilities are global sales, marketing, service, and quality. Arecont Vision is the leading manufacturer of innovative, high-performance megapixel IP cameras. The company’s products are made in the USA. Our cameras feature low-cost, massively parallel image processing architecture, and are now in their fifth generation. Arecont Vision cameras represent a drastic departure from traditional analog and standard network camera designs.”

Schafer picked up one of the AV3215PM-S MegaVideo G5 multi-megapixel, indoor compact camera housings. This series delivers 3-megapixel resolution… regardless of time-of-day. The technology and applications are exciting to someone like me. I can’t explain my love of systems security. As I held the MegaVideo G5 which includes remote zoom/focus, making it easy for an installer to accurately focus the camera remotely I could not help but feel envious that I was no longer an integrator. We all talked at length about the speed in which technology has progressed within the CCTV market. We spoke about the journey from old analogue cameras moving to digital then IP and now megapixel IP. We were all engaged in animated conversation recalling experiences from both the manufacturing sector and the integrator-design and installation perspective. I explained to them that whilst writing for the magazine I had owned an integrated design and installation company for 23 years established 30 years ago and was therefore extremely interested in the technological progression from analog through to the leading-edge technology of today. We continued to discuss the rapid historic footprint of CCTV and Schafer attributes in some ways the surge forward to now as far as megaPixel IP technology is concerned to the founders of the company. He went on to explain that after the founders had been involved with technology in the mobile phone industry they decided to transfer that specialist knowledge to the world of security and as a result Arecont Vision was established in its field.

I could not wait to visit the factory but in the meantime, I eagerly turned to Whitney and asked him what he had done. He said: “I lead the worldwide marketing for Arecont Vision bringing over 25 years of global marketing experience from former experience in fast-growing companies in video and information technology. Prior to Arecont Vision, I served as Vice President of Marketing for network flash vendor Astute Networks, video surveillance platform pioneer Intransa, and encryption/key management developer MaXXan Systems. I was former Vice President of Strategy for Fujitsu Technology Solutions and with NetApp and Spinnaker Networks.” The enthusiasm for the company and products around the table was infectious and Schafer sprang to his feet and turned on the screen to highlight the performance of one of their products installed at a baseball stadium. The definition was more than impressive as he panned from the full stadium and then zoomed to just one face in the vast crowd … awesome. He picked up one of the cameras on display, handed it to me and spoke about how the company is exclusively focused on megapixel (MP) technology and has contributed more to the advancement of megapixel imaging for professional security applications than any other company in the security market. He proudly announced: “Our worldwide installed base of megapixel cameras crosses a broad spectrum of applications and venues.” Whitney also reiterated: “Our products are made here in the USA.” In this time of outsourcing manufacturing to other countries for cost-saving, it is good to know that with some companies it is still quality that counts along with country of origin principles pertaining to design and manufacturing.

Hackenburg reminded me that it was time to take a look around the factory … I could not wait. But before I went I wanted to know more about Schafer’s role within the SIA. He said: “For the past eight years I have been a member of the board of the directors for the Security Industry Association, currently serving as Treasurer and member of the Executive Committee. I am happy to say that I received the Security Industry Chairman’s Award 2015 in recognition of my contributions to the security industry.” It was around about this time that Jason Schimpf, Director Sales Operations arrived to take me on the factory tour. I bid farewell to both Whitney and Schafer and was escorted to the factory by both Hackenburg and Schimpf.

To my surprise, the factory is in the same building but on separate dedicated floors. On route, we passed the MegaLab. This was of great interest and I asked Schimpf to explain what this designated area was all about. He said: “This is where our integrators can come in and set up systems.” He went on to explain that installers can avail themselves of the products by way of testing them or set up systems in line with their specific needs. We spoke about the support for installers and how this practical hub is useful to people in the field and complementary to the web support of which there are lots. Schimpf reiterated the support to clients online via webinars and the ability to physically pop in and spend time in the MegaLab. When we arrived at the factory floors I was immediately impressed by the streamline flow of the production line for the various series of cameras and the organization that enables a response to specific volume demands. Schimpf pointed to the huge screen on the wall that depicted the workflow per product and he explained that volume could be handled via multi-tasking capabilities of the production staff. They simply moved to the relevant zone in the case of a high volume order that required immediate dispatch. The zonal sections were very clean clinical and well organized but most of all practical. It was clear to see that a quality management scheme was working in practice. I asked Schimpf who was responsible for the running of the factory and he said: “Steve Roberts is the Director Manufacturing … would you like to meet him?” I replied that I certainly would. With that Schmipf got on the phone and before long Roberts was leading us through the manufacturing process. I remarked on the well-organized use of space and the flow of production. Roberts said: “We are constantly refreshing our methodology in line with our quality management ethos. As you can see we are fully equipped to respond to our clients' needs.” They certainly are. It was a pleasure to meet everyone. I came away feeling creatively inspired regarding the application of these products, thinking; is it too late to restart Euro?