February’s Business Issue of SSI features my article on what’s new with wholesale distribution (“Reeling in Resellers”) in which I interviewed representatives from a half-dozen of the industry’s leading distributors. Several of the participants went into much greater detail than the print piece allowed, so here is Anixter Director of Technical Solutions Matt Powers expounding on a number of trends affecting the channel.
How are trends/technologies like IP, HD video, wireless, mobile connectivity, apps, integrated solutions, PSIM/VMS, mass notification, GUI keypads and cloud/interactive services impacting your business?
Matt Powers: We are seeing significant growth in these technology areas as integrators and end users develop complex solutions to address a wide variety of application challenges within their unique environments. This activity is mostly driven by a shift to a common, flexible IP network that supports multiple physical security subsystems. It’s not just about the individual component or a cookie-cutter approach anymore. Solutions with these technologies are more complex and require us to have a deeper understanding of how these technologies can work together as a solution while also understanding a customer’s current and future technology requirements.
What are some products that were hot not that long ago but you can’t give away now?
Powers: Analog camera resolutions continue to be overshadowed by the quickly increasing demands for higher quality images. As systems continue to evolve on the network, low analog resolution cameras will continue to decline in demand.
What is a product area or market security dealers/integrators should focus more on and why?
Powers: In general, there needs to be more focus on the depth of integration. In many cases, we are only touching the surface of what IP-based physical security technologies are capable of doing, and many times these features go unseen. For instance, many network cameras have audio capabilities that can be used to trigger events in VMS platforms, such as a loud noise or someone in distress in a stairwell. This is a chance for security dealers to differentiate themselves over their competition.
How do you build dealer/integrator relationships so they trust product recommendations and advice?
Powers: Today’s market is becoming increasingly competitive, and integrators need more than just a supplier. They need a business partner. Anixter offers security integrators access to technical resources that will help keep them current on the latest products, applications, standards and emerging technologies. One of these resources available to integrators is Anixter’s Infrastructure Solutions Lab, which not only provides end-to-end testing and performance verification of the products we sell, but also help solve specific project challenges. For example, many of our customers have worked with the lab to conduct proof of concept, compatibility and interoperability testing to make sure that the recommended products meet the demands of their customers’ environment. Another resource is our solutions desk, which allows security integrators to work by phone with our technical experts and receive recommendations and support on industry standards and best practices during system design.
How can security dealers/integrators combat margin squeeze and product commoditization?
Powers: Use their Anixter resources! Leverage Anixter’s variety of supply chain solutions to eliminate DOA units, to kit various components and to essentially minimize unproductive labor, which directly impacts margin and service levels. Another approach is to leverage Anixter’s technical teams, which can help integrators get up to speed on a variety of IP-centric security technologies and best practices from an unbiased source. Lastly, coordinating several orders to various manufacturers and distributors is time consuming and costly. We offer all products from the camera to the UPS and everything in between. With Anixter, integrators can order a full bill of materials for their projects, eliminating a multitude of touch points, invoices and other paperwork. Consolidating and spend is, in the long run, a more efficient way to run your business.
What tools does your company deploy, for example online ordering and electronic-based management, to better serve your dealer/integrator customers?
Powers: We offer a wide variety of technology solutions to streamline your efforts from viewing inventory and placing orders to tracking orders and getting spec sheets. Couple this with the value-add services we can perform on the products we sell, for example DOA checks, addressing IP cameras and cabinet assembly, and the technical assistance we can provide, the toolbox is full. More importantly, we have a team that understands the security business and how to apply the tools best suited for our customers.
How have dealer/integrator ordering habits evolved?
Powers: Online purchasing has become a great option for security integrators who are looking for pricing and availability for replacement, repair and warranty parts. We’ve noticed this trend, so Anixter now offers both a customized online ordering process as well as the ability to request quotes and buy via anixter.com. Many integrators who are purchasing products for a specific project may have questions about a product’s attributes, performance, warranty and interoperability with other products in the system. In these instances, we find that many integrators still prefer to speak with a customer service or technical representative who can help them verify system performance, identify alternatives and customize delivery. Anixter can help dealers/integrators with their technical questions.
What are the top challenges facing security distributors today? How is your company dealing with it?
Powers: Many traditional security distributors are challenged with supporting the increased demand for network video and electronic access control technologies. Security distributors and integrators alike have to understand the unique requirements of IP-based security systems while recommending and delivering products that can support the design, cabling, standards and hardware to support it. Anixter’s experience with traditional security systems combined with our extensive knowledge and relationships with the manufacturers of network technology products provides us with the ability to offer a complete solution and technical assistance to our integrator customers in order to help them increase their knowledge, help them be more competitive, and deliver complete end-to-end solutions for to their customers.
Does your company ever sell direct to end users? Why or why not? How much of an issue is there with manufacturers circumventing the distribution channel?
Powers: Anixter is committed to selling security products through security integrators. Anixter supports many manufacturers that sell both through distributors and directly to the security integrator. Increasingly, traditional security manufacturers have recognized the value of selling their products through the distribution channel. By consolidating its purchases from manufacturers through Anixter, a security integrator usually can count on faster delivery from our stock, value-added supply chain solutions, kitting and IP address loading, and local product availability along with flexible credit terms, creative financing options, and consolidated purchasing, shipping and invoicing.