Big Systems Need Help From Small Manufacturers

When planning a system or adding on to an existing project, many end users and integrators are reluctant to involve smaller manufacturers.

The reasons are plentiful and make perfect sense. These folks may not have the infrastructure to properly support you, the products may not be mature enough to avoid the pain of debugging, the manufacturer may not be around tomorrow, and a host of other reasons keep you skeptical.

But even in this era of manufacturer consolidation, the fact remains it is as difficult as ever to achieve one-stop shopping. This is nothing new — many business plans are built on developing products that “fall through the cracks” and aren’t worth the trouble to the larger vendors. Still, it is worth exploring the reasons behind using products from smaller companies, and how to find them.

Small Manufacturers Have Big Ideas
There are usually two reasons for selecting a smaller vendor. First and foremost, you may not have a choice — there are products you may require that simply aren’t available from the major security manufacturers.

If your application requires audio monitoring, there are few companies that handle this specialty, and none of them are household names. Legacy CCTV systems looking to utilize a different brand of p/t/z dome cameras will require code translators made only by one or two small independent companies. Remote control of entry gates via police and emergency radio frequencies is available from only one small company. And the list goes on.

New Tools Found at Obscure Firms
The second reason many end users move to a lesser-known company is the need for a product feature that is not yet available from a major suppler.

Often, these features creep into the mainstream product lines over a period of time, but if you have an immediate need, a smaller vendor may already have a product on the market.

The best examples of this come from the digital video recorder manufacturers. Embedded DVRs that essentially combine a multiplexer with a hard drive were available from smaller manufacturers long before the major vendors recognized the market opportunity. Similarly, the abilities to store video clips onto USB “thumb drives,” stream video to cellular telephones, and perform object-oriented search functions on DVRs have been around for some time but are only now showing up in the mainstream market.

Needles in Product Haystacks
Where do you find these companies? They’re not household names and you may not know that the products they make even exist. Some complain it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack when you don’t even know what a needle is. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult — in fact, one of the answers is right in your hands.

The companies that we are speaking of rarely have the budget for full-page ads, but they often advertise in the “emporium” section in the back of this magazine (see page 98 of June issue), or use smaller quarter- and half-page ads. They are also featured in “new product” guides and sections — like “Essential Equipment” on page 86 of the June issue — and are often mentioned in articles and cases studies as providing innovative solutions.

Using Post-it™ notes to mark pages that describe these products is an excellent way to find them in the future. Remember: When scanning advertisements, be sure and go back over the past few issues as well — many advertise periodically as their budgets permit.

You do save your back issues of Security Sales & Integration, don’t you?

Trade shows are another good way to find out about these companies, and trade show coverage is the next best thing if you can’t make it to one of the major security shows.

The “New Product Showcase” at the ISC shows is an ideal forum for these companies to get recognition for their products and many of them take advantage of it. Stories on the best products seen at the show are good sources as well — such as SSI’s ISC West Product Picks — and if you’re able to attend a show, you can see these products in action and evaluate the suppliers yourself.

Manufacturers’ representatives are often a good source of this kind of information as well. Many represent smaller companies as well as large ones for precisely the reasons we are discussing.

Finally, you can hire someone to solve your problem — that is what consultants do. While I am a consultant and am happy to solve problems for clients, this should be your method of last resort. With so many free ways to gather this information, and so many people out there trying to find you with their products, this is a problem that a telephone, Internet connection and a little bit of ingenuity should easily solve.


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