BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
If you are waiting for a manufacturer to differentiate your business, don't hold your breath.
AutomatedBuildings.com reports that i&i Limited Proplan proclaims the "full potential of this market [Automation and Controls] is simply not being realized." The expected growth rates for 2001 and 2002 are 10% and 5% respectively. These rates are far from exciting and below the growth goals of most businesses. If you are a system integrator in this industry and the growth forecast for your company exceeds these levels, then you truly have a challenge. Your company must gain market share in a highly competitive market with decreasing growth rates.
Proplan further states, "As competition intensifies, margins which have held up well during the last two years, will come under increased pressure and manufacturers will need to develop innovative strategies to stay ahead." Taken in conjunction with the projections on growth, market forces appear to be increasingly challenging for the integrator trying to grow a business. Growth must accelerate even as industry margins shrink.
If you are waiting for a manufacturer to differentiate your business, don't hold your breath. Manufacturers in the automation industry are historically slow to innovate and increasingly fickle about distribution channels. The twisted growth of interoperability is a stunning example of how the industry's technology, marketing, and distribution channels go round and round in a continual battle royal. Standards like BACnet and LonWorks are still far from being plug and play solutions for multi-vendor systems, yet every manufacturer purports support for either or both!
No, the integrator stands alone and must choose his path. It is the integrator that is tasked with innovative thinking. The Sales Manager who finds ways to control systems without using 100% his product, the engineer who finds new control solutions, the programmer who challenges "traditional" theory to create more efficient control algorithms, these are the forces that push a company to the front of the line. These innovators make reputations instead of just reading about them.
Without a doubt, integrating non-traditional control and monitoring products will be paramount in the coming years.
John J "Jack" McGowan recently wrote, "…the web may have more to do with defining DDC's future than any individual development in control theory, HVAC, or Building technology. Perhaps what is most exciting is that some of the most innovative developments in the control business in the next decade are likely to come from outside our industry. System integration via off the shelf standardized technology is likely to open up a world of possibilities to creative control engineers."
This is not a bold prediction of what is likely to come, rather it is a statement of opportunities available now. Network appliances, web pads, wireless connection, and network management devices are just a few of the possibilities. They represent categories of products such as WallBotz, Orbit , Linksys Access Point, and Lantronix's serial to Ethernet adapters. Those Integrators that look outside their normal offerings and utilize existing products of other industries are the companies that will gain the needed market share. Independent resellers must understand and support these concepts and the integrators that leverage them. ControlShop is forging ahead with this Philosophy; transcending industry boundaries and offering products that add value now to the "Out-Of-The-Box" thinkers.
Inc Magazine recently sponsored a seminar where Steven Little spoke about today's business opportunities. Steven Little has transformed no fewer than four companies from less than a million dollars in revenue to over 15 million dollars in revenue and did so before the age of forty. He now travels the world as a consultant and public speaker. It was interesting to note that the underlying message was powerful, yet very simple. "What got you to where you are, will not get you to the next level!" If you aren't looking for new ways to satisfy your customers, increase marketing opportunities and differentiate yourself in your industry, you will fall prey to your competitors that do.
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