The Fire Buyer team exclusively interviews Christian Pehl, Regional Sales Manager for Teledyne FLIR, to find out how his company is paving the way for innovation in the fire industry
Could you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Christian, and I’ve been working in the fire industry since 2003. I’m a Volunteer Fire Chief in a station with 50 volunteer firefighters and I’ve been in the fire service for 29 years now.
FLIR approached me in 2015, for business development and sales and for the firefighting product range. FLIR is the largest manufacturer for thermal imaging cameras worldwide and we have a wide range of thermal imaging cameras. We do scientific cameras, we do cameras for testing purposes, for maintenance; in 2015, the first firefighting cameras were introduced at Interschutz.
Since then, we have grown this market worldwide. We are very strong in the United States, of course, which is the largest market for firefighting equipment. But also, in Europe, we’ve been growing rapidly, especially in the UK, which is my market responsibility. Our aim was to bring the thermal imaging technology to a much wider range of firefighters. In the past the products have been very high-priced, very expensive, and we have driven down the price very much with our technology; because we’ve used technology that was also used in industrial applications, which made for a much wider usage. Of course, if you have larger quantities you can bring down the cost of production significantly, and that’s what we did. We also have introduced a low budget version of our camera. The aim for that was to give every single firefighter that is walking into a burning building the ability to use a thermal imaging camera, and that was the K2 at the time. This is probably the most sold camera worldwide at the moment in the fire industry.
How do you ensure innovation in your product?
We have not only one specific product for firefighting, but we also cover the complete range of thermal imaging cameras, over several industries and several applications. Therefore, we always have synergies within the company that we can use, not only for the specific firefighting part of the business, but also for a mass market. For example, the Caterpillar phone. Caterpillar has a phone on the market, which includes a thermal imaging camera. That is a wide range of products where we use the same technology and that helps us first of all to split the cost of development and also to bring the cost of production down, because we have not only the specific product but a much wider, larger range of products where we can use a specific part.
How do you keep FLIR’s product range above the rest of the competition?
Well, that’s a good question. Our core knowledge, of course, is that we are specifically developing products for certain applications. So, not only can we use the technology that we have in a variety of industries, but we also have specialists for certain applications. That means we have specialists in defence and in science for example and – with me and my colleagues – in firefighting. We know the background that the user experience needs, and we can lead that into the development of the product – first-hand experience – and that helps us to be ahead of the competition.
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