With his company offering a total life safety solution along with a comprehensive range of fire detection components, Hochiki Europe’s sales director, Graham Lowe, explains the benefits of partnering with a single source supplier and how this can help all parties grow their businesses.
The life safety industry is a highly competitive environment with a wide array of companies all vying for position as the manufacturer of choice. Things are very similar at installer level and with pressure on margins it is increasingly important to work with vendors that can provide excellent service and support, reliable products that are easy to configure and, in a significant number of cases, a complete system from control panels through to individual devices.
It is the latter point on this list that has driven Hochiki Europe to take the step of adapting its business model from being simply a component provider to one that also offers complete end-to-end systems solutions. Hochiki has been offering systems solutions for a number of years and this strategy has been enhanced by the acquisition last year of one of the world’s leading control panel manufacturers. Our ability to now offer a total solution means that we can develop our own business whilst also helping our chosen partners enhance their profits and grow their own organisations.
This, in the current economic conditions, is good news. However, the question that we are often asked is how exactly will this work and what are the benefits of working with a systems provider?
The first thing I should point out is that our open protocol device business is incredibly important to us, particularly in the UK and specific European markets and has been the backbone of our operation for some while. However, what we have realised is that in order to be involved in higher profile projects, we need to offer the broadest possible selection of solutions, as well as the expert support that goes with them.
Partnering with a number of carefully selected integrators that fulfil specific qualifying criteria means we can offer them exclusive access to the full range of products and systems. This includes technology that is suited to more specialised environments including wireless fire detection for use in locations where minimum disturbance to the fabric of the building is important, as well as aspirating and voice evacuation systems. A manufacturer that can complement these options with an emergency lighting offering will, therefore, be able to fulfil most project requirements.
Offering a control panel range as part of an overall system means that approval can be given for EN 54-13 compliance. This calls for the testing of a system to ensure full functional compatibility of the various components, regardless of the manufacturer or brand. Incidentally, some European states are calling for fire alarm components such as control & indicating equipment, and detectors & notification devices to be third-party tested for compatibility and certified to EN 54-13 before entry into the market is allowed.
For installers and integrators, when it comes to deciding which manufacturers to work with, there are a number of factors to consider. Although the initial cost of the system is important, the total cost of ownership – maintenance, servicing, breakdown charges and product replacement costs – can be many times higher than the initial investment. A reliable high quality fire detection system will ensure that unwelcome and disruptive incidents will be all but eliminated, and that the costs associated with ensuring that it remains fit for purpose are kept to a minimum.
While it is obviously important to make sure that a systems provider has the widest possible selection of quality products, so too is ensuring that the right level of service and support is available. Hochiki Europe sought to prove its credentials in both areas by carrying out a survey of its customers’ views regarding the quality and reliability of its products and the standard of its customer service. It found that 96% of respondents rated the company’s product quality as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, while nearly 90% reported that its products met all their requirements and 87 per cent regarded the quality of its service as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. As well as striving to provide complete customer satisfaction, Hochiki Europe’s manufacturing plant in Kent also continues to be accredited with the ISO 9001 Quality Management System.
There are also a number of other advantages to using a single system provider that may not at first be apparent. For example, it makes invoicing more efficient, as rather than billing several different manufacturers only one is needed. Also, placing and tracking orders is much simpler and less overall administration is required, while gaining the right technical information is easier as the manufacturer’s technical experts will have a full understanding of all the constituent parts of the system and will be able to advise accordingly.
Supporting installation partners that want to improve and develop their organisations should be at the very heart of any productive business relationship and by including a systems based approach, Hochiki Europe has put itself in an excellent position to achieve this objective. Open protocol solutions will continue to be an important part of our business. The system solution will enhance our offering and strengthen what we do – something that will benefit everyone in the long-term.