'Just in time' used to be the battle cry in security product manufacturing and distribution. Now, it is more than just in time-it is all about arming the contractor with the information they need to boost sales and present the end-user with a product portfolio adeptly suited to the application.

Distributors have seen the writing on the wall. They know that the electrical contractor is responsible for installing a wide range of integrated low-voltage systems, including burglar and fire alarms, access control, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance, sound and communications systems. But their involvement doesn't end there. According to recent independent studies by Renaissance Research & Consulting, New York, N.Y. for Electrical Contractor magazine, close to 70 percent specify and select the brand of product used on the job.

Evolution in action

As the market evolves, so does the way distributors sell product. For example, they may provide “packaged” offerings. CCTV is a great example. Contractors can pick up a parcel at distribution that includes camera, lens, enclosure, mounting devices and power supplies in a pre-packaged solution.

Sales associates help the contractor select the correct product for the application, provide assistance with installation and dole out in-depth technical know-how. A visit the distributor or their Internet site is a great place to get a glimpse of what these companies offer.

The current trend in security and low-voltage is not new products, but the refinement and integration of existing products. Software is used to piggyback a host of building products and services and the power of the Ethernet is being tapped to transmit video and data as well as provide supervisory and other signaling capabilities. Contractors are looking for products that work well and applications that sell, and distributors are delivering with a host of support services to boot.

Since acquiring Tri-Ed Distribution, Woodbury, N.Y., earlier this year, CEO Steve Roth and his management team have been working hard to deliver what they promised-the best value proposition possible to customers. To that end, the independent distribution company has been expanding its U.S. footprint, staff, product offerings and value-added services.

“Tri-Ed's 'mantra' is to provide unsurpassed customer service and superior technical expertise, evidenced in our newest offering, the Tri-Ed Master's Training Program,” said Roth. “The program is designed to keep internal sales staff on the cutting edge with training in the latest products and technology.”

The program rolled out in August with the support of Dedicated Micros, Toshiba, HAI, Xantech, Samsung/GVI and Inter-Tel; Tri-Ed expects to continue to add vendors. Because product has become increasing technical, microprocessor-based and integrated, installers require a higher level of assistance. Distributors like Systems Depot understand their quandary, and have armed not only their sales associates but support like their Web sites with in-depth information.

For example, www.sdepot.com reveals a host of tips that range from power supply considerations and selection, fire alarm terms and standards, backlight compensation, wire-pulling tools, surge protection and more, said Jay Stone, regional sales manager, Hickory, N.C.

“Customer training is one of many areas we focus on,” Stone said. “We hold training seminars on new products and bring in manufacturers to bring contractors up to speed. We train our sales associates on an ongoing basis. Instead of being order takers only, they help with the details of the job specification. We have in-house staff who are specialists in CCTV, fire, access control and telecommunications and provide free systems design assistance.”

Other services include Depot Express-same day delivery of product direct to the job site-and marketing programs in which the company works with the contractor to develop sales materials for the end-user.

A distributor in the traditional security systems installer/integrator market for decades, ADI, Melville, N.Y., continues to reinvent its approach to contractors. Direct support is an important ingredient, and ADI's System Sales and Support Group can help an installer/contractor design jobs. The company has remerchandised branches with bold signage so customers find products faster. It showcases new products they may not be aware of in special displays.

MyADI is a powerful Web site that lets contractors manage their business better. It has a robust search engine that makes finding products a snap. Enhanced search features include product photographs, data sheets and installation instructions. Security distribution has evolved with the industry and stands ready to serve with superior product and critical support mechanisms designed to win more bids. EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.