Have you ever looked at two seemingly similar items on the shelf of a store, or more likely, two similar items on your Amazon wish list, and wondered, “Why is one more expensive than the other?” I know I have. With Amazon, it’s easy to use the online reviews to help determine the difference in value, but in the Pro AV world, it can be a bit more difficult.
Recently, I had the opportunity to see first-hand how one manufacturer adds significant value to their products. Most of the difference comes in the form of ease of use and reliability, but some of the value goes even deeper.
Crestron has been known for the quality of their products since as long as long as I can remember. When you install Crestron products into your AV system, they just work, and work well.
Last month, Brian Rhatigan (Almo BDM Director) and I visited Crestron’s facility in New Jersey, and were treated to a day of hospitality and education. Not just an education on Crestron’s product line, which I felt I knew pretty well, but rather an education on their company focus – quality. Not just a quality in product, but also a quality user experience.
We were fortunate enough to have Dave Silberstein, Crestron’s Director of Inside Sale, set aside an entire day to provide us with a guided tour of their facilities, along with a visual summary of their research, design, and manufacturing process from start to finish. I’ll go ahead and speak for Brian here when I say, we were impressed.
A couple of things really stood out for me, besides the quality of their customer experience center (You could throw one heck of a party in there).
Here are some highlights I wanted to share:
Crestron has an entire staff of engineers devoted to the design of new products. Currently 40% of their net profit is put back into their R&D department, and what a department it was. Some of the brightest minds in the industry are working on developing the next piece of cutting edge technology. And they have some of the best “toys” to play with. From flow jets to 3D printers and beyond, they have the tools to develop every component of a prototype.
Their testing facility was incredible. One fascinating sight was an enormous system of their current and past products. The system is primarily used to test any software / firmware due to be released, to verify that it doesn’t have any adverse effect on older systems still in use. This is something I appreciated as it seems like each firmware released on my phone brings it closer to its demise.
Another impressive sight was the “wall” of 100 displays being used to test a video conferencing system with 100 end points. It seems that testing, let’s say, 10 endpoints would be acceptable, but fortunately for Crestron’s clients, acceptable is just not good enough.
Their technical support is provided regionally to better understand and support their local customer’s needs. This isn’t so special, but what was, is each technician has a full system located at their desk. It made for a crazy looking workspace, but it allows each technician to actively participate in the troubleshooting process, instead of just searching for a solution in their knowledge base. In addition to this, older items are located just a few steps away, so the technician is able to grab whatever is needed to try and duplicate what is being used in the field. We even spotted a slide projector controller in this “closet of technology past” – something that harkens back to the roots of where Crestron began.
It’s hard to put into words just how impressive the Crestron facility is, and how dedicated they are to producing a quality product. Luckily their long run of producing excellent, industry leading products has created a reputation that our industry already equates with quality.