Keeping Abreast of Bosch Security

Amid the hustle and bustle of what was SecureWorld Expo's Seattle stop, Bosch's West Coast Sales V.P. Roger Leadabrand was able to sit down with on Thursday afternoon to get a quick "late 2005" update on what the future holds for Bosch.

This being predominantly an IT show more than a physical security show, we asked Leadabrand what Bosch were doing to make sure everyone selling their products and installing their products were up to speed on network or TCP/IP-based technology.

According to Leadabrand, Bosch and other companies are working hard to effect training in the industry. It's no good, he says, to be creating IP-ready products if you can't have IP-trained folks to sell them and install them.

"We are training our sales force on the essentials of network communications," he says. "We're sending all of our CCTV sales staff to a program in Chicago to learn network basics. At the same time, we're recruiting techs for our product support who have that IT experience. I was preaching earlier [in the SecureWorld vendor panel] that our dealers and integrators need to hire IT folks, and I'm not just preaching that - we're actually doing that in our own staff, too."

But if you're a dealer or integrator, please don't think that it's all rosy and that you can find as many IT-ready staff members as you want at your beck and call. Whether you're a dealer just getting into IP-based systems, or a major integrator who needs to ramp up staff for a big government security installation contract, getting and keeping the right staff might not be a piece of cake.

As Leadabrand explains, "Integrators are starting to struggle in getting the IT-trained staff they need." He says there are issues of price that have an effect on retaining the best techs, especially when "your good techs move to the company next door because they're offering a dollar more an hour."

Many a good dealer has lost a smart new installer after they've trained him or her because Company B (who doesn't have to absorb the training costs) recruits the installers after they've been trained. However, that ability to steal techs away because of their certifications may become more difficult thanks to a program Bosch is considering, says Leadabrand. He explains that Bosch is wrestling with the question of whether a vendor's certification (like a "Bosch certified" designation) belongs to the dealer or to the individual.

Leadabrand adds that they are looking at a program where Bosch will certify both your company and that technician after you complete the training and pay for the training cost that includes technical support. But, he says, "If Company B hires that tech away from you and he calls us for support on our technology, we'll support him. However, if your company (Company A) calls us and tells us that he's left the company, then we'll give you the financial credit to have one of your other techs trained, and we'll charge his new company if they want to have that support from us for him."

It's an attempt, says Leadabrand, that is designed to insure that techs are supported and trained, but also that their sponsoring company isn't left holding the short end of the stick when another company seeks to hire away the talent just for the technician's certifications.

"I think it's a good system," says Leadabrand, "because then the techs are hired for their expertise and not for their certifications."

Leadabrand also spoke to Bosch's acquisitions in the industry. He adds that he's seen a high number of acquisitions in the industry. It's a trend, he says, that is shared by many publicly traded companies, and not a move that Bosch, being privately held, has to keep up with. And when it comes to the recent flurry of acquisitions, he questions how many of them have been particularly strategic in the marketplace.

"Some dealers say they don't feel we're keeping up in terms of acquisitions," says Leadabrand, "but we're not just trying to offer a lot of different brands - we're focusing on strategic acquisitions. Our acquisitions all have been focused on providing our customers end-to-end solutions."

Bosch has also stated goals of achieving 15 percent market share in its core areas of CCTV, access control, fire and intrusion detection. He says that it wouldn't be surprising to see more acquisitions from the company, especially in the area of fire, as the company seeks to beat the growth numbers that organic growth can provide, and instead looks to achieve that market share by acquiring a company with the right mixture of panel and fire detection technology.

Aside from the company's market share goals, what would Leadabrand want to see in the future?

"I'd like to see more strength in access control and in fire," he says. "What I'm picturing for the future is that Bosch will become the one-stop shop so when a new building is being built, you can get the lighting controls, the HVAC system technology, the CCTV, the access control, everything you need in terms of building systems, all from our shop."