Where do you stand on smart technology? Are you resigned to leaving the high-value work to specialist installers of proprietary systems who deal direct with manufacturers and just satisfying yourself with the crumbs from some WiFi and RF sales? Or are you looking critically at how the wholesale channel model can add the service value that in turn opens up the market to a wider installer base for you?
If you act now you may not be the first wholesaler to offer smart technology, but you certainly will be an ‘early adopter’ and in good time to stake out your territory, says Paul Foulkes KNX UK President.
The trick is to know which technology to invest time and energy in. Certainly the contractors working on big commercial projects are likely to deal direct, but for mid-sized commercial and domestic installations there’s a place for the wholesaler to act as intermediary for an open system, and that means KNX: proprietary systems have little to offer the wholesale business model.
KNX, on the other hand, is the language that enables devices to talk to each other with guaranteed compatibility. KNX installations can mix-and-match the best choice of products from multiple manufacturers, with control of all applications, from lighting to HVAC, audio-visual and security all fully integrated and future-proof.
KNX is supported by over 500 manufacturers – including all the big names in controls – and a growing base of certified installation partners (over 90,000 at the last count).
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably already involved supplying some DALI equipment. While DALI retains its army of loyal and talented systems designs, and will undoubtedly continue to do so, KNX opens up the possibility of integrating lighting with other building functions via bus-mounted gateway devices.
Similarly, it’s not unusual In fact, it’s not unusual to see, a KNX installation with, say, a Control 4 designed home cinema or AV system as part of it. These are perfectly good solutions; it’s just that they cannot control everything and lighting and AV should not exist in a silo. For real integrated control, only KNX can offer the overarching master control.
Of course, KNX devices can also control lighting and AV directly, but people have their preferences and years of acquired knowledge and experience, and we all need to respect that.
So, what’s involved in wholesaling KNX?
There is little your business model isn’t already geared up for, but look at the achievements of the channel’s pioneers: BEMCO, Home of Technology Ivory Egg and My KNX Store.
I spoke to one of their customers Danny Lawless of Ready Controls, who designs and installs KNX systems in individual homes and large development of flats, including London’s prestigious 75-unit Regents Crescent and the 89-apartment Chelsea Island development.
He says: “Wholesalers provide the added benefits of buying power due to their size. They can be a great negotiator with the manufacturers, persuading them to lower costs allowing us the integrators to be more competitive.
“They also help us by holding project material at their larger premises and undertaking just in time deliveries in line with long drawn out construction programmes.This is great in helping with cashflow, storage and warranty times. In our opinion the role of a wholesaler is key and must never be overlooked. It is very easy to get tempted with larger margins by bypassing the wholesaler and procuring directly via the manufacturer, however these short-term benefits can very quickly be undone, especially on the large long running projects.”
When it comes to adding value, you have the opportunity to position yourself as the go-to source installers relatively new to smart technology.
Ryan P. Sheppard of Clanrye Electrical Supplies in Newry notes a clear and noticeable difference in how trade customers perceive them and the value that we can offer them as local industry leaders in smart technologies.
“The majority of these customers now utilise us as first protocol during tender stage for anything that represents smart technologies giving us first opportunity to control the narrative.
“Through direct training and demonstrations our trade customers understand how the installation of smart technologies can be fruitful for all parties involved and many now offer the opportunity of a smart building system during the ME specification phase.”
The manufactures will be four-square behind you too as you help to take their higher-end products to a wider audience. Jung UK Managing Director, Graham Oliver, says: “We see the benefit of offering partnership and support to wholesalers that can provide good advice an in-house support on our smart technology.
“This advice, combined with their knowledge on more conventional aspects on the installation can be really useful to an installer.”
There are knock-on effects of expanding our offer. As Clanrye’s Ryan Sheppard says: “The provision, planning and acquisition of a smart technology in any building requires trust between client and wholesaler. Once this is established, the client looks beyond the smart elements to the other services offered by the wholesaler, essentially generating upsells in luminaires, wiring accessories, etc… This also works in reverse of course.”