Mel Lambert finds out what’s happened one year on from HME’s acquisition of Clear-Com.
A year after HME’s acquisition of Clear-Com, both companies are pleased with the results of the new alignment. “We work in the same markets but with complementary products,” reflects HME president Mitzi Dominguez. “It is a perfect match with synergies from the same core values and cultures. HME offers wireless systems and Clear-Com brought in cabled intercom systems; we bring to the table strong manufacturing capabilities, while Clear-Com has strong engineering capabilities. That combination offers unique advantages to both companies.”
“We had a great run as part of a publicly-owned company,” offers Clear-Com president Matt Danilowicz. “[Former owner] Vitec was a great champion but our specialised business incorporates a number of products over a broad range of technologies; we are best served by an owner that can appreciate those differences. Vitec nurtured and invested in us but, as one division of a larger organisation with a lot of other divisions, it was difficult to get the same alignment between the executive management and the operational management that you can in a private company, where there is a 35-year focus on communications.”
“HME is a very hands-on management group,” Danilowicz considers, “and cares about its customers. That shared value system was very important to us. HME’s official motto is ‘Customer Driven’ – an ethos shared by Clear-Com.”
Having combined the two companies’ distribution channels, HME recently moved all manufacturing to its corporate HQ in Poway, CA, near San Diego, while Clear-Com remains based in Alameda, east of San Francisco.
“Manufacturing is one of our core competencies,” Dominguez states. “All final assembly and quality control will now be in one location,” using outsourced parts from around the world. “The end goal,” adds Danilowicz, “is for everything to be manufactured in Poway. We offer over 400 system-enabling products; they do not sell in large quantities but can be critical for large-scale implementations for our customers.”
At the beginning of this year, the HME Pro Audio Division was folded into Clear-Com’s operational infrastructure. “HME’s core business is the quick-service restaurant business,” Dominguez explains. “We sell to the large logos – Jack in the Box, McDonalds and others; in essence, it’s the drive-through industry. Clear-Com’s core business is pro audio.”
According to Danilowicz: “The merger of HME’s existing channel partners with Clear-Com’s global distribution network makes us the largest supplier of professional wired and wireless intercoms. The integration of the HME Pro Audio Division into our organisation makes Clear-Com a much stronger company with more resources and capabilities to offer best-in-class intercom solutions.” Mike Hughes, who formerly ran HME’s Pro Audio team, recently moved to Clear-Com as general manager for its military and government division, a market of growing importance to the company.
The acquisition was a natural alignment, Danilowicz confirms. “Two-thirds – 65% – of our channel partners were also HME pro-audio distributors; there is a complementary nature between the two product lines and they can be used together,” he states. “HME products are a high-quality proposition for our pro-audio customers, including churches, schools and other users where it is imperative to be up and running with minimum step-up.
“Since Clear-Com products tend to fit with a range of customers that have a higher degree of complexity in their operations, the two wireless ranges work well together, in addition to our hard-wired cable intercom systems, party-line and matrixed systems. A great synergy exists between those applications.”
The two companies anticipate few changes for the European distribution chain. “We will continue to work with partners that are most active in the territory,” Danilowicz says. “Clear-Com products are often thought of after the power systems go in – we are an essential infrastructure product. We require dealers committed to that level of detail. We are blending distributors in each country; sometimes we will select the Clear-Com partner and in others the HME partner – whatever fits the equation.”
“We are committed to Europe,” Dominguez stresses. The European HQ in Cambridge will continue to handle both HME pro-audio and Clear-Com products. The firm has also added a Beijing office.
The new alignment has already resulted in a quartet of product offerings. “New under our logo, but leveraging some of HME’s engineering expertise, is the Clear-Com HME-DX210,” Danilowicz explains. “It is an add-on wireless intercom solution designed specifically to work with Clear-Com partyline intercoms. It also connects directly into RTS intercom packages.”
“Tempest900 is a wireless intercom system targeted at more complex installations,” adds Danilowicz, including touring sound and broadcast network operations, and designed for North American operation within the 900MHz range. “The Tempest900’s predecessor, the Tempest2400, is an all-digital wireless intercom using the 2.4MHz frequency range.” It is available with a firmware update that adds shared and split modes of operation to improve workflow efficiency, including the ability to connect an unlimited number of belt stations to a base station.
Clear-Com has also updated its Concert intercom-over-IP news room system, which now offers full integration with Associated Press’ Essential News Production System, currently being used by the BBC and other broadcasters for cost-effective communication between newsroom members.