I’m not long back from my recent visit to Valencia, where I had opportunity to visit the headquarters of Equipson. It’s actually been my second time at Equipson, with my first visit around seven years ago now. Of course, a great many things have changed since then.
The company has certainly grown, with improved organisation and the acquisition of a new brands in the past few years. The number of the employees currently stands at around 80 people and, whilst looking around, I found evidence of couple of great new awards that the company has had presented to them. This reflects what seems to be a particularly “golden” era for the company, despite the struggles that many European businesses seem to have fallen upon in recent years.
What hasn’t changed over the years since my first visit is the passion presented by Equipson. The style and dynamism of those within the company is evident, formed through a solid and diverse team that is always present and willing to provide for their customers. I know, “passion” is a highly overused word, but it is definitely applicable when talking about Equipson. For me, passion is enthusiasm. It is smiling, enjoying the work and being dedicated to your job. Juan, Ricardo, Nick and the others guys are all about this, not to mention the fact that they are the perfect hosts…
Our day began with a tour of the company and, compared with my last visit a few years ago, I saw a notable increase in terms of facilities and staff. It has also been the perfect opportunity to better understand the level that the company is operating at, with a rich and diverse catalogue of products on offer.
The business is mainly divided into two distinct areas, which are then organised into divisions and sectors. The actual production includes the brands of Work Pro, Work Pro Lifter and Fantek. The company also acts as the Spanish and Portuguese distributors for brands such as Chamsys, High End System (Spain only), Mark and Mean Well.
Production is almost entirely located in Spain, except for some components that are produced in Asia with the specifications of the R&D department. This is choice that may not have been cost-effective a few years ago, but has proved to be an example of excellent long-term planning and commitment to development.
An important sector for Equipson is the production of Lifter, with the brands Work and Fantek, purchased some time ago. The products from both Work and Fantek are built in Valencia, in two factories a few kilometres from one another. We had the opportunity to visit both of these factories, which further helped us to understand how much importance the company places on safety, as well as optimal quality and performance. Mark is a particularly special example, presenting a brand that exists only within Spain, with a strong appeal on the market.
Today, Equipson is a globally recognised company with a strong distribution network across the globe, with particularly important markets in Germany, Asia and the Americas.
Vision and Mission
Interviewing Juan José Villa – COO, CMO and son of José Luis Vila, CEO and founder – we we able to further explore just how Equipson has transformed itself from a family-run business to a globally-appealing company. Despite the incredible scale and reach of the business, the core management of the company fundamentally still belongs to the family of the founder, something which enables core values to remain at its heart.
“After graduating in engineering, I made my career in a company that deals with IT technology in Madrid, coming back to Equipson about 18 years ago when the other founding members had stepped aside. At this point, the company is passed under the guidance of my father” says Juan. “One of the first things I wanted to do was to re-style the brands and the image of the company, which needed to be reorganised before make the jump …”
The second step for the company was to upgrade its R&D department, so as to be able to produce most of its products on its own, especially with China already playing an ever-increasing role in production and many European companies moving their factories to the East.
Now, the major businesses of Equipson are certainly within the installation, audio, video, and lighting markets. Regarding the entertainment industry, the company is considered to be a major reference point for the Spain market. Equipson, as Juan clearly explains, “is also well known for lifting systems and trussing with the brands of Work Pro and Fantek”.
When we were visiting, Equipson was in the process of organising a range of training courses. The topics for these range across their products and technologies, for both audio and lighting. This is just one demonstration of how the company is investing in training and ongoing customer support.
“For us, it is essential to provide these kind of meetings, ones that are free and often not about our products, but more the industry in general” continues Juan José Villa. “I think it’s very important to train the technicians and have direct feedback from them”.
The meeting continued with many interesting anecdotes about the company’s history, alongside some questions posed by the journalists present. When asked how much the company was interested in professional audio in the entertainment world, Juan confided that they focus on medium-sized systems, like the new SL 210 A.
“We have no interest in proposing large format products, even if objectively we have both the technology and the skills to do so. Our flagship product is SL 210 A, a 10 ” active line array with DSP and ethernet connection that has been appreciated both in terms of quality and in relation to its affordable price…”
Recalling some “particular” works undertaken, Juan informed us that many clients had asked them for important and complete A/V installations, and so we asked if they were active in the “custom installation” market.
“In truth, this was a job that represented an exception for us. It is a field that we are considering entering, as we have all the products and technologies required to offer solutions like other players in the industry. However, this kind market requires a further effort in terms of research, and above all requires a personal approach in order not to collide with the giants of the sector. So, we are evaluating, but it is not something that will happen immediately”.
Next, a more personal question concerning Jaun’s role within the company. After all, he is an engineer, and we were interested to know if he is still directly involved in the design of the company’s products.
“I always follow the evolution of the R&D department and examine, together with the team, proposals and possible variations. I can not take part directly in the active design phase because I have many other things to think about at a managerial level. Amongst my most talented designers, there are two who come from the technical world, not necessarily from following a path of academic studies. This says a lot about how important human qualities are to us, regardless of academic abilities…”
Some products at a glance
Of course, we did not have the opportunity to look closely at all of the products within the expansive Equipson catalog, but we had time to talk about a few particularly innovative products.
One of these products was the Work Pro Light Shark series LS-1 and LS-Core. These are two lighting control units that are entirely web-based, able to provide control of up to 8 DMX universes. Both systems allow for the connection of up to 3 devices simultaneously, to create a multi-screen user interface in OS, Android, Linux, Windows or macOS. LS-1 is an intuitive and ergonomic control surface, which further facilitates programming and execution phases. LS-Core offers the same features but excludes the user interface.
Next, turning to the Lifter line. One of the most interesting and profitable markets for this kind of product is the German market, where Work has almost all of their market share. Germany has recently introduced some strict legislation on the adaptation of safety in this area, which has seen Equipson make even further improvements to all of their products. For this reason, Equipson introduced the Dynamic Overlap and Dynsys systems (only available on the WTS-DY series).
Dynamic Overlap allows for an increase in the strength of the tower, by reducing the deflection thanks to a different overlap distance between the modules. This means that the load is concentrated equally in all sections of the tower. Dynsys system is instead an optional solution that guarantees the safe and correct operation of the tower. Each Dynsys system monitors the torque applied to the winch and, when it is stressed to the limit (for example due to overload), the system automatically blocks the lifting process.Last but not least is the previously mentioned Line Array system, SL 210 A.
This is a system that, at least on paper, promises to be great. In this case, Equipson has a lot of competitors on the market, particularly with companies that focus their business solely on sound reinforcement systems for touring and events.
Ultimately, what we have understood is that Equipson is a clear example of how technology and skills can be used to create different products across different markets, but often with common characteristics in terms of reliability, performance and, above all, usability. Even from walking into the demo room (or rather demo ROOMS) and browsing through the products, I couldn’t fail to notice how, even at first glance, almost all the products are presented with simple, solid lines, complemented by well positioned, rational and functional controls.
I often repeat that whenever we talk about lifting systems, trussing and similar products, the conversation immediately becomes far more serious because of the safety concerns involved. Because of this, a company delivers so much focus on offering efficient and safe products must inherently be one that treats the industry and the professionals within it with respect and seriousness.
Once again, posts like this are presented on our pages in the hope of making a company, a product or a technology better known, so as to provide further help to the end user who has to choose products from what is undoubtedly a crowded market with many different levels of quality.