Axis a mix of high-tech and home-spun

Thursday, October 11, 2007

LUND, Sweden--The history of this village dates back to the Middle Ages, but Lund--home to network camera giant Axis--is as vital and Scandinavian-style hip as any college town around. One of the first things a visitor notices on its windy cobblestone streets is the number of people on clunky, no-speed bicycles. There are more people, young and old, on bikes than in cars or even on foot, and if you spot a bike that's slightly less clunky than the rest, and it's painted bright red-and-yellow, you'll soon notice the big Axis logo.
They're all over this small city because all new Axis employees get one when they join the company. About 30-to-40 percent of the employees bike to work, said Fredrik Nilson, U.S. regional director for Axis. It's good for the environment, employee morale and it refreshes the supply of bikes for the 25,000 students at the University of Lund, Nilsson said. In its hiring, Axis draws heavily from the university, which has an engineering program.
In fact, Nilsson, CEO and president Ray Mauritson, and founder Martin Gren all went to the university. On their home turf, Gren and other executives spent a half-day Tuesday, Oct. 9 talking to a handful of North American trade reporters who toured the Axis headquarters and nearby distribution center.
This event was a precursor to the Oct. 10 and 11 Axis Press and Media Event, which this year brings 100 journalists from 27 different countries to Copenhagen.
Gren detailed the 23-year history of the company, including its ups and downs--downs which lead to the company going public in 2000 and ups which have seen the company grow from doing jobs in 1996 with 25 cameras (a check-cashing operation in New York City) to the "world's largest camera installation" (18,000 cameras in the Stockholm Underground) this year.
Axis did $185 million in sales in 2006, up from $135 million in 2005.
Gren and other executives spoke about the importance of "scalability and flexibility" in operations. They described how Axis cameras get from the manufacturing/component purchase stage to the final assembly at the two existing distribution centers in Lund and Bangkok. (A third distribution center is set to open in Hungary in January.) They addressed the product testing process, and the importance of open systems and of the channel. Axis works closely with integrators and resellers and even some end users, but it only sells to distributors. "That way the channel stays loyal to us," Nilsson said.
Gren touched on his ideas about video analytics, a market he said is currently "vendor driven, not customer driven" and has yet to mature. He said Axis is taking a "conservative approach" and will look to its partners to provide analytics.
The Copenhagen program, which began after Security Systems Newswire went to press, will focus on the usage of network video in retail, and will include a keynote address by David Gorman, a loss prevention consultant with David Gorman & Associates.

For more on the program, see the December issue of Security Systems News.