A visit to Honeywell

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05/22/2008
I took a quick trip to Melville, NY on May 21 to tour the new Honeywell headquarters and attend the grand opening of the Ademco Alarm Security Museum. In addition to a handful of other trade reporters, members of Honeywell’s First Alert Professional President’s Council were there, a group that represents the top 15 FAP dealers. Among them was Ralph Sevinor of Wayne Alarm Systems who received special thanks for his help with the museum. (Ron Rothman recognizes Ralph Sevinor for his work on the Ademco Alarm Security Meeting in the top photo.) The council was holding one of its two annual meetings to coincide with this event. (I heard they generally favor more exotic locales, but I did hear they were staying in an historic Gold Coast castle.) Honeywell Security president Ben Cornett and First Alert president Joe Sausa were there; the surprise guest was Leo Guthart, former president of Ademco. (Leo Guthart below, in the new product room, with Rothman) Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics president Ron Rothman led the “backstage tour” of the spiffy new facility. In the engineering department, we saw a bunch of products on display (some prototypes, some awaiting launch, some European models that may or may not come to the Americas.) And while—OK, I admit it, the nuances of alarm systems products don’t always turn my head the way a nice pair of shoes might—it was interesting to hear what the FAP dealers on the tour had to say. And this collegial group had a lot to say; the products elicited emphatic thumbs-up and some products' components got thumbs-down. Mike Matson of Mattson Alarms told me that frank discussions along these lines are always part of the President’s Council meetings. “We give them feedback and tell them what we’re looking for,” he said. The tour included a walk through the Quality Assurance department where they shake, shower, strike-with-lightening and otherwise abuse products and products in their packaging to ensure quality. My favorite was a room that looked like a set from Star Trek, which cost a million dollars to create. It’s a chamber where they do RF testing on all products. (See the chamber in photo below. In the center of the photo in the tie is Steve Amodeo, Honeywell's vice president, Quality Security.) The QA department was established in early 80s by Leo Guthart. To avoid any rubber stamping of products, QA reports to the business leader rather than to engineering. Rothman said—and several FAP dealers (including John Jennings of Safeguard Security and John Bourque of HB Alarm) reiterated— that the establishment of this department along with the sales acumen of Guthart, helped “turn around Ademco”—at a time when some of its products were not up to snuff. In his 25-year tenure with the company, Rothman said the products have changed dramatically, but the design parameters established by Guthart have not. Tasked with manufacturing products that have to work in “the worst possible environment…there might be humidity, cobwebs, bugs, you name it…but our products have to work … they can’t interfere [with other electronics], they can’t be interfered with, they can’t cost a heck of a lot, they have to work for more than 20 years, and they have to work every single time, or we’ve failed.” Some new entrants into security manufacturing, particularly from the “cable, computer and telecommunications industries may think it’s easy to manufacture reliable security products, it’s not,” Rothman said.