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Integrators play integral role during COVID-19

Integrators play integral role during COVID-19 Surviving and thriving while adapting to the new norm

YARMOUTH, Maine—The COVID-19 pandemic has presented security systems integrators with a number of challenges during these unprecedented times. In addition to adapting their own businesses to survive and thrive during the pandemic, integrators have also modified the way they interact with customers and serve their ever-changing needs when working on projects.

In spite of the challenges that integrators are facing during COVID-19, they are meeting these challenges head-on in order to successfully operate, finding ways to adapt to the new norm due to hard work and determination.

Abe Schwab, vice president of Care Security, which is a member of Security-Net, a group of systems integrators that join forces to discuss best practices within the security industry, noted the importance of weekly Zoom meetings of Security-Net members in order to survive and thrive during the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, Security-Net, as a group, decided to have weekly Zoom meetings,” he explained. “Because we were all in the same boat at the same time, it was important for us to stay in close contact. We shared best practices, we shared federal funding guidelines to make sure we did that correctly. We talked about manufacturers of different products that specifically were designed to combat the pandemic. We reviewed them and vetted them to decide which was best to be used. We talked about emerging technologies, and we talked about personnel. With the changes going on, who is bringing on personnel, who is furloughing, and how to go about that.

“It was just very, very helpful because we had this group of leading integrators virtually in a room on a weekly basis, and we were able to really huddle and come up with the best plan of action. I believe that helped us tremendously to get through this in the best possible way.”

Pandemic Response

Schwab added that his company used PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] funding to maintain liquidity when the pandemic hit. “Being that we are an essential services business, we continued to operate throughout the pandemic in the field,” he said. “The technicians, our install teams, our service teams, our project management teams that were in the field continued to operate throughout the entire time.

“We provided our personnel with PPE. In addition to the traditional masks, we bought them full gowns and all types of things because we didn’t know what we were going to be up against when the pandemic came in. Eventually, things settled down to just the basic face masks and hand sanitizer, but in the beginning, we were just buying anything we could get our hands on because we knew that we wanted to continue to operate, and we didn’t want anyone to contract the virus.”

Schwab noted that his company did not furlough or let any employees go when the pandemic hit. “We looked at it as a time of opportunity when other companies were letting people go, we were saying that this is an opportunity to bring on good talent, and we did. We hired people during this time because it’s been a market that’s been difficult to bring new people on prior to the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, companies were letting people go, and it was an opportunity for us to bring on really good talent. It worked in our favor because our business has been in a growth pattern.”

Care Security instituted a work-from-home environment as well in response to the pandemic. “That was something which we saw was necessary,” Schwab said. “For our sales staff, our administrative staff, our accounting staff, all were working from home. We maintained that for a long time until people were comfortable, and we were able to establish social distancing protocols within our office. Eventually, most of our staff returned to the office.”

Among the protocols put in place were daily temperature checks before clocking in, and a health questionnaire to determine whether they have been exposed or out of state, if they are feeling well, or if they have a fever. “It has really worked to reduce the amount of exposure to the virus,” Schwab noted.

In addition, field crews and staff were kept separate from each other in order to reduce exposure. “Much of our market is healthcare,” Schwab explained. “We market to a lot of critical infrastructure in healthcare and medical manufacturing, so we were right there in the hospitals when COVID-19 was hitting the hardest. We had to be really careful that our people were safe and protected.”

“We were doing a lot of camera installs in COVID wards because the hospitals wanted to reduce the amount of human contact in those wards. They were using technology to observe what was going on there and reduce the amount of people who had to go in. That was an opportunity for new business when COVID was slowing down some of our other business. It hit the construction industry, so a lot of those projects came to a halt, but our healthcare projects, which is a large vertical within our company, picked up substantially.”

Detection Technology

Schwab noted that his company employed various technologies in response to the pandemic, including analytics and cameras for contact tracing.

“On the customer side, if someone were to be found to have tested positive, we utilize video analytics to be able to identify where they were, who they came in contact with, and quickly be able to run a report so that we could notify those people to not spread the virus further,” he explained. “We also do people counting, so if there’s an area where there’s a maximum number of individuals who are allowed to be in a certain place, we’re using video analytics to count how many people are going in and going out. We keep a tally of how many people are in a certain place, and if it goes above that amount, we’re able to identify that and notify if necessary.”

In regard to serving customer needs, Schwab noted that in terms of sales, because person-to-person interaction has to be minimized, salespeople are doing less in-person meetings.

“We’ve increased our social media presence substantially,” he said. “We are doing more sales and marketing via social media and web conferencing. That has been a way for us to maintain our connection with our customers.

“We also instituted weekly phone calls to a lot of our key customers to make sure they’re doing okay, and to keep our finger on the pulse to see if they need anything from a technology standpoint, and what we could do to pivot to be available for them. That proved to be very effective.”

Looking Ahead

Even in the midst of the pandemic, Schwab is optimistic about his company’s sales for 2021. “Our pipeline looks healthy for 2021,” he predicted. “We’re excited for 2021. It’s going to be a good year because a lot of the projects that were on hold from last year are going to be back in gear.

“In addition, there are a lot of new technologies emerging, and a lot of emphasis being put on security that we think will be opportunity for our industry.”

Note: This is part one of a two-part article on how Security-Net members are adapting during the pandemic. Check back next week for part two.


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