23 Aug 2021

Innovator Interview: Hunter Douglas

Customer Story

Watch as Terry Arbaugh, VP of Sales and Marketing, discusses Hunter Douglas with their Director of Product, Scott Stephenson, during this Innovator Interview.

Do you have an innovative product and are searching for the right hardware design and manufacturing partner? Let’s see if we’re a good fit. Get started here.

--

Learn more about Hunter Douglas:
Website: https://www.hunterdouglas.com

--

Transcript

Terry:
Welcome to the Innovator Interview Series brought to you by SEACOMP, where we help innovators deliver awesome. I've got a guest that I'm very excited about today and we're going to jump right in. So please, tell the viewers who you are.

Scott:
My name is Scott Stephenson. I am the Director of Product for Hunter Douglas.

Terry:
Fantastic, and tell us about Hunter Douglas, Scott.

Scott:
Hunter Douglas is the world's largest manufacturer of custom window treatments. We're actually about a little over 100 year old company. Really just started out doing aluminum venetian blinds way, way back when. We now have an incredibly broad portfolio of different types of window treatments and in the last five, six, seven years have really brought us into the world of IoT and home automation as the world has really shifted to wanting their window treatments to be motorized and automated. 

Terry:
How did you first get started with Hunter Douglas or how long have you been with the company?

Scott:
I've been with Hunter Douglas about three and a half years, but I've been in kind of the smart home space for 15 years now and really got exposed to Hunter Douglas through my previous job where I was with a company that did a lot of broad complete home automation type stuff and we integrated with lots of other companies and part of my responsibilities there was our blind and shade integration. And so I met a lot of the folks at Hunter Douglas and really liked what they were doing.

Terry:
Just really briefly about Hunter Douglas, there is, obviously being such a large company there's a big global footprint so where is the headquarters and maybe just a quick, how many offices or locations around the world?

Scott:
Officially, our worldwide headquarters are based in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. We have a New York or a North America headquarters that's in New York, it's Pearl River, New York. I mean, in North America alone, I don't even know how many offices we have. We have I think eight or nine different facilities that are actually doing fabrication of shades. Then, globally, we've got similar representation in Europe, big presence in Australia, Latin America, Asia and we really are a global company. A lot of the fundamental research and development for our motorization and automation solutions happens here in Colorado, where I'm located but again, innovation going on all across the world really.

Terry:
Thank you for that. Awesome, that's really good background to get us started. Now we'll move into the product. So tell us about the product that our companies and teams collaborated on together. What problem does it solve or how does it improve the world we live in? 

Scott:
We've had several collaborations with SEACOMP. I think the one that's probably been most important, at least most recently, is our rechargeable battery wand solution. So traditionally our shades have been able to be powered by either just an alkaline battery wand, a little combination of AA batteries that you hide behind the shade or you could hardwire them if you were in a new construction environment. But, many people when they're buying new shades are not buying them because they're moving into a brand new build home. It's because they're upgrading their space or they're moving into an existing home and pre-wiring for those shades just isn't an option. Running off of standard alkaline batteries works great, except you have to change out the batteries probably about once a year and you can imagine that moving a large shade up and down a couple times a day goes through a decent number of batteries. We definitely saw where our customers weren't enjoying having to replace all those batteries every year and you can imagine that gets exponentially worse as you start having more and more shades. We definitely wanted something that was more friendly for our consumers, made them feel like they weren't being such an environmental problem, throwing away all these batteries. It's certainly more convenient as well to just be able to simply recharge.

We wanted to do something maybe a little more innovative than what we'd seen out there. Most of the what we had seen in terms of a rechargeable solution was something where it was either kind of built into the shade itself or kind of attached to the shade and you needed to run a cable up to the shade to recharge it and then you're going to have your cable dangling there for a couple hours, two, three hours while it charges. 

We wanted to treat it more like you would treat a rechargeable drill. If you have your rechargeable drill, or something like that, when the battery runs out, you don't say, “Okay, I’m gonna go find that plug with the long cable and haul that around with me while I'm finishing this job.” No, you just go and you swap out the battery for a fresh one that's been sitting there on the charger, freshly charged. And we wanted to take that same approach and so we worked with SEACOMP for not just the battery wand but also the the charger and we did a really nice charging station that can charge two battery wands and that way for our customers when they've got their you know their 8, 10, 15 shades installed, they can keep a couple of those battery wands just on the charger and then when it comes time to, they know, okay they get a notification through our app, “Hey your your battery's running low.” All they have to do is one time up the ladder pull the one out that's starting to get depleted, snap the fully charged one in, drop the other one back on the charger and they're ready to go for the next time. It's been a very well received solution.

Terry:
That is fantastic and I think it's a really, really cool concept in your space, to apply the drill rechargeable battery concept in your space. The user experience improvement and also the environmental impact, absolutely massive. Really, really great background on the product. Thanks for that. You kind of touched on it here but the question is, what services did you hire SEACOMP for with this product?

Scott:
Really it was, we looked to SEACOMP to really be very much a turnkey provider for us on this. We came to them definitely with an industrial design that we wanted to meet but we really looked to SEACOMP to help us figure out the right battery technology, the right charging technology, in both pieces of this solution. Both of which were extremely important to making the overall solution work well. And utilized SEACOMP for the product development side of it as well as then, of course, the manufacturing side.

Terry:
Yeah, wonderful. Thank you for that. And then, when you are looking at, this is a more generic question but specific to this product, what's most important to you and the Hunter Douglas team when you're selecting manufacturing partners for these types of products? And maybe, some of the reasons behind your answer.

Scott:
We definitely look at a variety of things when we're selecting partners like this. Of course, we want folks that we think are going to be reliable in the long run from a quality standpoint, from a technology standpoint. We had had some experience with SEACOMP before simply through the purchase of a little USB power supply that went into another product of ours that we used just to power that product. I had always seen really good quality, liked the technology that was there, and then I think through some additional exposure at places like CES and stuff like that, started to realize more of the broader capabilities of SEACOMP. We definitely look for partners that we feel like, and I guess it's a little trite, but are going to be partners. That this isn't just a, “Okay here's something we'll throw it over the wall to you and you know we're going to expect you to throw it over the wall back to us.” That's not the way we work. We're definitely a company that likes to get our hands in things, probably in some cases in an annoying way, we change our mind occasionally. We definitely like working with companies that understand that. That have the flexibility to deal with that and that obviously have proven that they can deliver good strong solutions obviously at a market appropriate price point.

Terry:
Awesome, yeah. Thank you for that. I wouldn't say annoying, right, the collaboration. You guys have very high standards, as you should for the types of products that you're delivering to the market and the types of customers you're serving. So, not annoying.

Scott:
It's definitely, we have a very high-end clientele and, I shouldn't say it that way, but I mean certainly it's middle, upper market and above. And the expectations from our customers are high and we continually strive to exceed those expectations.

Terry:
Yeah wonderful, wonderful. Thank you very much for that. And then now, we'll just move into this question where I'm going to ask you about your experience working with SEACOMP. Maybe just what things went well? What areas would you like to see improvement on for future projects?

Scott:
Yeah, no I think, obviously a lot went really well. The communication was great, from a project management standpoint, you guys were always really on top of things, letting us know what was going on. I think it was a very open line of communication to really everybody within the SEACOMP organization that we interacted with. We had regular project meetings. At some, at one point during the project as things were getting to crunch time I think it was twice a week even. But through most of the project it was once a week or once every other week. But again, it was a very collaborative relationship which I think worked well.

I would say the other thing that did work really well was you guys brought something to the table which was important to us which was the regulatory expertise side of it. We knew that the charger, as well as that battery wand, we wanted, certainly the charger had to be UL approved or it probably had to be but certainly we definitely wanted it to. The rechargeable wand we could have gotten away with just having the internal battery pack that was in there as a UL registered component but we wanted to go beyond that. We wanted the whole battery wand itself to be UL listed and you guys brought a lot of expertise to the table and experience in working with the UL folks in China to make that happen and make it happen in a fairly expedient way. I think that was great.

In terms of what could go better, I mean there's always, especially I think this was our first time really working together on a big project like this and so there's always things that in retrospect that you think, “Oh you know we could have done that differently or would have been nice to know about this sooner” kind of thing. But there aren't huge things that come to mind.

Terry:
Yeah a lot of when you're doing complex projects on an aggressive timeline, generally in electronics product development and manufacturing, you're going to run into a few things, right. So the communication and the collaboration between teams to figure those things out I thought were the ways we were able to overcome those things. So I really appreciate the comments there. The last question I just want to give you a chance to tell the viewers, where they can learn more about the company and the product line we're discussing here today.

Scott:
Yeah, simplest place is at hunterdouglas.com.

Terry:
And the name of the product line?

Scott:
PowerView is the name of our automated motorized window treatment solutions. You'll see that very prominently on the website and then we have a wide variety of different types of window shades that can all be motorized. I think it's something like 22 different types of window shades that can be motorized.

Terry:
Amazing, well Scott, thank you so much. Viewers again, please check out Hunter Douglas at their website and the PowerView product line for their motorized shade line. Scott, thank you again so much, really appreciate your time.

Scott:
Yeah absolutely, I appreciate you doing this!