By Chris Freimond
When Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre boasted earlier this year that it had installed the world’s most advanced projection system, it had a Canadian company to thank for the achievement. Manufactured in Kitchener, Ontario the Christie 6P RGB laser projector helped revitalize and reimagine the iconic Seattle landmark and place it at the leading edge of theatres capable of providing the finest cinematic experience possible.
World-leading achievements are not new to Christie Digital Systems Canada Inc. For example, the company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ushio, Inc., Japan last year installed the world’s first museum-based 4K 3D giant screen 6P laser projection system in the MG3D Cinema at Moody Garden theme park in Galveston, Texas.
While Christie is proud of its world firsts, the company notes that its reputation is based on years of work that have gone into building a range of visual and audio display products for a highly competitive global market. Ihor Stech, Christie’s executive VP of operations, says with over 95 per cent of production sold and delivered outside of Canada, the company’s focus on building and maintaining its market has been intense.
“Our competitors are located in and have power-bases in Asia and Europe, so we are often competing against local heroes,” says Mr. Stech.
To increase its competitive edge beyond the quality and performance of its products, Mr. Stech says the firm employs forward-thinking policies and processes. Among them the company hedges against global currency fluctuations – a move that protects the company’s bottom line when the Canadian dollar rises, and reaps additional benefits when the Loonie sinks against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies.
Christies also works to ensure its products meet the wide and varied range of regulations and certifications that often differ significantly from market to market.
“We can have our products certified to the extreme in North American jurisdictions, but that means little to the governments in other countries who want their own safety standards and certifications met before we can sell our products,” says Mr. Stech.
Christie has also gained valuable experience in logistics management over the years, he adds.
“We quickly learned that we needed very strong global logistics partners to help us move products around the world, and we established a network of global distribution centres to satisfy customer requirements, when rapid shipment is needed,” he says.
But Mr. Stech emphasizes that lessons learned in years past can’t always be relied on in a rapidly-changing global market.
“It’s a dynamic environment, and we depend on highly-trained and flexible professionals in our internal global logistics team and in our partner organizations to understand the markets, the countries and the customers so that we can keep up with changes to our business.”
International business lessons learned by Christie Digital:
Don’t rely exclusively on third-parties to conduct your business overseas.
Establish a presence through branch offices and trusted agents. For example, Christie opened an office near London more than 30 years ago as a springboard to Europe. In China, the company began with one sales office. When the business benefits were clear, it increased its sales presence, and established a manufacturing plant in Shenzhen.
Put some skin in the game. By establishing a presence and hiring locally Christie built trust with partners and governments. The firm also demonstrated it is not a fly by night operator. In turn, Christie was rewarded with intelligence, opportunities and a knowledge transfer that provided significant and lasting benefits.
Hire, train, re-train and retain good people. All Christie assembly line staff have post-secondary diplomas or degrees. The company also moves people from different disciplines around the organization to give them different perspectives of the business.
Leverage your special attributes. In Christie’s case it’s been entrepreneurship, qualified risk-taking and utilizing the intellectual property that comes from world-class educational institutions to design products and solutions that can compete with the world’s best.
Demonstrate your competitive advantage. At Christie, for example, the company’s Boxer 4K30 projectors, introduced in January, are the brightest and lightest projectors in their class of products on the market. Christie’s cinema laser-projection technology impressed Dolby Laboratories, Inc. to the point that Dolby is having Christie produce custom units.
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