Months before consumer electronics powerhouse Samsung announced in November 2016 its intent to acquire Harman and its divisions including Professional Solutions, Harman Pro began a major restructuring which would be completed by July 2018. By the time Samsung finalized the purchase in March 2017, Harman Pro was already well underway with restructuring that affected each of its brands: AKG Acoustics, AMX, BSS Audio, Crown International, dbx Professional, DigiTech, JBL Professional, Lexicon Pro, Martin, Soundcraft, and Studer. Amid layoffs and the consolidations of numerous facilities, three centralized Centers for Competency were formed.
Amid layoffs during Harmon Pro's "reconstruction" and the consolidation of numerous facilities, three centralized Centers for Competency were formed. These were created to optimize each brand’s core research and development strengths, by leveraging the physical proximity of various teams.
Lighting is centered in the long-serving home of Martin in Aarhus, Denmark. Acoustics is located at Harman Pro’s existing facilities in Northridge, California and AMX’s home base of Richardson, Texas houses DSP, electronics, and video and control.
“The restructuring was about infusing HARMAN Professional Solutions with a massive investment to efficiently bring higher quality products to market faster. What you’re seeing here in Pecs is the result of that investment towards improving our manufacturing process, not only for Martin, but for our other brands, too. Martin is and will continue to be a core focus for Harman.” Andy Flint, vice president lighting, HARMAN Professional Solutions
The transformation of Harman Professional continued with substantial investments in state-of-the-art Experience Centers, built worldwide, each offering immersive experiences that showcase the synergy and interconnection between Harman Pro’s brand in the markets they touch – studio recording, live sound, immersive retail environments, architectural and its many professional lighting, audio and display applications.
With so much change, how has the company been fairing? According to Harman Professional Solutions executive vice president, Mohit Parasher, the restructuring has resulted in a “positive impact”, and had previously reported that, “2018 was a record year for orders booked.”
There has been much curiosity surrounding Samsung's acquisition and the impact on individual brands. In fact, R&D and new product introductions from Martin continued unabated throughout the restructuring and afterwards with the launch of tent pole products such as MAC Encore Performance, MAC Allure, ERA 300 Profile and the ELP LED Ellipsoid fixtures.
To demonstrate how these new products benefit from Harman’s updated manufacturing operations, and ongoing R&D through its newly formed Center of Competency for Lighting, Martin invited members of the press, distributors, and customers from countries across the globe to attend a joint tour of Harman Professional’s manufacturing plant located in Pécs, Hungary.
Two hours outside of Budapest stands Harman’s 320,000 square foot factory that produces several of its brands, including Soundcraft, Studer and Martin. This, the largest manufacturing facility in the Budapest region, employs more than 2,000 people. About 20 million USD were invested in the building, as everything from floor to ceiling is new. It requires strict humidity and temperature controls to protect specialized components and even has implemented a rigorous dress protocol for employees working in its environment.
Beginning the process
A walkthrough of the factory’s receiving area initiated the tour. According to Pécs’ plant director, Lajos Somogyvári, the facility sees around six to seven trucks per day from suppliers delivering parts from more than 400 suppliers, worldwide.
Trucks are offloaded, and a quality assurance team randomly samples incoming materials. Once inbound parts are recorded to SAP booking, they’re put away in the voluminous warehouse which has an area able to contain 11,000 pallets, that if stacked would measure 1.6 kilometers high.
Low bay racks are also used to feed products to assembly as forklifts are not able to keep up with more commonly used materials. Noted Somogyvári, “In the staging area, cardboard, a source of dust contamination, has been replaced with plastic bins for product storage. Each bin has its own location barcode using the standard SAP system for tracking since, roughly, a half million components are pulled from this area daily for production.”
Like the rest of Harman’s factory, the assembly line environment is meticulously clean and organized. Each customer order arrives with documentation that is strictly adhered to by two assigned colleagues, one who will oversee assembly of products, while the other supervises product testing. These same two colleagues will track the progress of an order from the time documentation arrives, until finished products are ready for shipment.
Somogyvári explained the framework of product assembly for the Martin brand. “Our first station in the assembly line is where the lighting base is manufactured. The next line is making the yoke that physically holds the head, the next attaches the lighting head. The processing is very similar for each of our products. This sounds relatively customary, until you consider the complexity of components. For example, the Mac Viper has more than 4,000 individual parts that are assembled.”
Extreme attention to detail has refined the manufacturing process. Such as, when a fixture begins its journey on the assembly line, its base is first attached to a platform that can be easily affixed to a customized cart or “trolley” which carries a product during the entire manufacturing and testing process, helping to ensure smooth and seamless movement.
Testing & calibration
After the manufacturing of a product is complete, it arrives at the testing center where it’s subjected to “two times 100 percent inspection”. Somogyvári elaborated, “a visual inspection happens where one colleague will run through a series of tests on each light totaling about 200 tests. Because it’s a visual test and people can make mistakes the same series of tests are repeated with a different, trained person.” Martin maintains strict requirements for those who run visually subjective tests, and requires six months of training for each colleague who assumes this role.
The testing center also includes a special burning area where all Martin lamps are subjected to hours of performance and longevity testing. Also, every RBG LED light undergoes specialized testing within one of five different calibration tunnels. Each tunnel is dedicated to different products. For calibration testing purposes, lamps are run for two hours (warming the LEDs are integral to the process) then units are moved inside the tunnel.
On one side of each calibration tunnel lights are installed. The tunnel’s other side holds cameras pointing directly at the lamps. “This calibration process is unique to Martin and ensures that the blue is always the same blue, green is always the same green and red is always the same red. If you purchased a lamp five years ago and one today, and they are next to each other on the stage they will always have the same color,” assured Somogyvari.
During a discussion on quality assurance, Markus Klusener, product manager, Professional Stage Lighting, HARMAN Professional Solutions, shared with attendees, “I really have to say that this factory is at the level of matureness, quality, cleanliness and operating at the level we were at in Denmark, if not even better and we couldn’t be happier. Nothing is being built at other factories around the world. We’re now producing all the moving heads, everything here.”
Harman future: P3 Integration
“The P3 platform is the most advanced video processing platform on the market. It’s the future of where we are going,” states Klusener who adds, “You may ask, what is the fuss over P3? It is our planetary software which basically synchronizes a number of our fixtures and sends video at the same time – as used by our VDO Sceptron panels or video heads – and video maps automatically across all of them. Once a lighting designer or director gets their hands on this capability their minds are blown.”
Andy Flint, vice president of lighting for Harman Professional Solutions, reinforced Martin’s place in the new company structure, “The restructuring was about infusing HARMAN Professional Solutions with a massive investment to efficiently bring higher quality products to market faster. What you’re seeing here in Pecs is the result of that investment towards improving our manufacturing process, not only for Martin, but for our other brands, too. Martin is and will continue to be a core focus for Harman.”