Ultratec Makes Its Move
There’s a new player in the increasingly competitive market for foggers, hazers and special effects: Ultratec Special Effects Inc., has, in a very short time, made its presence known in, among other things, the Super Bowl halftime show, Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, and Viva ELVIS Cirque du Soleil’s latest Las Vegas spectacle. The name may seem unfamiliar but, in fact, Ultratec is run by two well-known industry figures: The pyro portion of the business is under the management of Adrian Segeren, and the special effects portion is under the management of Marnie Styles.
Many readers will recall that both Segeren and Styles were, for many years, the North American faces of the U.K.-based company Le Maitre. However, says Styles, “We parted ways” from Le Maitre last year. When asked about the parting, she says, “Our philosophies and values are different. We are more customer-oriented.” Explicating that remark, she notes that the decision was rooted in long experience and a deep understanding of the special effects market: “Business changes,” she says. “Therefore, as responsible business owners, we have to change, or risk losing business in the current market. Our partnership was limiting our ability to address the ever-changing business climate and the concerns of our customers. The partnership was also limiting the growth strategy of our business. Our commitment to our customers revolves around the fundamental commitment to change—especially in terms of how we respond to their needs, address service issues, deliver product, develop new products, communicate with each other, offer support, and listen to what they are saying. If your partner is uninterested in change, then it’s time to change your partner. Business is moving faster and faster; if you don’t change, you will be rendered redundant. Ultratec is designed to provide the kind of rapid-response service that the market demands.”
Having started Ultratec in May 2009, Segeren and Styles held onto their fogger manufacturing facility, which employs 35 people, in London, Ontario. (An office in Florida handles repairs; deliveries are made out of a distribution center in Port Huron, Michigan.) Also, in 2007, Segeren acquired the assets and factory of Luna Tech, based in Huntsville, Alabama. Now all of Ultratec’s pyro products are manufactured in that facility, which employs about 40 workers. In addition, Segeren and Styles retained their dealer network, allowing Ultratec to have a relatively smooth entrée into the marketplace. In addition, they kept their Ontario headquarters, which means that there was no disruptive change of address or phone number or staff.
All of this is for the good, because, says Styles, Ultratec has two major selling points: “the products and the people.” Segeren originally entered the industry as an audio dealer, and then ran Genco Industries, which manufactured lighting gear for the club market. He launched Le Maitre Special Effects Inc., in North America as a joint venture in 1992, and getting the company’s products on Broadway and into the theme park and concert touring markets. Styles came to work with Segeren after a career in the financial industry, helping to develop the mobile investment market, in which, she says, “we come to you.” It’s an unusual background for selling fog machines, but, she says, “Business is business. I’m simply selling a different product.”
Styles adds that, with a new company name, she and Segeren hit the ground running, moving fast to continue to secure their place in the market. Both of them are on the road a great deal of the time. Styles spoke to LSA at the USITT Show in Kansas City, Missouri, having just returned from the Prolight + Sound show in Frankfurt, Germany. She notes that Segeren, who, like her, is based in Ontario, spends a week each month in Huntsville, overseeing production. In many ways, the two are like ships passing in the night, but, she adds, the two of them stay in touch through all the usual modern digital means.
Meanwhile, the company continues to promote the same product line it developed and continues to manufacture. On the fogger side, it includes the Stage Fogger DMX; the Low Smoke Generator, using the PFI-9D system; the Radiance Haze Machine, which is billed as a significant advance in water-based haze technology. (Styles notes that the company’s foggers are approved for use by Actors Equity, making them an obvious choice for theatre applications.) “We have the most extensive number of products on that list,” she adds. All this information and more can be found on our web site www.ultratecfx.com. In months to come the SPFX Web Site will be receiving a new look along with many new features which will enhance the customer’s experience.
On the pyro side, Ultratec is promoting the Pyropak brand products, which, Styles says, are quickly regaining their original status as market leaders. The company has a longstanding relationship with DMD Systems, a New Mexico-based maker of low-smoke pyro products and DMD’s Angel Fire brand is now manufactured in the Huntsville Facility. “This has allowed the DMD team to focus on development,” Styles says. “We are committed to developing new products, but we are also continuing with our improvement commitment to our existing products, to ensure we can deliver beyond our customers’ expectations. The newly developed Pyro website has exceptional illustrations showing our product line in great detail: www.ultratecfx.com. The new site is an example of cutting-edge technology, allowing our dealers to view unprecedented information about their account, pricing, product information, inventory levels, etc.”
Looking ahead, the company has numerous plans in place. Product development continues apace, with a new fogger in the R&D stage for release later in the year. Another major goal is to open a European office in 2011, and to eventually have a manufacturing facility there as well for certain products. “A lot of people already know us there, because they understand the difference between our products and our former partner’s offerings, so we have a head start,” says Styles. “As someone recently said to me during a business meeting, ‘You can’t fool people today; they are smarter, they research more, and they have more access to information than ever before.’”
Styles clearly believes in relying on such old-fashioned virtues as product quality, solid relationships, and flexibility in the face of change. She’s also realistic. “Special effects make up the smallest part of the production budget,” she says, adding that Ultratec is determined to provide a customer with the highest quality for his or her money. It’s a strategy that’s likely to prove hard to beat.
As writen in Lighting & Sound USA
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