ifsec 2019

Oprema at IFSEC 2019: “We’ll take installers to the solution they’re looking for”

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Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
June 11, 2019


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With IFSEC 2019 just days away, IFSEC Global talked to Gareth Williams, sales director at Oprema, about their plans for the show.

Oprema is the fastest-growing multi-brand distributor of CCTV, access control, intruder and fire products in the UK. The company provides over 100 world-leading brands such as Dahua, Advanced Electronics, Apollo, Hochiki, Honeywell, Milestone, Paxton, Texecom, Secure Logiq, Videx and many more.

Unusually for a distributor, it also provides training for customers and recently launched a video channel educating installers on how to install, set up and maintain a variety of products.

IFSEC Global: Hi, Gareth. Is Oprema still doing well in its market?

Gareth Williams: We’re now holding over £5m worth of stock, we’re Dahua’s largest distributor and we’re the fastest-growing distributor of vendors like Paxton, Apollo and Videx.

We’ve invested a lot in recruitment. We’ve got eight field-based BDMs – that’s more than doubled in a year – so we can give that personal level of service and engagement. And in total we’ve recruited 26 new members of staff over the year. We’ve gone from four years ago having about 10 members of staff to a current headcount of 53.

IG: What’s the secret of this success?

Having the right suppliers and supporting and understanding the products is a key differentiator.

Our strapline is: we don’t just shift boxes, we think outside them. We’re very much a solution sales business. Customers come to us with a problem or opportunity and we come up with maybe one, two or three options, driven by the budget.

We have the key vendors in the four pillars of our business: CCTV, access control, intrusion and fire. We can fulfil about 85% of opportunities or applications.

IG: What about making sure you’re efficient on the logistics side?

We have an exceptionally knowledgeable Operations Director in Ross Hawkins, who has made transformational developments in our logistics function. Nearly two years ago we went from a 4,000 square foot unit to a 16,000 square foot, purpose-built, best in class, distribution facility. Also, we’ve invested over £350,000 in the past few years in our SAP and CRM systems, to provide our customers the experience and services todays demand in landscape requires.

We have handheld scanners, so everything is serial-tracked and video-verified. So if someone places an order for 50 access control readers then say that 49 have arrived, they can give us the order number, we can put that into our SAP system and it will pull up the video verification of it being picked and packed. If there’s an incorrect pick we can get another one shipped tomorrow, or alternatively kindly ask the customer to check the count.

“We provide a pre-noon service as standard – and we’re the only distributor in the industry that does that”

Our cut-off time for orders is 5.30pm. However we provide a pre-noon service as standard – and we’re the only distributor in the industry that does that.

Some of our larger customers might place 10 orders in a day, but not all to the same location. So we send them an excel spreadsheet at the end of the day with all those orders and hyperlinks to delivery tracking. So if something hasn’t turned up at a site by say quarter to 12 they can track the order.

So our strategy is all about efficiency and customer service. The cost of product is reducing so much, where we can really add value is saving the customer time and the end user site being secured at a faster rate. Also the design side can be time consuming. From a pre-sales perspective, we’ve got hundreds of years of experience within our internal sales, technical and BDM team. Our customers truly value our brand agnostic approach and our solution sell.

IG: Are you adapting your business model to changing technology? Might cloud services pose a threat?

I wouldn’t say it poses any threat. We’re a very agile distribution business. We’re always searching for the latest technology and solution such as the cloud, home automation, artificial intelligence.

Cloud services will probably become more commonplace once the infrastructure can support it. The UK hasn’t currently got the coverage and throughput to support these services, whereas mainland Europe has fibre everywhere.  The BT legacy holds back those cloud services because you need a high upload speed.

Oprema is exhibiting at IFSEC International 2019, taking place 18-20 June 2019 at ExCeL London (stand IF842). Book your free ticket now.

IG: What trends are you finding most interesting right now?

There’s some shakeout in the market, some acquisition. Obviously there’s been huge growth from Chinese manufacturers in the CCTV industry –that’s applied pressure on our other vendors. It’s a mature market. In my opinion, the key for growth or even sustaining your current market position is innovation and listening and acting on customer feedback.

One big trend is integration. Everyone is becoming more familiar with Amazon’s app, people book flights through apps… So they want it for their security system, whether for their home or commercial premises.

Having an easy-to-use user interface, whether on PC, tablet or phone, that’s also how vendors can differentiate themselves.

What worries are most often keeping your customers awake at night?

We do customer surveys once a year and one concern was Brexit. Is there going to be continuity of supply? Will it have a massive impact on exchange rates? Many companies import components – not a lot of things are made in the UK nowadays.

From a new-build perspective, many main contractors, mechanical engineers or electrical contractors, that would come down the chain to security companies. They say: “can you give us some certainty over the next 12 months on the projects you quoted for the cost, continuity of the supply, and your contingency plan for Brexit?” This has been a very complex situation to plan and poetically overcome however we have seriously considered our contingencies such as increasing stock level and forward buying on the dollar to provide us with certainty moving forward.

However we still don’t know what is going to happen and when.

“Installers probably need to install twice as many systems today as they did five years ago to earn the same money”

Another source of concern for security installers has been the price decline. So they probably need to install twice as many systems today as they did five years ago to earn the same amount of money. But you probably need twice the labour force to do it.

So it’s a more competitive landscape. And I think training, upskilling your workforce, is one way to succeed. We have many training courses, some that can be done remotely. That’s something we’re very passionate about. Not many distributors do that.

It’s not something you’d necessarily expect a distributor to do…

We’ve done work with Train the Trainer, so we run training courses ourselves. Some are CPD-approved so we get consultants in. Many of our Partners come in and do training for our customers.

So 80% of [course attendees] are engineers or installers with field engineers.

There’s a lot our tech team do to help mitigate cybersecurity risks for customers, both through advice on how to set up the network and in our pre-configuration and prebuilds.

We recently also invested in Cyber Essentials for all our IT infrastructure, which ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of bigger installers.

What are your three biggest selling brands and products?

Biggest selling brands are Dahua, Paxton and Apollo Fire Detectors.

The Dahua megapixel turret is the highest selling CCTV camera, the highest selling access control product is the Paxton Net 2 controller and for fire it’s the Apollo XP95 heat detector.

But we have over 100 vendors and 33,000 SKUs on our SAP system. And we’re brand-agnostic; it’s about the solution.

Moving on to IFSEC, what are the plans this year?

Many of our key suppliers have stands, so IFSEC is a great time to reconnect with existing customers and show them some new technology. It’s also a great place to meet some new customers.

Our stand is in the middle of a busy area. We’ve got a remote connection into our demonstration facility, which has 140 cameras and lots of different brands. Whatever the application is, we can tailor the demonstration to that.

We work closely with our partners, so we’ll take people to their stands. There’ll be some interesting new technology and if something catches people’s eye we’ll take them to see it and give them advice on where we think it will add value and perhaps bring some new revenue.

We’ve always been big supporters of IFSEC. You can see a lot of new technology in one day. Rather than them wandering around aimlessly, we can take installers to the correct solution they’re looking for. They might say: “If only I had a product that does this” – and we can suggest one that does.

Oprema is exhibiting at IFSEC International 2019, taking place 18-20 June 2019 at ExCeL London (stand IF842). Book your free ticket now.

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