By Tom Chmielewski
Digitech International's 20-plus years working in self-storage security can be summed up in one word: quality. That's how the Asheville, N.C.-based company, formerly known as Doug West & Associates, has carved out its leadership position in the industry. Each of its innovative products and service programs has been designed and redesigned until it performs well beyond customer expectations. In an industry hungry for the peace of mind security provides, it's a sound business plan.
A visit to Digitech's new headquarters reveals a beehive of activity. There, a 55-member team is exclusively focused on developing and marketing access-control and security systems for a worldwide self-storage industry. The demand for these products is not surprising. Giving customers the protection they desire affords self-storage owner/operators a distinct competitive advantage, resulting in boosted occupancy and higher rental rates.
Innovation: Part of the Corporate Culture
Although Digitech embraces the somewhat old-fashioned notion of uncompromising quality, it has always been about innovation. The company was the first to offer an all-aluminum keypad faceplate with no moving parts, use a built-in keypad intercom, supply owners with a security marketing display for greater sales power, put a covert CCTV camera inside the keypad, offer a support package of installation specifications and CAD drawings... And each innovation was the result of a relentless drive to better meet the needs of this growing industry.
"All of our products are engineered with quality in mind," asserts Jon Loftin, chief design engineer at Digitech. "Our all-metal keypads are just one example. Sure, we could make them with rubber or silicon parts, but they wouldn't last as long. They wouldn't be Digitech quality."
Quality Products and Solutions
In the early '80s, DigiGate 102™ access-control software became a popular choice in self-storage security. The fact that so many of these stalwart systems remain on the job speaks for itself. Today, however, the DigiGate 700™ access-control system carries the banner for Digitech. Compatible with Windows software, the package can execute a database backup, make reports, interface with accounting software, operate door alarms and video-surveillance systems, and accommodate virtually unlimited keypads operating door-locking devices, gates and even elevators.
The company's DigiGuard™ system solved the puzzle of the wireless door alarm. In the past, wireless alarm systems amounted to off-the-shelf home units that proved untrustworthy in a self-storage setting. What the industry needed was an effective wireless system. With its unique 900 MHz technology, powerful transmitter and innovative receiver/repeater technology, the DigiGuard system has proven eminently reliable in a typically metallic, self-storage environment. It also saves installation time over its hard-wired counterparts, whether applied to new structures or used for retrofitting existing ones.
A Way of Doing Business
Quality-management systems have become a way of life at Digitech. The company utilizes "teaming," in which a team of staffers is assigned to each customer. Technical knowledge is a requirement of all sales people, who see to it that the customer understands the entire process from initial contact, through installation, to follow-up.
During the design phase, Digitech engineers provide expert input on specs and estimates, all with the understanding that the security system is engineered to suit the facility, and not the other way around. Digitech also connects customers with its affiliated installers, and maintains the manufacturer/client relationship with a nationwide servicing network and in-house tech support.
"It's a total quality package," observes Marketing Director Steve Cooper. "Our customers know they'll get the attention they deserve. They can count on our products, as well as our toll-free technical support." Relationships are valued highly at Digitech. "It's a concept we call 'partnering,'" explains Cooper. "We strive to be effective partners to developers, architects, installation companies and customers--all those involved in the process. We encourage customers to share their vision, even before construction begins."
A Quality Future
The rapid expansion of the self-storage industry has meant unprecedented growth at Digitech. The company's new headquarters now contains an in-house engineering department and facilities for product testing. Components of Digitech products have been listed by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and also carry the CE Mark, a comparable European registration. Today, Digitech products are providing secure access control in North America, Europe and Australia, with other markets in the planning stages.
The company's expanded facilities contain a new training center which is used to keep operators and outside contractors up to speed on product developments. Digitech has also formed a unique public/private alliance with the local college for the purpose of staff training and counseling in the area of quality management and team building.
"We're all very proud of the growth we've achieved," comments Cooper, "but it's humbling, too. We know we've come this far only because our customers believe in what we're doing. If we're going to stay on top, we have to give them the quality products and relationships they demand. That's quite a challenge." But it's a challenge Digitech appears ready to meet.
For more information, contact Steve Cooper at 800.523.9504 or visit www.digitech-intl.com.
Tom Chmielewski is a freelance writer.