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Q&A: Bob Schluter, CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

2013 CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award winner Bob Schluter of Middle Atlantic Products discusses changes and challenges facing in the industry

Bob Schluter says technology changes are occurring so rapidly that integrators who do not keep up will be "run over by a competitor."
Jason Knott · September 9, 2013

Bob Schluter, chief engineer and founder of Middle Atlantic Products, was floored when he found out he had been named the 2013 CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Schluter will be honored at the Electronic Lifestyles Awards Celebration at CEDIA Expo on September 28. A holder of multiple patents, Schluter has been active in the professional A/V and computer industries in various capacities since 1976. His universally recognized white papers on the management of power, cabling and heat in racks and cabinets have contributed significantly to the industry and remain a valuable resource for home technology professionals.

He spoke with CE Pro about his career and receiving the CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award.

What is your background/history in the industry?
I was doing sound reinforcement and small commercial audio jobs (doctors’ offices, restaurants, etc.) in the mid-70s, then went into small-scale recording studio design and troubleshooting. Seeing the need for a better product, round speaker grills was my first offering as a manufacturer. Then an overseas manufacturer knocked-off my design, tooled it, and nearly put me out of business. That’s when I decided to start patenting products and make a commercial rack accessory line. These accessories sold as quickly as we could make them.

In the late 1980s, I heard about a few folks from the residential install market who were getting together for a small exhibition at Amelia Island in Florida and putting together a trade association [that would become CEDIA]. Having known residences were the kind of installations that always used wood-fascias and shelves, I thought racks would be ideal for them and that perhaps they could learn from the professional/commercial world. So I went and hung out with Tom Doherty at the first show, checking things out. We exhibited the following year, and have ever since.

How did you find out you had won the CEDIA Lifetime Achievement award and what was your reaction?
Mike Baker at Middle Atlantic told me, and I was floored. After all, there are giants of the industry who’ve won that award. But as I thought how we helped change the industry and expand the capabilities of the installers, this is a nice recognition of what we have accomplished.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the industry since you started in the business, either from a technological or business standpoint?
The biggest technology change is the adoption of the network into the fabric of the control and devices. Those who do not catch up with technology will get (or have already gotten) run over by a competitor.

What is the biggest challenge facing the custom electronics industry going forward?
The biggest challenge for the business owners themselves is to embrace change, and for the industry as a whole is to be sure the products offered fit within practical technology.

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  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jason.knott@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

News · Equipment Racks · Middle Atlantic · All Topics
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