Event – A Visit to SpeakerCraft

Event – A Visit to SpeakerCraft
Riverside, CA
Steve Ekblad
25 October 2000

SpeakerCraft Headquarters

Jeremy and Chris in the lab

Jeremy discusses physical and CAD modeling

A service test jig
for in-walls to allow
a speedy repair

A complete machine shop on-site

The Big Bertha Press

Another press for forming metal into parts

Finishing fabricated parts with paint coats

The beginning of the assembly line

Crossovers and chassis parts are assembled

Crossovers and chassis are mated

Precision final testing for each product

An automated box taping machine

Incoming parts inventory

An Art Department artist at work

The SpeakerCraft University 
listening and evaluation studio

SpeakerCraft is the largest manufacturer of architectural loudspeakers in the world. If you haven’t heard of them, you have probably heard their products since they are used in many commercial as well as residential installations. SpeakerCraft provides an extensive training course for their dealers and representatives called, SpeakerCraft University. I was fortunate to be invited to attend a session at their headquarters in Riverside, California. This session was attended by folks from New Horizons Marketing in Lake Forest, IL, Lyle’s TV in Elkhorn, WI, and Magnolia Hi-Fi in the greater Northwest.

The University consists of a factory tour, extensive training on the products, the best application of products to solve sonic and audio distribution problems, the installation of their products, and sales training to allow good communication with clients.

The session began with a tour of one of the plants that comprises SpeakerCraft’s extensive R&D, sales and support, production of materials and finished product, and art/advertising. As we entered the facility we were welcomed by Jeremy Burkhart, the very hands-on Vice President of Marketing and Jeff Francisco who is responsible for the technical developments in SpeakerCraft products.

We were directed to the research and development lab where Jeff was deep into work on several new prototypes for products as varied as speakers, amps, and installation accessories. Jeremy explained that SpeakerCraft designs their products based on consumer needs and ideas submitted by their dealers and installers. Then the creative genius of Jeff Francisco and his team of engineers and designers comes into play. Products are conceived using all available tools from CAD modeling to working prototypes built in their on-site machine shop. Measurements are made in the semi-anechoic chamber using MLSSA and other test gear. Crossover modeling and prototypes are built up using multi-layer breadboards. A listening room is located in another area and can be used to test the prototype against existing products. We saw some very hush-hush prototypes during our visit and all I can say is I will be anxiously awaiting their arrival.

Next stop was the service department. Jeremy explained that their goal is to have any service units turned around and back to its customers in one day. With a lifetime warranty on speakers, this may seem extreme. Jeremy and Chris explained by telling us that their failure rate is extremely low and frankly, repair service is not the busiest place at SpeakerCraft.

Our next stop on the tour was the well equipped metal shop. Here many parts of SpeakerCraft systems and accessories are manufactured. There are significant advantages to having a shop on site. First, costs are lowered through keeping the parts manufacturing internal. They are also able to build at a pace that equals just in time supply need for assembly and ultimately order fulfillment. Second, they can build up a prototype from the ground up in their own shop. Probably fortunate for us, a demonstration of their Big Bertha Press was not on the agenda. The various equipment needed to manufacture metal parts was in full operation. Metal forming and cutting is a rather noisy procedure and it prevented further discussion in the shop. We moved on and into our next stop area. We passed the spay booths where finished chassis and parts were receiving paint coats.

On our way to the assembly area we passed row upon row of part inventory. The just in time construction method is a very tricky system and having just the right amount on hand is a remarkable effort. SpeakerCraft is very careful to maximize their inventory while minimizing the costs of storing it longer than necessary.

In the assembly are we watched skilled SpeakerCraft workers carefully assemble drivers. They worked quickly yet with obvious care and systematically built product. At the end of each line a full system test is done on each individual product to assure that the SpeakerCraft product shipped to a dealer and installed in a customers home is 100% of what their standard for quality promises. It is rejected if it doesn’t meet their stringent standards for quality. With a full analysis of response, rub tests, alignment tests and power tests, it is unlikely that a defective product would make it past this point. I watched each step carefully and the friendly artisans at SpeakerCraft smiled as I took a few photos to bring home with me. I did my best to stay out of the way and get a few photos in.

Our next stop on the tour was the advertising and art department at SpeakerCraft where we saw how literature, ads, product photos, and web site materials were created. SpeakerCraft has brought all of this in-house and they are capable of producing remarkable support and marketing materials on-site. They also produce a complete library of images for their dealers and make them available on CDR.

Our last stop on our tour was shipping for finished product. This is a remarkable task that they undertake daily. Products must be prepared for shipping, organized into proper loads and then loaded onto carrier’s vehicles and at the same time, never make a mistake. After watching how thoroughly their inventory is tagged, coded, and shipped, it is now understandable how it is possible to build and ship a just in time inventory.

After our tour we began our education class. SpeakerCraft dealer training is designed to familiarize the dealer with every aspect of their products–from specification to application. They also provide extensive information on the installation of their product including hands-on cutting of wallboard, wire pulls, and installation of finished product. They carefully go through the tools of the trade and explain their uses. They also incorporate a time to allow dealers to share experiences and tips to build a wealth of knowledge for their dealers. With this commitment to education, a SpeakerCraft customer can expect a great experience from recommendation of product to best fit their specific application to fit, finish and performance of the installed SpeakerCraft products.

We reluctantly packed up to return to our homes but we will remember our visit to SpeakerCraft and the friendly folks we met there!

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