Ben Barber is president/CEO of Inovonics, based in Felton, Calif. This is one in a series of interviews about how industry people are managing during the health crisis.
Radio World: Well Ben, normally we’d be chatting in the aisles at the NAB Show today. What is the world like at Inovonics right now — are you open for business?
Ben Barber: Very unique. No one alive today has seen a worldwide pandemic like the one we are currently going through, so everything is different.
We are open for business. Inovonics does not interact with the public in any way so there is no fear of infecting the community that we live in. As long as UPS, FedEx and USPS are still picking up and delivering, we are able to ship product.
RW: You sent an email Monday to your customer list. What was the main point?
Barber: We had three reasons for sending it.
One, to let our industry know that we are still in business, both shipping gear and supporting our customers who already have our products. Two, to let our industry know that Inovonics has not abandoned our employees. We sent everyone home five weeks ago as a safety measure. Those that can work from home are doing so, and those that can’t work from home, Inovonics continues to makes sure their financial needs are met.
Three, to publicly show our appreciation for radio engineers who are keeping their stations on the air, and for those in the healthcare industry as well as stores that are continuing to serve the population. You have our thanks!
RW: How has your manufacturing process been affected?
Barber: Our production has stopped. Years ago we made the decision to build for stock and not for orders. This means we have all of our products on the shelf, rather than scrambling to build something when we get the order. Under normal circumstances this makes work life less stressful and we can plan out our builds. This has worked well over the years, though there will be a push to ramp things back up quickly on products that may have gotten low during this shutdown.
RW: Are you as a supplier affected by any problems in access to supplies of components?
Barber: Not currently. Again since we build for stock, we buy our components in advance so we have them in inventory when we’re ready to build. I can’t think of anything we are behind on or waiting for in order to put product on the shelf other than the green light to once again have our team in the office building gear.
RW: Are Inovonics products being used in different ways than before, as a result of the pandemic?
Barber: I would say no. Inovonics’ products are ones “that go with transmitters,” so unless stations are expanding their signals (which I don’t think many currently are) then our equipment would not necessarily see an uptick in sales or applications. The segment of our industry who are making microphones, headphones and audio codecs are probably a different story!
RW: What else should readers know?
Barber: I want your readers to know that we are grateful to them for all the work they do, every day, not just during a pandemic. I have not talked to one engineer who is sitting on his hands doing nothing. Instead, most are working harder than ever to not only keep their signal on the air but to keep the air talent connected to the stations so they have meaningful content. To them I want to say, thank you, job well done! We are going to make it through this time together.