Home controls company launches manufacturing arm, expands base

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Sunday, December 1, 2002

IRVINE, Calif. - A 10-year-old home controls maker here has launched a new division to better target its dealer and integrator base with its products and expand its distribution platform.

With the beginning of its new division, SmarthomeMFG, Smarthome Inc. is looking to widen the number of distributors the company uses as well as the geographic reach of its products, said Scott Klodowski, director of distribution sales for SmarthomeMFG. Klodowski, who was with the company in its infancy 10 years ago, recently returned to Smarthome to head up sales for the new division.

"I am setting up all the different distributors and educating them and the dealers/integrators about what our product can do and how it can help them in the home automation market," Klodowski said.

So far the company has signed on such companies as Systems Depot, which is carrying Smarthome products in three locations but will roll out the line to its ten locations over the next year.

"We are not quite to the point that we have national distribution, but we expect that in the next three to six months," said Matt Dean, vice president of sales and marketing for Smarthome Inc. Going out to the different distributors is expected to comprise about 20 to 30 percent of overall business.

While the company began as more of a distributor for X-10 technology products, "we found so many holes in the marketplace in terms of products that were out there," Dean said. The company hired seven engineers and began to develop its own products, including switches, keypads and other home automation and power line products.

For the last three years, the company's Smarthome branded products relied on an exclusive distributor, another company division known as SmarthomePro. Smarthome Inc. also maintains a retail presence in catalogs and through its website, Smarthome.com.

"The industry is growing so fast that it's more about education than it is about sales," Klodowski said. His goal for the first year for SmarthomeMFG is about $500,000, which is "easily attainable," he said.

The company's touchscreens, switches, keypads and home controllers are designed and engineered in house and are geared toward the mid-range, retrofit market. Proprietary product development at the company will eventually make up about 40 percent of the company's business over the next year, Dean said.