Brian Sims

Taking Stock

Episode 13 of the Security Matters Podcast featured an exclusive interview with Jeremy Hockham, the managing director at security solutions distributor Norbain. Here, in conversation with Security Matters’ Editor Brian Sims, Jeremy elaborates on the points made on the day, in particular looking at the changing role of distribution businesses in the security sector

NORBAIN SD is a hugely successful distributor of IP, CCTV, access control and intruder detection solutions here in the UK. As well as being an authorised distributor of over 90 of the world’s leading electronic security brands, the Berkshire-based business is also the home of Vista, now firmly established as one of the UK’s most trusted providers of video surveillance equipment.

For his part, Jeremy Hockham joined Norbain back in 2015 with plenty of international industry experience having served as president of Bosch Security in the US and also as managing director of Bosch Security here in the UK. He’s also a former managing director of Honeywell Security and a previous Board member at Skills for Security. These days, he’s bringing more than 20 years’ experience in the security industry to bear as the managing director of Norbain. 

Indeed, under his careful and astute stewardship, Norbain Holdings has successfully weathered the storm of the last eight months since the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business is now looking ahead to what happens next in the security marketplace and how, as an organisation, it can best support both its own direct customers as well as their end users.

“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on us all,” observed Hockham. “Initially, we felt its effects strongly as almost everything in the industry was thrown into uncertainty and many projects were either slowed down or halted altogether. However, just as quickly, opportunities presented themselves and we’ve seen that, while some sectors have been severely impacted, others have witnessed an increased demand.”

The situation has certainly accelerated change – indeed, many would say much needed change – some of which was happening in any event. One of the great truisms about the security industry is its ability to adapt, innovate and respond quickly to events. On that note, Hockham stated: “The security industry has proven itself during this crisis as really having something to offer the UK’s economy, providing key technologies and solutions that have kept the country moving. We’ve seen a desire from everyone to shift the emphasis and develop solutions underpinned by real and tangible benefits.”

It’s not just about the ‘here and now’ capabilities of solutions – such as providing contact-free access control, mask detection, skin temperature measurement and so on – but also the importance of longer term advantages that end users can capitalise on to make their businesses more efficient on an ongoing basis. “This is absolutely key to maximising our customers’ investments now,” suggested Hockham, “as well as providing cost-effective solutions as we go forward into next year and beyond.”

Adapting role

There’s one core element that has always been – and will continue to be – absolutely key to the way in which Norbain operates as a company and that is its demonstrated ability to deliver what its customers want on time, not to mention doing so with 100% reliability time and time again.

Developing this time, Hockham explained: “It has become very evident during 2020 that the role of a strong distribution partnership is about far more than just having great stock and making sure ordered goods are on site on time. It’s also about making people’s lives easier. Given the sheer number of manufacturers Norbain represents, we’re in a great position to see trends developing in the marketplace. We work closely alongside our suppliers, integrators and end users. We listen and ensure that the right solutions are being developed to meet ever-changing industry demands.”

This is Norbain’s underlying ethos, in fact. It’s where the company’s key differentiators come into play – building relationships, creating opportunities and providing solutions.

“We believe that being a good distributor is all about being an extension of each customer’s business and they often refer to us as such,” enthused Hockham. “We also recognise that different customers have different needs. One size doesn’t fit all in today’s environment.”

To support this belief and ingrained ethic, Norbain is presently developing a number of concurrent strategies designed to meet the needs of its different customer groups. Many of those customers still want to speak to their account managers directly, and especially so where high levels of support are key to decisions on solutions, infrastructure design and so on, but with behaviours such as remote working now becoming increasingly commonplace, Hockham duly recognises that it’s important for Norbain to understand how this changes the way in which its customers like to do business. 

“Just as there has been a move globally towards the online environment, so we’ve seen a growing number of our customers using our website for their research, product selection and purchasing. Visitor numbers have been growing steeply over the last couple of years and, since May this year, we’ve witnessed extremely strong growth through this channel. We believe this to be a permanent shift and, because of that, we’ve put significant plans in place to develop our web and digital channels further in 2021.”

Healthy buildings

Another permanent shift has been growth in end users considering the subject of ‘healthy buildings’ and ‘building wellness’. In essence, building owners are now particularly keen to install a variety of solutions designed to ensure premises can meet new standards and increased expectations realised by staff and customers alike. 

“Norbain’s ability to pull together different product offerings, design bespoke systems and supply all of the components necessary for an installer to deliver a security solution leaves us well placed to help ensure that our customers meet their customers’ expectations,” urged Hockham. “This has to be seen as a key role for any partner.”

Norbain has just launched an exciting new venture dubbed ‘Norbain TV’. This has been driven by the changing way in which we all assimilate information and, equally as important, how we expect it to be presented to us. “Video provides us with a great way in which to easily explain often complex offerings,” stated Hockham. “We can quickly and simply convey product benefits, how they can be used and the problems they’re solving. This has been a great medium for us to communicate our ‘Solutions for the New Normal’ campaign. We’ve also kick-started a series called ‘Industry Insights’ where we share our views on the industry.”

Hockham and his team have “lots of plans” for this channel to communicate product launches, ‘How To…’ videos and customer stories as well as interviews with manufacturers, installers and end users. “’Norbain TV’ is very much a viewer-led channel,” he explained, “so the content will be based on what our audience wants to see. This ties in firmly with our view of the role of the distributor going forward – listening to feedback, adapting how we approach the marketplace, introducing new suppliers and solutions and supporting the adoption of new technologies.”

Interestingly, and quite correctly, Norbain also recognises that it’s not all about digital. “We’ve just published our Product Catalogue for 2020-2021 and we know from customer feedback that many of them still like a printed version,” said Hockham. “The combination of print and digital that we’re able to offer ensures that, whatever our customers are looking for and however they like to work, they can access the information they need through us.”

The ‘New Normal’

Very early on in the pandemic, it became clear that end users required solutions to help provide their own customers and employees with safe environments. As a business, Norbain immediately realised that the security industry had a key role to play in facilitating that desire.

“The manufacturers we work with reacted incredibly quickly to understand the changing needs of the market and develop and modify products to meet customers’ needs,” outlined Hockham. “We compiled these solutions into one initiative – the aforementioned ‘Solutions for the New Normal’ – which is constantly evolving as suppliers bring out new products and customer requirements develop through time.”

Visitors to Norbain’s website (at will now see relevant sections dedicated to those products as well as a brochure for download. The latter encompasses useful scenarios and schematics to help everyone understand what solutions might be used in different settings.

“Of course, we cannot expect end users to invest in solutions that will only serve them for the next few months,” suggested Hockham. “Cost-effectiveness is clearly going to be key. Norbain is in a position to help those end users identify what products combine benefits for right now, but also pinpoint those with longer term advantages. For example, video technology can deliver a superior method for managing social distancing or occupancy control. We have a number of Artificial Intelligence-based video analytics solutions within our ranges that can support businesses looking at security products they can both use now and benefit from in the longer term. An illustration of this might be access control devices that offer mask detection and skin temperature screening for use now and facial recognition for deployment going forward.”

Looking to the future

As stated, the pandemic has forced change. “How we do business has, perhaps, changed forever,” said Hockham, “and so it follows that our security solutions must also adapt to ensure we’re meeting the changing needs of our customers and, ultimately, end users.”

While nothing short of uncomfortable at times, the last few months have also created opportunities for those ready to embrace change. Importantly, Norbain is well placed to understand where these opportunities lie. To its immense credit, the security industry as a whole has shown that it can develop and adapt technologies to help solve the problems we’re all facing. 

“Certain emerging technologies, such as remote solutions and enhanced Artificial Intelligence, have been propelled into the limelight,” stated Hockham. “The pandemic has provided us with the opportunity to energise a very large step change in the way that we think about security. This is precisely where the role of a good distribution partner comes into play. Companies like Norbain are key in working closely with customers, helping them to understand what new technologies are available and the challenges they can solve.”

Increasingly, security systems are now being delivered as fully-integrated solutions across video surveillance, access control and intruder detection. Here, distributors play a vital role in understanding what the end user needs in order to deliver real benefits over and above improved security.

“We’ve created numerous resources to help communicate and explain the different technologies available, including our website, ‘Solutions for the New Normal’ and ‘Norbain TV’” concluded Hockham. “We also have specialist roles within the business whose sole purpose it is to work with suppliers, installers and end users to ensure that the right solutions are being matched to individual business requirements.”

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