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Culture of self-reliance puts Pertronics in front

 
 
 

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Culture of self-reliance puts Pertronics in front

In the May issue of Engineering Insight I profile a hospital fire management system built with Pertronics Industries' "Firemap" system. The idea of systems such as Firemap is to provide fire-fighters and building managers with better information about a fire's location and progress, than they can get from the underlying fire alarm system. The consulting engineer for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board told me Firemap is better than competing systems. Why? One of the key points is that it can be installed and modified by the same people who install the fire alarm. Competing systems are so complex that installers need to complete a special training course to learn how to set them up.

Firemap epitomises the individualistic do-it-yourself attitude. Wingate-based Pertronics Industries have developed a highly professional system that's easy to put together. I doubt that their foreign competitors have any hope of understanding what's wrong with their systems, and why customers prefer Pertronics software. Kiwis don't tolerate bureaucracy because our companies are small. We can't afford systems that require lots of shiny-bummed clerical staff. Anyone who instals one of the foreign fire management systems commits themselves to paying for an expensive maintenance specialist. Foreign manufacturers think that's OK. The fire management system saves lives, so the extra maintenance cost is justified.

That kind of thinking is endemic in strongly heirarchical cultures. Manufacturers can only get away with it until they face competition from someone like Pertronics. Firemap's architecture doesn't just save money. It also makes the system better able to do its job.

It's never a good idea to make any system more complex than absolutely necessary. Engineers who have grown up in New Zealand understand that.

 
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