Daktronics has a worldwide presence, with offices across the globe. One of those offices is a more recent acquisition to the company. Data Display (DD) was headquartered in County Clare, Ireland, specializing in rail, real-time passenger information for bus/tram network displays, and customer information systems for railway networks. Several years ago, a Data Display staff member spoke with a Daktronics employee about the company’s desire to bring in full-color display technologies. The employee said then-incoming CEO Reece Kurtenbach would be the person to talk to.
After several years of discussions, Daktronics announced in August 2014 that the company would be purchasing Data Display and basing an Ireland office there. We sat down with Paul Neville, Daktronics Ireland’s general manager, and Pete Egart, Daktronics vice president for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, to discuss how things came to be.
Q: How did the acquisition come about?
Paul: We were aware of Daktronics’ position in the market. We had meetings four to five years before the acquisition with Mike Charles, the first European sales rep, based out of the U.S.
Pete: We competed with Data Display in the U.S. transportation market, but Daktronics was not really present in the European transportation market.
Paul: I met Mike at a tradeshow and said we were looking for full-color products as an alternative to Chinese solutions. Mike said I should meet with Reece, the incoming CEO at the time.
Q: What was it about Daktronics that Data Display said yes, we’d like to be part of it?
Paul: We decided it was beneficial on both sides. We wanted access to bigger products and better markets in the Middle East and U.S., and we had a stronger presence in European market.
Pete: Daktronics was interested in the people and products from Data Display and their footprint in Europe. We had the financial strength to offer Data Display.
Each company had additional strengths to offer. Data Display had more than 35 years of experience in the industry, as well as an ISO 9001:2008-certified manufacturing facility with 60,000 square feet with En-12966 compliant products, an equivalent of U.S. requirements. Daktronics had a world-renowned brand with a strong financial backing in addition to existing facilities and standards set in place. The acquisition made sense.
Q: What were the biggest issues to overcome and how have we resolved them?
Paul: Could we see a future that we could work together, that it would be successful, that most people would be able to continue working in the larger company?
Q: How has this changed the transportation business unit (TBU)? And international transactions?
Paul: We are no longer competing. We had some very good customer bases integrated into the TBU setup. Both TBU and Ireland have access to a bigger range of products.
Pete: Daktronics is based in the European Union (EU). We have a team focused on transportation similar to us. We can see all the opportunities in the EU in addition to the high complexity markets we look at.
Q: What does support look like- is anything different for our customers abroad?
Paul: From Ireland, we now see ourselves as part of a more financially secure brand. That has been helpful to our customers.
Pete: We inherited a very good service team, and they’ve been integrated into our team.
Q: What has happened since then? What are some major milestones?
Paul: Integrating into Glovia, Salesforce, and HR systems was key.
Pete: We have two engineering teams — TBU and Data Display — developing a product for over the highway meeting European standards. We recently received our first order.
Q: What should we look forward to in the future?
Pete: I would say growing the international transportation footprint, growing orders in the EU, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa as we develop products and get our message out to everyone.
Paul: We are excited about a new range of products. We do product training in March (2018) in Brookings.
Q: What is the best feature of the Ireland location?
Paul: (chuckles) It’s certainly not the weather; it’s hailing! I think it’s the fact that we have a manufacturing location here as well. It’s probably not the best EU location, but is good for time zones.
Pete: It’s a plus that Ireland is part of the EU.
Q: What message would you like to tell everyone concerning Daktronics’ 50th anniversary?
Pete: We’ve achieved 50 years in the market. Nobody else in our industry has done that. We did so by treating customers in a way that shows we want them for life. We’ve built repeat customers with updating systems and an engineering capacity to develop products unique to the industry. We have a huge customer base.
Q: What would you like to tell people about your experience here, if they’re new to Daktronics or considering a job here?
Paul: It’s quite an exciting time: new products, a nice global reach with a lot of exciting opportunities along the way.
Pete: If you’re looking at any type of position at Daktronics, we’re a manufacturer and producer of cool products in major stadiums or on the highways. People can see what we make in their everyday lives.
Paul: True. It’s very visible, from Piccadilly Circus to football stadiums.
Pete: The west coast of Ireland is a fairy tale version of what we as Americans traditionally think Ireland looks like. For example, the Cliffs of Moher.
Paul: (chuckles) It’s green for a reason; it’s been raining for three months!
Pete: Our cultures are close; we’ve found that we’re even closer than expected. We can transfer people back and forth between locations and wouldn’t skip a beat.
Paul: (chuckles again) As people integrate, they’ve become more Irish than the Irish themselves!
It sounds like we’re off to a great start. We’re glad to have you, Daktronics Ireland!
This article is by Betsy Mans
in Transportation Marketing.