Creating Channel Partnerships For The Best Solution

Customers incorporate Tech Imports' display/hardware packages into a range of products in the public sector and health-care markets, including 911 computer-aided dispatch systems, police stations and border patrol units.

"We do a lot of touch-screen integration, in particular with Planar models. The touch integrations go to a lot of computer-aided dispatch systems," said managing partner Jim Rocheford. "There was a need. I think that we found somewhat of a niche with touch integration and there was a need for the specialty services in the areas we service."

Tech Imports was created two years ago when Rocheford had a customer who was having problems with a particular display, and Rocheford decided he could offer a better solution. After a lengthy search, he introduced the customer to the Planar product line, specifically the 21-inch PX212M model, and a relationship was born.

But there was a catch—needing a solution provider's expertise to bring the customer the right result.

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"The unique thing about the 21-inch model is that Planar's 21-inch model doesn't have room in the bezel for the touch screen. Our customer really liked the model, so Tech Imports did some reworking to accommodate a touch screen," Rocheford said.

The ability to integrate with touch screens is what makes Tech Imports' solutions appealing in the medical and public service arenas.

"I don't think the touch screen is necessarily appropriate for every application but there are instances when it saves customers' time," Rocheford said. "It is appropriate for 911 call centers, so that dispatchers are not using a mouse to get through applications. It's much more efficient in that environment," he said.

Planar, on the other hand, counts on VARs like Tech Imports to help get its displays into customers' hands.

"Our heritage was actually that we did a lot of custom displays—very application-specific kind of display products for military, medical applications, industrial applications like gas pumps and ATM machines. When it comes to understanding how LCDs work and what their nuances are and how that might affect applications and building them into a system, we have a lot of expertise ourselves," said Rob Baumgartner, director of marketing and operations at Beaverton, Ore.-based Planar.

For companies like Tech Imports, Baumgartner said Planar can serve as a consultant, helping solution providers find the right displays to meet their needs.

"[Rocheford] knew he was going to have to take a large monitor and add the touch screen himself because there's nothing out there that is completed like that. Our working with him entails finding the right size and the right monitor, as well as [identifying the issues involved in] disassembling them to add the touch screen. He had to do testing and trials with his customers to decide what was the best size for the amount of space that he had," Baumgartner said.

"We can speak from experience and understanding of what they'll run into," he added.

Planar's other perk as far as vendors go, according to Baumgartner, is the company's three-year warranty with a guarantee of 48-hour part replacement.

"Sometimes the replacement will arrive before they've even sent us the one that's defective or damaged. For smaller companies that manage inventory very tightly, it means a lot to them. How fast they can get replacements is a big part of the selling point for them. I think that's a big part of why we've had success in this area," Baumgartner said.

For Tech Imports, the 48-hour replacement policy is a definite perk.

"I would love it. If we only had a 48-hour turnaround on defective merchandise, that would be great. I like it even more that I haven't had to use it," Rocheford said.