One Year Later: TSL Products Looks at its Acquisition of DNF Controls
DNF Controls became a valued component of TSL Products in April 2019. The two companies had a single vision: to provide customers with a comprehensive control eco-system that spans single-user, standalone control solutions to enterprise-wide, multi-user control infrastructure. TSL and DNF entered into an OEM agreement in 2018, and since then, it has become increasingly clear that the two businesses align, not just regarding product interoperability, but also in the way that the companies’ culture and beliefs complement each other.
The acquisition also enabled TSL to establish a U.S.-based office in Northridge, CA to provide customers in North America with local access to TSL’s complete control, audio monitoring and power solution offerings.
One year since the acquisition, TSL is pleased with how seamlessly the companies have integrated as one, not just regarding product offerings, but more importantly, how its staff and customer base have come together. Through a detailed integration plan, the employees in sales, development, support and project implementation across Marlow, U.K. and Northridge, California are routinely working on common projects and strategies.
“It’s really amazing what we have managed to achieve in the past year, especially considering the barriers to success that were ahead of us,” said Mark Davies, Director of Products and Technology at TSL Products. “Customers sit at the heart of everything that we do. TSL has adapted its working practices and we are now utilizing new project management systems to maximise our time to better serve our customers. We have initiated an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to support existing TallyMan and Flex Control Systems, whilst building interoperability between the two platforms, the Universal Control Panels and FlashBoard Technical Display systems. This interoperability also extends to our audio monitoring and power products.”
This approach seems to be paying off for the company, even when faced with new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been a major time of change for our industry, both technically and commercially, and despite this, we have achieved significant growth since the acquisition one year ago,” says Chris Exelby, Managing Director of TSL Products. “The opportunity to bring new products and technologies to one another’s customer base has resulted in significant new business opportunities, and TSL is pleased to have closed quarter one 2020 with business at levels unsurpassed by the individual companies in the past. This success reflects the strong relationships that we hold as a team and between our customers, many of whom are close friends and/or former business colleagues. By keeping our ear to the ground and reacting to their requirements, we can continue to build on the strong foundations we have laid over the past year. We are also delighted that Dan Fogel, the founder of DNF, will continue to work with us, taking a step back from managing the Northridge office to become a consultant to our development team. We are delighted with our decision to add the DNF team to our company as we look forward with enthusiasm.”
A Business Focused on Excellence
Both TSL Products and DNF Controls are steeped in engineering excellence to their core. Everyone on the R&D, product development and operations teams hold themselves to the highest possible technical standards.
“Together we have helped solve each other’s problems,” explains Graham Degg, Head of Operations at TSL Products. “We have implemented a strong production process across the organisation and share best practices that allow TSL to maintain its ISO 9001 standards for quality management systems. Taking sales forecasts and feeding them into the production plan, we can respond rapidly to customer demand, and with this forward view, we are even able to ship very large requirements on a near ex-stock basis. We have also completed an overhaul of inventory storage, resulting in a clear-out of obsolete lines, and have empowered the operations staff to make the decisions necessary to maintain stock levels. This has opened the warehousing area, providing ample room for expansion and reduced workload during inventory counts. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing review of the supply chain has been interrupted, but we are ready to continue when we come out of lockdown.”
The R&D developments have led to exciting technical cooperation between the Northridge and Marlow teams. “We dove deep under the hood of each other’s products, which allows us to look forward to what the next generation of system control could mean,” says Davies.
“NAB 2020 would have been the perfect platform to celebrate our progress and present these latest developments to our customers,” says Greg Siers, Director of Sales for North America. “Luckily, as an agile R&D-led business, we have been able to re-prioritise our product development very quickly in order to support our customers in their remote workflows; delivering solutions for customers that have come to us with very specific issues. We are making it a priority to work through the current needs of the market.”
Fred Scott, Regional Sales Manager for TSL and former Sales Director for DNF Controls, adds, “We recently had to switch around some R&D on Universal Control Panels (USP3) used as a vital part of the Flex Control Network, which has a big install base in the U.S. Customers have come to us saying, ‘I know I can control the kit remotely with a fixed lease fibre line. I’m working remotely now, so is it possible to control my studio over the internet?’ and we are happy to be able to assist them during these challenging times.”
Ernie Gamboa, the Northridge-lead on control panels explains, “I have worked alongside our Flex lead Mark Kozlen and the R&D team to switch things around and put in a feature called ‘Web Keys’ into the code based on our USP control panels. This allows our customers to control major hub and spoke installations across the United States, from their study at home.”
Latest Product Enhancements
For NAB 2020, the team planned to demonstrate the latest updates to its TallyMan and Flex Systems. “The Flex Network’s solutions have now been moved to Linux-based platforms, offering lower power consumption and a more powerful software development toolset,” explains Kozlen. “These updates enable a steep change in the performance of the product and virtualisation of the system. The GTP-V1 now offers greater flexibility and increased rack density for more advanced installations.”
Meanwhile, TSL’s TallyMan control system range of protocols continues to grow, allowing customers to interface and integrate systems while retaining the freedom to choose the best solutions available. “TallyMan really has come in to its own in the past couple of years,” explains Dan Bailey, Control Systems Expert at TSL Products. “Its applications are becoming more diverse due to its interoperable capabilities. TallyMan has always been a particularly strong solution in OB Trucks and studios, and now we are winning AV-led installations, such as the recent project at the Royal Opera House in London, as well as Esports applications, including the Esports Stadium, Arlington Texas where TSL provides the control layer.”
Recent training initiatives around the world have helped to further demonstrate the capabilities of TallyMan and show customers how they can maintain ownership of their systems without having to rely on TSL for heavy-lifting configuration or system changes. As a platform that started out as a tally system (hence the name), Tallyman has developed into a comprehensive control platform, capable of routing control, show recalls, remote operation and much more.
At NAB 2019, TSL launched its new SAM-Q audio monitoring platform, with the SAM-Q-SDI released as the first in the range. SAM-Q is an agile platform that can be configured to meet specific man machine interfaces that operators and engineering require. The latest software release allows customers to purchase a license that enables one or both BNC inputs to be switched to and from SDI and MADI inputs with ease, to monitor up to 128 audio channels. The release also includes a Loudness License option offering up to eight independent loudness probes, as well as the ability to monitor loudness from a mono source right up to a 9.1+4 program configuration. Heartland Video Systems Inc. is one of the first TSL customers to invest in this new platform with additional licensing.
“We were introduced to TSL in October 2019 through our contact Fred Scott, who we have worked very closely with on projects led by the DNF Controls/TSL Northridge team,” says Dennis Klas, President of Heartland Video. “The new release of the SAM-Q-SDI with loudness monitoring offers a solution that is agile at its core. This software/license-based approach is becoming vitally important as the industry evolves, and even more flexibility is needed in these unprecedented times. We are now able to offer our customers an audio monitoring solution that protects their investment and has the ability to adapt and change to their ongoing needs.”
Moving Towards the Future
As TSL reflects on these achievements, as well as the challenges the company and its customers now face, TSL is also looking towards the future. “The integration has been an exciting process, particularly from a brand perspective,” says Amanda Dixon, Global Marketing Manager at TSL Products. “We are fortunate that both DNF and TSL have a very established identity around the world. Working with the R&D teams, product managers and sales force across Northridge and Marlow, it has been essential to keep the customers with us on our journey. The credit really must go to the teams in the field that have done such as great job to deliver the brand vision that was set out at the beginning of the process.”
Much like the continuity between the two support and sales teams, the DNF identity still stands strong. “The overall offering from TSL is one of Advanced Control Systems,” adds Dixon. “There are certain applications where a TallyMan or Flex system are the obvious choice, but the most important part of this process is that the customer receives a cohesive product and experience, regardless of whether they are a ‘DNF’ or ‘TSL’ customer.”
Davies adds, “The workshops we have run between the development teams has been invaluable and enlightening. We have some very exciting projects underway, where we can implement what we’ve learned from our involvement with AMWA as well as our work with SMPTE. We are currently testing the validity of a solution that, when deployed, will provide a central video and audio switching hub for studios, taking advantage of the cost benefits of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) IP switches, whilst the complexities of IP are hidden from the customer and operators. Our control solution allows this to be treated as a drop-in replacement for a conventional SDI router. Once perfected, this solution can be deployed to any customer, of any size, looking for the cost savings and infrastructure flexibility delivered by IP without the complexity.”