A lifetime achievement award is a tough call. At what point has a person truly accumulated a “lifetime’s worth” of achievements deserving enough for recognition? And how long do you wait before honoring them?
This year’s CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award winner hits a sweet spot in that regard, and he’s a choice that made me slap my forehead and say, “I should have thought of him! Great choice, CEDIA people…”
I don’t know Middle Atlantic Products founder Bob Schluter very well on a personal level, but I’ve toured (on multiple occasions) the facilities that he’s built to cut and bend steel panels into AV racks, and I’ve hung out with him a bit at CEDIA events over the years. I was amazed by what he’d accomplished and impressed by the technical intelligence within his heavy metal exterior.
During facility tours, I was told by his team that it was Bob’s engineering brilliance that took what some might think of as a pretty low-tech item in our business and made it something special and essential to AV projects big and small, resi and commercial.
Every year at CEDIA EXPO, I would marvel at how he and his team came up with evolutionary changes to fundamental racks designs that improved the performance of the products installed by custom integrators. Whether it was better engineering and improved fan designs for proper thermal management in the racks, ergonomic changes within the rack for proper wire management and product placement, or even more high-tech power management enhancements, Middle Atlantic always had/has something inventive to show its dealers.
Since selling his company to Legrand, Bob has been less active in the company’s day to day, but he still consults for Middle Atlantic and Legrand, and still has an office at MAP and his influence is still felt in the products that the company produces.
After learning that Bob was this year’s CEDIA winner, I asked Systems Contractor News editor Kirsten Nelson to dig up an interview she conducted with him a few years ago. Most of what they chatted about was specific to the commercial market at that time, but the last part was fun (and still relevant), so I thought I’d share it. Congrats Bob!
SCN: How would you finish the following sentences?
When I founded Middle Atlantic Products in 1979, we expected... to grow much faster, but found that the right people are hard to find.
The manufacturing process should be... flexible to meet customers' needs, automated to ensure consistency, and tied to the design of the product.
An idea that just didn't catch on was... the automatic guitar grabber (from our early days in the music industry).
There is no limit to... what the right people can do.
The best advice I ever received was... knowing whose advice not to take!
Jeremy Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems and Systems Contractor News.