“Build a good product, deliver on time and help the client know how it’s applied,” says Peter Tarlton, president of Wheelock, Inc. “That’s how you create a winner.” Seems like a simple enough formula for success — and Wheelock does make it look easy. The company’s broad line of patented audible/visual appliances, digital voice announcement systems and emergency evacuation systems are installed in a wide variety of facility safety and communications systems worldwide.
Wheelock got its start almost 80 years ago in Worcester, Mass., by manufacturing telephone signaling equipment, relays and bells for Western Electric, then part of the AT&T-Bell system. When the company moved to Manhattan, its product line began to diversify. After the move, Wheelock created its cornerstone underdome bells for use in fire alarms and signaling systems. It also introduced the klaxon horn and the easily identifiable NBC chime, which served as the network’s signature for decades.
In 1950, Western Electric moved its manufacturing facilities to New Jersey; Wheelock followed and set up shop in Long Branch, N.J. Today, the company occupies more than 100,000 square feet of modernized facilities at this location, which houses surface-mounted electronics production, warehousing, engineering and marketing.
Bells and Whistles
Wheelock’s customers read like a who’s-who of American industry: TYCO, Graybar, Anixter, Alltel, Sprint, ADI, Johnson Controls, Siemens, Honeywell, ADT, Gamewell, Fike and Lucent Technologies are just some of the well-known companies that rely on Wheelock products.
Wheelock’s product offering encompasses four specific areas:
• Fire alarm notification: ADA-compliant fire alarm appliances (horns, bells, strobes, speakers, chimes, power supplies and accessories)
• Telephone alerts: outdoor alerts to help employees outside hear the phone ringing, and strobe lights for the hearing impaired
• Facilities communications systems: multifunction systems that can include general paging, background music, digital message announcement and emergency/fire voice evacuation
• Commercial audio: a full line of amplification equipment, speakers and horns for paging, background music and so on
Wheelock has recently introduced its new multicandela strobes, a full line of weatherproof products, and higher-candela strobes for very large rooms and convention centers. The company has also just released its next generation of SAFEPATH4 – supervised audio facility equipment systems. These products are used in a wide variety of applications, such as announcements in retail stores and public transportation centers during security breaches, special events, emergency situations and evacuation.
“Recently, in addition to domestic success, we’ve become very excited about the export side of our business,” says Charles Sutton, Wheelock’s vice president of sales. “It’s one of our bigger growth areas. We started to focus more on international markets last year and have already seen a 200 percent increase. But we’re learning to walk before we run. Canada, Central and South America are first. Then we’ll move into the Pacific Rim and, eventually, Europe.”
Recognized on the county, state and national level for its commitment to its associates and for providing a business environment that encourages growth, Wheelock is a human-resources leader. “At Wheelock, we’re convinced that through the development of our associates, a more effective work environment exists,” explains Alan Fazzari, vice president of people services. “We’re committed to the education of our associates, as knowledge is a benefit that will pay off infinitely in years to come, for individuals as well as for the organization.” This attitude and dedication to its employees yielded Wheelock the Human Resource Department of the Year Award from the Greater Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Human Resource Management Association in 1998 and the Outstanding Employer Award from the New Jersey Business & Industry Association in 1997.
“We have a responsibility to ourselves, our employees and to the community,” Fazzari says. “Getting good productive people is important. We want our associates to be our partners, to walk with us. We are committed to education. You have to train people if you want to retain them, and I’m proud to say that the retention is excellent at Wheelock. We have employees who have been with us for over 40 years.”
The Extra Mile
Although the industry is somewhat slow in changing, since it is driven by national codes and standards, Wheelock knows how to roll with the punches. “We recently worked with Wal-Mart stores to provide safety products for their headquarters,” says Jack Curran, vice president of engineering. “They were very specific about their needs and wanted standard products to be adjusted for those needs. Although we’re used to training customers on how to install and maintain our products, this put us to the test and everyone pitched in until the customer was delighted. That’s the Wheelock way.”
“We’re very market driven. We really look at the market and prepare our product for the market, as opposed to some companies that are maybe engineering-driven. Wheelock is preparing for rapid growth over the next decade,” says June Ballew, vice president of marketing. “To achieve this, we are aggressively investing in product diversification, and focusing on customer delight with value-added services, including training and electronic initiatives.” With a track record like Wheelock’s, there is little doubt that this progressive company will achieve another 80 years of business success.