Display of strength
Conrac is a German manufacturer of electronic display devices and has worked with multiple industries since its foundation in 1956. It scored its first milestone in the late 1960s when it was chosen to supply the information display boards at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, and since then has been a marketleader for innovation and reliability. In 1982 it was the first company to produce high definition 64kHz CRT colour monitors as well as the first multifunctional graphic terminal for ship automation and radar applications shortly thereafter. The graphic terminal designed for Siemens is the predecessor of today’s embedded ship solutions, and combined a CRT monitor with integrated slide-in/slide-out terminal electronics.
Conrac has continued to lead the way in display hardware and software for multiple industries: in 1990 it released the world’s first high resolution 29-inch radar monitors, in 1995 was the first to provide 21-inch flat screen plasma displays, and in 1997 was the first to supply 42-inch plasma displays to airports. During this time it also pushed development of LCD/TFT displays for the marine market. Conrac managed to overcome many of this format’s display issues, such as the extremely wide dimming range required for bridge applications, and was able to bring a TFT ECDIS display to the market, marking the first step towards today’s integrated bridge systems (IBS). When it suggested the introduction of widescreen displays for IBS, the maritime industry was initially wary but a partner was nonetheless found in Kelvin Hughes. Today, widescreen IBS are ubiquitous throughout modern fleets.
A frequent sight at marine exhibitions, Conrac will be at SMM2012 to present several very interesting new products. The first is its new 21.5-inch high definition multi-touch monitor. This widescreen display panel will offer advanced functionality together with a sleek modern design and be open for use by the cruise industry as well for POS and POI applications. The second product is a special portrait-format 22-inch marine monitor for river radar applications, designed for Alewijnse Marine Systems. Further product launches will be small format panel computers. Whilst history has seen monitors grow larger and larger, changing requirements in today’s market show an increasing demand for fully integrated solutions of all sizes. Responding to this, Conrac has invested into the research and development of a seven-inch panel computer with touch and a 13.3-inch solution.
Product manager Jörn Wittig, discusses it in greater detail: “Conrac is mostly know as a supplier of larger format displays and panel PCs but there is very evident reason for the development of smaller panel computers. Our business is not only very innovation driven but also driven by the market requirements. As a first source for marine display solutions our OEM customers frequently contacted us for smaller screens to be used for marine automation. This initiated the development of the 13.3-inch, followed by the seven-inch panel computer. The product is based on the latest embedded platform and allows easy integration in marine automation and control equipment.”
Conrac’s historical presence at SMM has been important. During the 2010 event, for example, it launched the world’s first ECDIS widescreen marine panel computers that have gone on to be adopted by state-of-the-art vessels. Jörn discusses the importance of the exhibition to Conrac’s business: “As a regular exhibitor, we always find the events are an excellent platform to experience the reactions to new technologies, and to gather information on the further plans and strategies of our customers.” Some years ago, for example, widescreen monitors for IBS were widely regarded as besides the point, whilst others found the multitasking option the new format offered very exciting. We found this exchange of views to be very interesting and important to the development of our products. At SMM2012 our objective is to present our latest developments, meet our existing customers and to introduce possible new concepts to our clients.”
As a company that pushes the innovation of markets, Conrac has remained busy with good business results. Furthermore, by being present across multiple industries, the various fluctuations of different sectors have not had a particularly great impact on the company’s business. This is proved by a two-digit percentage growth of revenue during the last two years. It is therefore in an excellent position for the future.
Understandably, R&D comprises an essential part of Conrac’s business. It has had a system of project management from consulting to conceptual design, from prototyping to series delivery, for decades. Its research is driven by both initiative and market demand, working with long-term suppliers and clients to deliver the right product at the right time. Currently, for example, the company is seeing increasing demand for integrated solutions throughout the marine industry. For years it has supplied integrated systems for passenger information to airports and railways and, whilst the end use is different, the basic architecture required by the marine industry is similar. Conrac is therefore applying its already-extensive experience from other markets to introduce, for example remote controlled features such as an ECDIS set-up using SNMP.
“Conrac will continue to strengthen its market position as a solution provider in all segments,” Petra Ollhoff, manager marketing communications, says. “The substantial investments in R&D, in our production facilities and other equipment that are already in progress, will continue. Our Weikersheim plant covers 18,000 square metres and offers flexible, modern manufacturing processes. We have in-house prototyping and testing facilities such as EMI-, climate-, and long-term heat testing. There is also mechanical workshops, paint finishing, and self-screening facilities. A large clean room for panel enhancement, laminating and optical bonding has also recently been built.
“However our investments are 53not limited to ‘hardware’ as we also invest in our employees, offering professional training and qualifications. A very popular business training system in Germany is the so-called ‘dual system’, which gives students the opportunity to combine school and university education with on-the-job training. Conrac has a long tradition of supporting this kind of business training for decades and will continue to follow this strategy to reinforce our future business.”
New products at SMM
Strong business performance