Equipson Group is a Spanish manufacturer and distributor dedicated to professional audio and lighting, with almost 30 years of experience. Among its flagship product ranges are WORK PRO® loudspeakers and Lightshark, the award-winning lighting consoles. Fantek is another successful project supported by Equipson, a company that manufactures lifters, truss, and stage platforms.

Today, we have the pleasure of talking to Juan Jose Vila, who is the CMO and COO of Equipson and the CSO of Fantek. Juan has worked in the AV industry for over 20 years. He graduated in Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering and worked as a software engineer for several tech companies. In 2001, he decided to join his family business, Equipson. With a strong technical background and experience gained in other workplaces, Juan took over the leadership of Equipson to implement his strategies within the business. Today, Equipson is one of the leading manufacturers in the audiovisual and lighting sector in the region.

Iwona Wierzbanowska [AV Tech Magazine]: Can you share with us the beginnings of the Equipson company and how your activity has developed over the years?

Juan Jose Vila: Equipson was founded in 1995 when my father and the company’s founder, Jose Vila, had a clear vision of how our industry would evolve in the coming years. He saw an opportunity to start a project at a pivotal moment in the technology industry, especially in the audiovisual sector. Thanks to his over 20 years on the road speaking with industry clients, as he was the sales director of a Spanish audio manufacturer, he understood the product needs of these clients and the direction the market was heading. This commercial vision ensured that the newly founded company experienced sustainable growth from day one. While it may sound straightforward, the journey has not been easy. The success of Equipson can only be attributed to the immense effort and dedication of the entire team, and a commercial vision that led us to design and manufacture products that met the growing demand at the time. Yes, from its inception, Equipson has designed its own technology. Additionally, in the Spanish domestic market, our company has a dedicated area for the distribution of other brands to offer a comprehensive product portfolio that meets our clients’ needs.

Currently, you are a distributor of well-renowned brands and a manufacturer of your own audio and lighting equipment. What is your offering and main activity focus now?

Our global market strategy revolves around segmenting our product offerings into distinct verticals, with each vertical spearheaded by a specific brand. We have WORK PRO for audio systems, Lightshark for lighting control, FANTEK for staging-related products, and Mark for accessories. This approach allows us to specialize the team for each brand while simultaneously benefiting from the synergies of being part of the same group. In the Spanish and Portuguese markets, we operate as a commercial distributor, not only for these in-house brands I mentioned but also as a distributor for other non-proprietary brands.
Our primary markets are Live Events and system integration, much like most of our competitors. Today, the industry primarily revolves around these two areas. We have brands that are strongly dedicated to one of these sectors. For instance, Fantek is almost entirely focused on Live Events, while WORK PRO’s portfolio is now more centered on Integration.

Are you providing AV installation and integration services, or do you cooperate with partners in that area?

We primarily assist our installer and integrator clients with support services. However, it’s important to note that if an end-user reaches out to us for assistance with any of our products, we provide it without hesitation, always ensuring to maintain communication with the respective integrator or distributor. We believe in supporting all users of our products while respecting the roles and responsibilities of our partners. That responsibility of direct engagement typically lies with our clients, but we are always here to help when needed. By supporting and protecting our clients and understanding our position in the value chain, we envision our growth strategy. Regarding markets outside of Spain and Portugal, we have distributors who are responsible for providing support. We equip them with the necessary tools and, of course, any additional support they might require. In fact, we place a strong emphasis on training within our company. In 2019, before the pandemic, we trained over 900 individuals at our facilities, offering this training entirely free of charge. We view education as our primary tool for customer loyalty. A client well-versed in our products not only leads to increased sales but also results in long-term cost savings, as they require less support and can independently undertake more projects using our technology. Post-pandemic, we have significantly bolstered our online training efforts for obvious reasons. We are enhancing our audiovisual content creation, as seen with Lightshark, where the LS-1 consoles alone have over 100 training videos dedicated to them.

What are the recent applications or projects that include your equipment?

There are many installations carried out with our products every day, and many of them we never get to know about. Although it’s hard to choose, given that we have several brands, some noteworthy projects include the Dubai Expo, the Costa Adventure complex in Malaga, Salvador de Bahía Airport in Brazil, the URA multimedia experience in Canada, and the Lebay Beach Hotel in Cyprus.

A particularly special project is ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ in Hong Kong. In this immersive experience, our MINO speakers play a crucial role in creating a unique environment. The intention is for sighted individuals to feel, in complete darkness, what a visually impaired person experiences, relying solely on their other senses to navigate a world designed for the sighted. This project stands out not just for its technical requirements but also for its profound significance.

How do you develop your own audio and lighting technology? Is the R&D team completely based in Spain

We have multiple independent R&D teams dedicated to each brand. However, we ensure regular collaboration through weekly meetings where all teams share their progress and explore opportunities for mutual assistance. A prime example of this collaboration is the shared expertise between the software teams of Lightshark and WORKPRO in OSC&UDP control. As a result, both our WORK PRO and LIGHTSHARK products that utilize ethernet communications can control and be controlled using these protocols.

Our development process encompasses software, electronic hardware, and mechanical engineering areas. Perhaps influenced by my background in IT companies, we prefer an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach to product development and launches. We initially release a version with essential features, gather market feedback, and then refine and incorporate the features that users demand. This approach was instrumental in the success of the Lightshark consoles. I recall our 2017 launch of the first version at Prolight and Sound. Introducing a console with a user interface based on a web browser was a bold move. We had to be confident that users would embrace this innovation. The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received was invaluable. It not only validated our approach but also encouraged us to expand and accelerate our development efforts, recognizing the potential of our product.

What are your plans in terms of product development for the near future?

In our electronic products, while the electronic hardware remains a fundamental component, we are increasingly shifting our focus towards software solutions built on embedded systems. This approach allows us to create more robust development platforms and expedite the development process. Additionally, we have initiated research into AI systems, a direction I believe many companies are also exploring.

At Fantek, we are innovating with smart solutions to enhance the safety of our products. One such innovation is the LoadSense system, which alerts users when their lifters are overloaded. We are also concentrating on developing larger systems.

I’m genuinely excited about the projects we have in the pipeline; they hold great promise for the future.

What is your ambition in terms of sales?

Today, our presence across Europe is well-established, and we are experiencing steady growth in the United States. We embarked on an ambitious project in the US in 2019, and the momentum continues to build. Breaking into this challenging market hasn’t been easy, but I believe we’ve found the right approach to make our mark.

In Asia, our development has been more long-term, and we aim to allocate more resources to further our growth in this region. In LATAM, our presence has always contributed significantly to our revenue. Despite the current economic challenges in the area, we are determined to expand our footprint, with countries like Colombia being a particular focus for us.

Thank you!

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