Adaptive - Business In Focus



Adaptive - Business In Focus
For over thirty years, Adaptive Micro Systems LLC has
designed and manufactured digital displays and solutions.
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based company provides LED
display solutions for a variety of applications, with its signs
appearing on billboards, theaters, manufacturing plants,
highways, commercial and retail stores, restaurants,
vehicles, schools and lottery.
Written by Mark Golombek
daptive began operations in 1980. Its two founders,
Bill Latz and Tom Mandler, had previously worked
together in an electronics company, an experience
which helped them to become pioneers in the LED display
arena. The early years involved promotional items and some
different types of controls using LED technology. One of its first
promotional displays was a simple sign with LED lighting for
Coors brewery.
Through the eighties and nineties, the business continued to
grow. The real change in these two decades was in the quality
of product developed and the primary focus, at the time, was
indoor LED displays. One of the early brands that was developed
was Beta Bright which, even now, continues to be a well known
brand of LED display says President Dennis Thums, “It was sold
through Sam’s Club in the late nineties which ensured that it
would continue to be recognizable by consumers even today.”
“Focusing on the indoor sign
market is how the business grew.”
The company’s business is split into three primary segments: the
indoor market, outdoor markets and intelligent transportation.
Focusing on the indoor sign market is how the business grew.
The first segment, indoor markets, involves products like those
that can be seen throughout the country in movie theatres for
displaying show times. In addition, Adaptive produces industrial systems for communication on factory floors. An example
of this could be seen in Detroit with the Big Three automotive
companies which all have a significant amount of LED signage
on the factory floors and have had for over ten years. Products
can also serve as emergency notifiers or inside retail environments to direct customers once they are in the store.
“Adaptive produces industrial
systems for communication on
factory floors.”
The third division is outdoor markets. Bright, moving eye-catching billboards are a good way for retail establishments to do
on premises advertising and promotion. “To be competitive it
is still one of the best values out there. The new technologies
with signage can really present as part of your branding. We are
seeing a lot more growth in that area.”
In 2002, the company steered into the outdoor market with LED
products when LED signage and electronic billboards started to
appear on the highways. By 2005, this work had garnered about
$5 million of business in the transportation sector and a lot of
time and money was spent developing a few outdoor products.
“At this time, the company peaked at around $50 million and
the introduction of outdoor products made the possibility of
growing the company a reality. We targeted Clear Channel
which is one of the major players with billboards.”
The second market, intelligent transportation, deals mainly with
highway transportation. This includes the new twenty metre
intelligent transportation products for highways. Much of it is
still strictly an amber highway signage, but it has also produced
a full colour system that can function as a billboard, displaying entire pictures and not just text. A lot of this is government
funded or through municipalities. This market is growing with
more applications for a new full colour product and is a major
opportunity for growth.
Adaptive upgraded its assets to electronic billboards. Double sided
billboards then became the next step. The new technology was
priced at $500,000 / billboard. It was expected that Clear Channel
would be buying around one hundred per year so, by 2007, the
company started investing heavily in plant equipment and technology and hiring engineers to support the growth in this area.
The company went from an indoor focus to an outdoor large
billboard focused business. Unfortunately, around the end of
2007, the economy started to tank. Instead of the hoped for
one hundred billboards order per year from Clear Channel, only
fifty were sold over the next three to four years. The investment had already been made, so Adaptive Micro Systems was
adversely affected along with the whole market and industry.
“Adaptive Micro Systems had a really strong indoor product line
and development but, with the change in focus, the business
went through some difficult times in 2010 to 2011 and it went
into receivership. A group of investors then reacquired the
business in August of 2011.”
However, Adaptive Micro Systems is aptly named and the
company was quite capable of dealing with change. Sixty
employees were brought on board from Milwaukee and one
hundred employees were brought in from Asia and Europe.
The employees from Milwaukee had a combined 760 years of
experience ¬¬– a fantastic asset – which became a key element
in the company’s turnaround.
The focus now was to stabilize the business and rebuild relationships with its dealers, customers and suppliers along with
ensuring a top quality product going forward. Another part of
the rejuvenation strategy was to target partners and integrators
that can more effectively use signage in the solutions being sold
to end users. If 2011 to 2012 was a stabilizing year, then 2012 to
2013 was a time to bring on some new product development.
Over the last two years, Adaptive Micro Systems has really
developed the indoor and outdoor lines. “We have a whole
new line of outdoor products which have become some of the
“Bright, moving eye-catching
billboards are a good way for
retail establishments to conduct
on premises advertising and
“Adaptive Micro
Systems is
aptly named;
the company is
quite capable
of dealing with
“We have a whole new line of
outdoor products which have
become some of the best in the
best in the industry with state of the art technology. We have
been very aggressive in rolling those out over the last twelve
months, and are also in the process of doing the same type of
thing with indoor products both in full colour.”
Adaptive Micro Systems is also presently working in the original
equipment manufacturing market providing engineered solutions that involve LED lighting for different types of machines
used in the gaming industry and for signage on buses and trains.
In New York firehouses, one can see what Adaptive Micro
Systems does well. One of its areas of expertise is in integrating systems. Integrators make it easy to use the company’s
products in a wide range of engineered solutions. In New York,
as well as in other cities in the country, projects are underway
that will see LED signage inside firehouses which will communicate in real time when there is a fire or other emergency. This
kind of system can eventually be applied to any firehouse or
emergency services in the country.
“In the US, unfortunately we have been forced with more
situations where emergency notification or mass evacuation
have become necessary. LED signage is an excellent tool to
be part of that integrated communication package. We now
find ourselves working with a number of major electronic
development companies that will utilize our signage as part
of a fire alarm system where it’s not just enough to make a
loud noise. You need to be able to communicate to hearing
impaired and others.”
The building codes changing to be Americans with compliant
with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations will provide
significant opportunities for the type of signs that Adaptive
provides. One has to be able to communicate in different ways,
including visually, in order to direct people to safety; a loud
alarm does not help a deaf person.
With the economy now in the upswing, the company’s long
term goals are to grow the business and provide the best
product available while creating opportunities for its employees. “They have been working hard over the last two to three
years and have really helped to turn the business around and
get us on the right path. That’s now starting to show up in
the products that we are introducing and the quality of these
products in the market.”
“We see growth in the marketplace segments that we are in.
This company was once a $50 million business. It’s a pretty
proud past and we see a pretty bright future which will see us
pass the $50 million mark in the not so distant future.”
Adaptive Micro Systems Inc.
7840 North 86th Street
Milwaukee, WI USA 53224
P: 414-357-2020
E: [email protected]
Unit 210, 1310 Hollis Street, Halifax NS B3J 3P3, Canada | Phone: 1-888-477-2938 Ext. 206