Who fits it — Advanced Integrated Systems’ projects include courts and airports, so it knows a thing or two about security. Below, Sonia Soltani finds out how it stays ahead in an ever-changing marketplace.

Advanced Integrated Systems was set up four-and-a-half years ago to supply integrated technology solutions including CCTV, access control systems and fire alarms. Based in West Yorkshire, the company has 40 staff and a turnover of £4.9m. Its work spans the transport, financial, retail and leisure sectors. Recent fit-out projects include Manchester civil justice centre, Robin Hood airport in Doncaster and 20 HBOS banks nationwide.

Managing director Alan Inkster says his company likes to be involved at an early stage in the specification. He says: “We tend to have a relationship with the engineer and end users to find an appropriate solution and a workable system early on in the project.” Inkster adds that in order to make informed choices the company has to keep up-to-date with what’s available on the ever-changing market. This is particularly important as most specifiers are not always aware of new products. Inkster says that the designs typically given to him by specifiers are “very sketchy”. He adds: “Specifiers read something and believe that everything the press release says is true. We have to manage their expectations.”

Advanced Integrated Systems is nominated by its clients as a supplier. It doesn’t enter open competitions because Inkster thinks the only way to win is to cut prices and the company is not interested in doing that. The company’s strategy of getting involved from the beginning of a project means that it doesn’t feel the impact of value engineering on the final specification. Inkster says: “If the client wants a certain solution it will pay for it.” The most important part of the process for Inkster is the preliminary discussion with the consultants, who might not have a special expertise in security products. Inkster recommends the likes of Bosch, Hochiki and CEM Systems as manufacturers he trusts to provide technically competent security systems.

Drake Circus retail centre in Plymouth has required state-of-the-art systems
Drake Circus retail centre in Plymouth has required state-of-the-art systems

Inkster is pleased that, as systems take longer to become obsolete, most specifiers are spending more than they used to on them.

Inkster says one of the most challenging projects his company has worked on is the £1.4m Drake Circus shopping centre in Plymouth, because the scheme has doubled in size since he came on board a year ago, and the security systems required have become ever more sophisticated.

“We started with a very standard solution and had to take a leap forward to suit the client’s changes,” says Inkster. For this project the company is fitting CCTV systems from Bosch, access control systems from CEM Systems, fire detectors from Hochiki and active network systems from Cisco.

Although Inkster is naturally a strong supporter of the use of high-spec technology for security systems, this is not the case when it comes to communication within the project team. He says: “There’s nothing like regular project meetings. People keep firing emails and text messages at each other, but it can’t never be the same as face-to-face conversations to decide what to specify on a project.”

The world according to Advanced Integrated Systems

Alan Inkster, managing director, Advanced Integrated Systems

Q: My dream specification is …

A: A mega-casino with cutting-edge technology and no shortage of budget!

Q: I swear by …

A: Bosch Praesideo, the best voice alarm product available.

Q: I think the best recent innovation is …

A: IP CCTV. The use of network connectivity allows for much greater flexibility.

Q: I think …

A: Closed protocol fire detection systems are past their sell-by date because clients have finally woken up to the fact that they are too expensive for what they offer.

Q: My specification nightmare is…

A: A complex integrated security and fire system, with an IT-phobic client or consultant.

Q: The next big thing will be …

A: Bosch Business Integration System, an integrated security control package that allows the use of other manufacturers’ equipment, offering a truly off-the-shelf integrated solution.