Chemtrol Embraces the Next Generation of Philips Lighting Equipment
Key distributor in Spain grows with Strand Lighting & Selecon products
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 4:00 am
by Bryan Matthews

Madrid, Spain - Since the early 1990s Madrid based Chemtrol Division Teatro, S.A. has been a key distributor for Strand Lighting products in Spain. In just 20 years the company has grown from a small specialist rigging and engineering company to one of the largest and most respected, full service entertainment technology distributor and Installation companies in the country. Today Chemtrol’s offering has expanded to include expertise in lighting, sound, stage engineering, rigging and video.

The company’s significant growth was in part fuelled by the huge regeneration programmes, which followed Spain becoming a member of the EU, and by the company’s enigmatic and forward thinking managing director, Francisco Revilla.

Francisco started working for Chemtrol following his completion of an MBA in New York. By that time the company had established some contacts with a number of American companies from the entertainment rigging industry. When the World Expo was launched Chemtrol and its American friends worked together to deliver state of the art rigging and flying systems to a couple of the many venues being built.

This experience proved a turning point for Francisco and he established a separate company within Chemtrol´s group (Chemtrol Division Teatro, S.A.) to deal with this new business idea. At that time Spain was beginning to reap the rewards from considerable EU regeneration funds. This influx of money saw the country upgrade much of its basic infrastructure, including many of its roads and public transport systems. At the same time it became politic for local mayors and politicians to provide funds to restore some of Spain’s most iconic historic theatres and build world-class cultural venues.

Francisco saw an opportunity to develop Chemtrol’s offering. He also shrewdly realised that the company would grow more efficiently if he expanded its repertoire to include integration, full service and installation.

“Ultimately we wanted to offer a wide range of services including: design, engineering, manufacturing, installation, commissioning and maintenance for stage machinery, lighting, audio, video, communications and electrical infrastructures,” explains Francisco. “When we first started our business most of the companies that provided stage systems were small firms that knew little or nothing about new stage technologies and the requirements of the venues up for renovation or construction. They got a lot of things wrong! What defines Chemtrol is that we make sure we know and understand the needs of our customers and end user and respond to that accordingly. Each project is treated uniquely; we don’t subscribe to the ‘one solution fits all’ way of thinking.”

This way of thinking has paid off. Since the early 1990s Chemtrol has participated in the design and execution of many of Spain’s most revered performance spaces including: Teatro Real and Teatro Escorial in Madrid, Liceu, LLiure and Teatre Nacional de Catalunya in Barcelona, Euskalduna in Bilbao, Maestranza in Seville and the Palacio de las Artes in Valencia.

It wasn’t long before Chemtrol was being asked to design and install entertainment lighting systems. A challenge in itself but for Chemtrol, the biggest question was which lighting system to champion for its high profile projects. This was ultimately answered with Strand Lighting dimming, console and luminaire products.

Francisco chose Strand because he was keen to find a manufacturer that could facilitate the full lighting package and work closely with Chemtrol in the early years of growth, as he discusses: “At that time Strand Lighting was the only manufacturer that offered a full entertainment lighting package ie: dimmers, luminaires and console along with the back up service that we needed. We began working with Strand Lighting around the same time that the very popular 500 series console was launched. The desk quickly became as ubiquitous in Spain’s theatres as they were all in Europe, and our clients were delighted.”

Today many of the venues that Chemtrol refurbished in the 1990s are now looking for equipment upgrades and / or refurbishment. The Strand 500 series is no longer being manufactured and venues are looking for affordable alternatives.

Jose Manzano, commercial director for Chemtrol discusses: “It is no secret that Strand Lighting experienced issues when it was acquired by Genlyte. For some years we’ve struggled to provide replacement parts for the 500 Series consoles and the EC range of dimmers. We’ve therefore had to work hard to ensure our clients’ equipment gets repaired or upgraded.”

However since Philips acquired Strand Lighting Jose says they’ve seen a marked improvement in the Strand Lighting offering. “Today we’re installing Strand Lighting Wall Rack dimmers and Palette Consoles alongside Selecon Luminaires on many of our latest projects,” he explains. “The fact that Philips has bought together the efficiency and efficacy of the Philips Selecon luminaires and the forward-looking control and dimming products from Philips Strand Lighting - including distributed dimming – brings a huge benefit to our customers.”

Jose continues: “We’re starting to see Philips change the way Strand Lighting does business and it’s great to see a Strand Lighting presence again at large trade shows. In terms of dimmers I’m confident Philips Strand now has the right products with the Wall Racks. The Palette Consoles are more stable in terms of software and the early teething problems have been ironed out.”

Overall Jose says he feels more confident about what Chemtrol is selling and that it’s a solid product. “Some of our more recent projects, Teatro Espanol and the Matadero in Madrid, came to us looking for replacement consoles for the 500 series,” he continues. “They decided to go with the Strand Lighting Palette control surface and they report that they’ve been more than happy with the results.”

Today Spain, like many other countries, is under ever increasing pressure from the EU to reduce the energy consumption of its public buildings. Chemtrol therefore wholeheartedly welcomes the new LED offerings from Selecon such as the PL1s and PL3s and the PL range of floodlights alongside the efficacy of its range of conventional tungsten workhorse fixtures. These alongside the range of distributed dimming and power products make a tempting package for many a new and energy conscious venue.

Both Jose and Francisco agree that the service and product offerings from Philips Strand Lighting have improved immeasurably. This, they say, has inspired Chemtrol to work to further improve its own product-training and servicing offering to its clients. “For our clients what counts is being able to access immediate service and product knowledge 24/7,” says Francisco. “Philips has repositioned key people within the company so they now have specific roles. The business feels more streamlined. For us it’s vital to know who we should call when we have a problem. Strand Lighting as a company seems to be going in the right direction to becoming competitive in the marketplace again and I feel more confident selling the products to our clients. After all 90-95% of our projects have Strand Lighting equipment in them somewhere. We hope this will continue for a long time to come.”

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