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Interview: Stephen Payne, Theben UK

Stephen Payne KNX UKStephen Payne heads up Theben KNX product sales in the UK. A fervent ambassador for the KNX open protocol for many years, he sits on the board of the UK KNX Association, which elected him as its KNX Champion 2012 in recognition of his work.

In this exclusive interview with KNXtoday, Payne explains why he got involved with KNX, and why training is such an important issue.

Q: Why did you join the KNX Association?
A: It has always been clear to me that collaboration is the way forward if we are to develop innovative, effective and affordable solutions for all types of buildings. The KNX Association brings together all that is best in our industry, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Q: What is your perspective on the KNX market at the moment, what trends do you see?
A: Whichever way you measure it, the market for KNX is growing as awareness grows. There are more products, more manufacturers, more distributors, more consultants and more specifications. This is true across the Europe where Theben has just opened two more dedicated offices in The Netherlands and Spain as well as further afield with growing presences in the Far East and Australia/New Zealand.

Q: What excites you at the moment, what opportunities do you see?
A: I am especially encouraged by the links between KNX and other technologies. It seems as if everyone wants to be part of KNX, which is great. When there is an app for it, you know you are in the mainstream!

Q: What are the challenges facing KNX, what are its weaknesses?
A: The main challenge is to get the KNX message across to consultants and specifiers to make KNX the building control system of choice every time. In these economically-challenging times costs are always an issue, and KNX is doing its bit by trying to keep costs down wherever possible. As an industry, we have to be as flexible as possible in areas such as training. We have to ensure every possibility is considered to ensure everyone who wants training on KNX can get it in a manner that is right for them and their business.

Q: What do you recommend as a strategy in helping the market to develop?
A: KNX has moved on from being viewed as just a European control product. KNX is a global brand, but being global means we have to consider each country’s differences, as well as common ground. We have to keep promoting KNX wherever and whenever we can, and listen to our customers. The KNX Association is a great platform for this.

Training is also paramount. To be certified as a KNX integrator you have to take an official KNX Association qualification at a recognised provider, details of this can be found on the association’s website. However, we need to do more in the UK.

The most exciting new approach of KNX training in the UK is a new City & Guilds course which has been developed by Alan Crooks at Plymouth City College.

If this is a success, which I sincerely hope it will be, then KNX training will become part of Electrical Apprentices training in the UK. This is vital to ensure all new apprentices are trained in modern up-to-date skills like their counterparts in mainland Europe. We need to give young up-and-coming engineers the skills they need for modern building control requirements. KNX meets all these requirements, but we need it to be taught to all apprentices as a matter of course.

KNX building control is not an add-on or a luxury, it is a necessity, and training should reflect this right from the start of an engineer’s career to meet the requirements of today’s employers.

Q: How do you keep in touch with the market, which trade events or resources are helpful/of interest to you?
A: The customer is king – I listen to my customers first and above all. The goodwill and commercial trust that accompanies collaboration in this market never ceases to amaze me. The world of KNX is a great environment in which to work. Light + Build in Frankfurt is the exhibition for KNX. On the Theben stand last year, I spoke to so many different nationalities, the stand was like the United Nations of building control!

Q: Where do you see the industry being in a year’s time?
A: I see the industry being bigger and better – the genie will not be put back in the bottle.

Q: What is your advice to the industry?
A: Keep doing what you are doing, and make sure that our inevitable success in establishing an open approach to building controls is not hampered by future commercial concerns. We must not compromise the spirit of collaboration that has made KNX the success it is.

Stephen Payne is KNX Sales Manager for Theben UK. The Theben Group is a leader in controls with 550 employees in Germany, five subsidiaries in Europe and branches in more than 50 countries all over the world.

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