A brand as big and as globally recognised as Belkin is would be bound to have a high tech HQ, and on our way back from CES this year, we stopped by the company’s new Global Headquarters in El Segundo right near Los Angeles Airport.
Belkin’s CEO Steven Malony met us in the foyer – it was his fault we were there, having invited us to visit late last year when in Australia celebrating 40 years of Belkin before Christmas. His Vice President of Communications Jen Wei then took us into almost every area of the building in an eye opening insight into how Belkin operates.
Like many modern offices, the Belkin HQ meets high standards for energy efficiency and global standards including Electric Vehicle Charging, Solar Power and even Skylights throughout which was a key part of the choice to find a single story facility for the new premises.
An open plan and flexible workspace makes up most of the obvious areas in the building. With shared co-working spaces, choices of sit or stand desks and quiet rooms and phone booths for those private conversations. Of course a plethora of meeting rooms, though no two are the same, some had rectangular tables, others triangular and some circles.
It looks amazing, and I’m sure it’s a step up from any previous offices, with this being a merged premises for all areas of the business that’s the real leap forward for Belkin.
Belkin’s founder Chet Pipkin’s name is plastered onto the most secure area of the building – “Chet’s Garage” – the one area we couldn’t go. Thanks to the strictest of security protocols Belkin’s future product development, showcasing and partnership areas, places where Belkin’s key partners would meet with them are locked behind closed doors.
But close by we get a sense of the family atmosphere at Belkin.
Entering the “lab” zone, on the floor is a sign saying “Daniel’s Grove” – an open collaborative area where staff can meet, eat, and play ping pong. The area is dedicated to Daniel Wesey, the man who led Belkin’s Regulatory Compliance team before his death in 2017. The team’s love and respect for Daniel is expressed through this dedication. A really touching thing to see for such a big company to do.
Inside the labs, and this was the real eye-opening thing about this tour. Often when you get the chance to visit a company like this they don’t take you into the real work areas – only the office space.
But here, we saw Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at work. Soldering irons out, testing gear at work.
There are machines to test the extremes of weather, and durability and their ability to withstand every day use. There are people testing audio, not just on headphones, but of chargers to make sure they’re not emitting sounds we can’t hear.
Some machines dedicated to testing metal coatings for their chances of rust, as well as magnetic attach products to ensure they don’t lose a grip on your product.
When it comes to screen protection, one of the key product areas for Belkin, there are machines to test the strength of those glass shields, but something you don’t think about is the need for them to break. if they are unbreakable they may pass the force through to your phone – the very glass you’re trying to protect. A fascinating balance the team wrestle with every day.
And i got a glimpse of a range of screen protection applicators. These simple devices were designed to make it easier for store staff at Apple Stores or places like JB HiFi to put on your phone for you. These have iterated over the years to get smaller, simpler and better. Very cool to see that evolution.
There’s plenty of smarts in building and testing the products. Drop testing them, even a 3D printer that can print in multiple colours and transparency to allow engineers to put CAD designs into the hand for the next stage of testing.
But it’s not just the actual product. They’ve also got a whole packaging workshop. Here they can print, cut and fold new packaging ideas or concepts without having to outsource. This means new product ideas and initiatives are kept in-house.
It also means the team can help with Belkin’s sustainability goals. Moving away from the use of plastics in packaging, the team can prototype new cardboard and paper packaging – then take them out for strength and drop testing. It all happens in-house.
We met Sarah Hafiz, Belkin’s Senior Sustainability Engineer who talked about the company’s move toward sustainable packaging. Sarah even pointed to Australia’s strict standards as driving some of the move toward new packaging, but importantly it was clear from all the executives we spoke to that the drive from consumers toward sustainability as well as retailers was what was making it possible to make so many changes in their product lineup and packaging.
Utterly remarkable to me that this all happens under one roof in Los Angeles. Of course the hard work is then sent off to factories around the world to mass produce, but the same teams that engineer and test the products during their creation, can then check and test the products coming off the production lines too.
Finally, something you would never expect – a School. Yep, Belkin has dedicated space in it’s Headquarters to a small school catering for 60 students in an all-new open and collaborative but most critically innovative learning environment. That Belkin dedicates resources let alone space to that is something that earns respect.
What I learned today is that Belkin is a massive global company that operates in a nimble and efficient way. Most importantly, they’ve found a way to separate their key and core functions of design, engineering, testing and all the product lifecycle requirements like marketing under one roof. And it’s not anywhere near as big as I thought it might be. But it’s designed to work. It’s designed to make the work of developing a product ensure that the end result is something that works, is safe, is durable and meets the highest of standards set by Belkin for anything that carries that name.
I can’t tell you what’s coming – that was all well concealed:)