Billing itself proudly as the world’s first computer graphics company, Evans & Sutherland (E&S), a COSM company, knows something about delivering visual experiences. The planetarium pioneer has been developing advanced computer graphics technologies for more than five decades, with an enviable list of industry firsts to its name. It focuses on engineering, manufacturing, installation, content, and systems integration of digital planetariums, digital cinemas and immersive classrooms worldwide, and it makes extensive use of Christie Professional Services to provide peace of mind for its customers with 24/7 support and maintenance.
"For many years we have sold planetarium systems across the globe, and in fact created the first digital planetarium experience," says Greg Goates, Service and Support Manager at Evans & Sutherland. "Our association with Christie began when we purchased Christie DS+25 conference room projectors through GOTO, a Japanese partner of ours. So, we had experience with Christie, but it wasn’t until 2015 that we started looking to them for more robust projectors suitable for bigger planetariums and science centers."
Adoption of Christie
E&S first provided a largescale Christie solution at the Museum of Virginia in 2015, delivering impactful high resolution, high frame rate planetarium performance to audiences on a 76-foot-dome, thanks to five Christie D4K2560 projectors. Since then, the team has continued to trust in Christie technology, and opted to use the award-winning Christie Boxer series on its release. "We had great access to the product manager, which is unheard of when you think about it," adds Greg. "Our input was valued in the development of the projector. People really wanted the Boxer, so we started to sell those exclusively. We realized that we were bidding on a lot of these projectors, and so it made sense for us to become a Christie integrator."
While taking the leap to integration, E&S began to contemplate how best to service its customers with warranty and services for its projectors. Christie introduced them to its Professional Services team to support its customers. "We wanted to get our customers under parts service coverage," adds Greg. "Christie offered to go on site and do maintenance visits, so we worked out an agreement. We really appreciated Christie’s willingness to make it work and refine the process. We’ve been going since 2016 – and it works brilliantly."
Christie Professional Services is a trusted advisor in designing, building, deploying and supporting commercial audio-visual display systems. Over 90 years of experience in advanced display technology has given it deep insights that ensure the smooth project delivery within the most complex IT and AV environments. It can provide onsite service and maintenance, 24/7 network monitoring, and extensive help desk support.
E&S has installed more than 120 projectors since 2016, in 30 locations across the globe. They now primarily sell Christie D4K40-RGB pure laser projectors, having been early investors in the technology at the beginning of 2019. "They’re perfect for environments where we don’t want to buy and replace lamps," adds Greg, who hails Christie’s projectors for their ease of use. But it’s Christie Professional Services that provides the icing on the cake. "Dealing with Christie and using their Professional Services – they’re light-years ahead. There have been countless times where there have been issues on-site, and we haven’t been able to go, but Christie is there, and within 24 hours, it’s fixed and fully back up and running."
A flexible arrangement
While other manufacturers offer standard 9-to-5 RMA support for their products, Christie can offer 24/7 support as part of their Service Level Agreement (SLA) accounts. Christie provides E&S customers with access to extended parts service coverage, Network Operations Center (NOC), onsite service and maintenance services, which E&S uses to augment its own warranty. Under their agreement with E&S, Professional Services covers two emergency and two maintenance visits per year by a Christie technician. "That is fantastic for us, as we are a small company with four field service operators. We simply cannot send someone to Singapore or Germany – it would take too long. On the other hand, we also can’t have installations down, so Christie delivers true value. When you can have someone on-site and responding within 24 hours, that is huge. The larger facilities – museums and planetariums – can’t afford to be down as they operate 7 days week."
E&S offers a standard 12-month warranty or a 2-year warranty in Europe. It encourages its customers to sign up for parts service with Professional Services once a projector moves out of factory warranty. "It pays for itself, gives peace of mind, and it makes it easy and simple." The services arrangement can be flexible, when needed. We work with Christie to come up with price point that will work. We understand that customers may get funding to buy the best projectors they can, but don’t always get the funding to maintain them."
Christie’s NOC tracks tens of thousands of displays 24/7 and can spot potential issues before they impact a system. E&S also purchases spare parts to have on hand, for which Christie provides local warehouse storage, helping E&S to meet its required equipment availability goals.
Rising to challenges
The outbreak of COVID-19 placed increased strain on E&S’ ability to provide maintenance. "We found a problem with a projector before shipping to a customer. We needed someone to come to our headquarters and fix it immediately. Someone from Christie managed to get there, taking the appropriate precautions, and getting the job done."
At Liberty Science Centre in New Jersey, 10 Christie Boxer projectors run, with Professional Services on hand to support. "They really can’t be down, Christie has gone on site for us, and we couldn’t be there without Christie’s support." Further afield at Bangkok planetarium, Christie China was able to step in to help with a projector issue when it was impossible for E&S to be present during the pandemic.
"If we did not have Professional Services, we’d have to go on site every time. We would need more staff and it would be a full-time job. Having parts access close by is also huge for us. It makes my job easier and more pleasant; we can take care of people. Our customers expect world-class services, and Professional Services allows me to do that in places that we could not before. We appreciate how Christie values us; I think we are true partners. We couldn’t be as successful as we have been without Christie."
With a series of large projects lined up in central Europe and North America, the successful partnership is set to continue.
"Evans & Sutherland is a global leader in this challenging space of largescale dome experiences and planetariums, and it is a pleasure to play a part in supporting its many impressive installations around the world," says Josh Kolbeck, senior director, Global Solutions Fulfilment. By the nature of its work, its projects are often demanding in nature and require minimal downtime, which is where Christie Global Professional Services comes in. With strategic locations worldwide and a comprehensive network of customer service engineers, project managers, and training and service technicians we can rapidly dispatch the expertise, parts, and replacements required."