Whelen …70 Years of Innovation and Service

Police Fleet Professional Magazine

Today’s law enforcement fleet manager is inundated with vendor products promoting the latest and greatest in technology. Let’s face it, most of the top-tier suppliers make some very good products. So, after you see and feel the new products, you must make a decision that’s best for your agency. You have done your due diligence and now you must consider other metrics like warranty, longevity, business ethics, vendor stability, supply chain, and innovation. How long have they been around? What impacts will supply chain issues have on product availability? Are they going to stand behind what they are selling me? Not all product vendors can answer those questions.

Then there are those companies that tick all the boxes and have been in the law enforcement industry for decades. As a New England-based manufacturing company with 70 years in the business and facilities encompassing one million square feet, Whelen Engineering is an example of a company that can answer those questions, and more.

Whelen is a company that prides itself in providing solutions that are designed, engineered, tested, and approved by the very people who use them. This is done through a strong partnership between Whelen’s engineering, sales, and manufacturing teams (many of whom are former or current first responders), and its end user customers. Whelen prides itself in hiring the very people they build products for, so they can ensure they deliver the best solutions and who better to advocate for that then people who have done the job.

The other piece of the solution is how vertical integration enables a more stable production process and increases reliability for customers. Whelen recognized years ago that vertical integration is more than just a part of a good business model; it is critical to success. Its strategic planning allows it to circumvent the unpredictability of the supply chain with relative ease, especially when compared with manufacturers that choose offshore processes.

Vendors with vertical integration of both engineering and manufacturing capabilities are better able to control the priority of work that needs to be done across all departments to maintain and support the products.

Over the past year and a half, the engineering team at Whelen has modified or redesigned over 60 electrical hardware designs, including changes to bills of materials, printed circuit board (PCB) schematics and layouts, and embedded code (firmware). Whelen’s in-house testing facilities and capabilities ensure they are not compromising on quality and standards, despite having to react quickly and make design changes due to the supply chain challenge. Whelen’s ability to control its destiny despite all the obstacles and shortcomings of the current supply base makes a critical difference.

When comparing suppliers, one must consider their reliability, especially considering the challenges that still exist in the supply chain today. It is important to look for a supplier that has the experience and resources to navigate difficulties and deliver the goods. When supply bases break down like they have over the past several years, manufacturers like Whelen use their vast in-house resources to ensure product pipelines remain stable for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other customers. This ability to adapt and overcome daily challenges allows control of all sides of engineering and manufacturing. Adjustments are made as necessary to continue the flow of shipments, and products get where they are needed the most.

Man in testing room

By being both the designer and manufacturer and not just the assembler, manufacturers like Whelen can pivot and make enhancements internally to continue building products with only slight delays or interruptions to customers. Within vertically integrated companies, the operations, purchasing, and engineering teams are in constant communication, helping to make certain that production pipelines stay robust.

This tight communication among internal departments means that if purchasing determines there is a future supply chain problem with a specific part, for example, the engineering department will immediately work to find (or make) a similar part. If the component does not fit perfectly into a design, an engineering change will occur, and the necessary adjustments will be made. The redesign, qualifying, and testing of the new part is all done within the engineering department, while the manufacturing department works simultaneously to update processes and develop production testing.

In Whelen’s case, by making nearly all its product components internally, it avoids many of the pitfalls that other manufacturers face. By manufacturing everything from sheet metal parts to plastic-injection molded parts, electronic circuit assemblies, and printed circuit boards on site and by performing powder coating, hard coating, and vacuum metallization in-house as well, it controls the process and eliminates many of the variables that cause backlogs and delays for suppliers that rely on outsourcing to manufacture their products.

While the focus on new builds and new products is of paramount importance, one should not overlook the service and support a manufacturer provides after the sale. As the industry continues to sort out supply challenges and many face the end of life (EOL) of certain products, service and support continue to be of critical importance.

Police vehicles at night

Some manufacturers recognize this fact and have plans in place to meet the demands of their customers. Whelen always has the resources, staff, and knowledge base to face challenges head on, as shown by the success Whelen is still achieving in today’s challenging marketplace. By choosing a flexible and vertically integrated supplier, law enforcement personnel are ensuring they can keep their vehicles on the road today and in the future.

Whelen also prides itself with continually advancing its technology and thinking beyond the traditional boundaries of current trends. As emergency scenes are made safer with the latest technology and improved product features, suppliers are beginning to take a bigger picture approach to scene safety.

This no longer includes just what’s happening on scene; vendors must look at the moments involved in getting officers to the scene. Whelen started to ask questions like, “How do first responders interact with each other while en route to an emergency call?” and “How do first responders interact with the apparatus and other drivers on the road when responding to a call?” Whelen is asking questions that go beyond traditional visual and audible alerting to uncover new ways to make emergency responses even safer for all first responders and everyone else on the road too.

One of those trends is the use of cloud-based systems. Most fleet managers are familiar with “the cloud.” Historically, its primary use for the emergency market was to provide access to information and help fleet managers understand and better manage their apparatus. Telematics, a fancy word used to describe fleet management software that offers a comprehensive view of vehicles and aids in operational efficiency, has been in use since the 1960s. Its adoption into the law enforcement industry began in the early 2000s and is a commonly found feature in vehicles today and will soon reach the tipping point of becoming a standard part of builds.

As this happens and the connectivity of the fleet market increases, suppliers are using this readily available technology to improve safety in new and innovative ways. Currently, the latest advancements in cloud-connected safety mean it’s now possible for fleets around the country to digitally alert motorists to their presence, incorporate responder-to-responder alerting, as well as control and direct traffic signal priority at intersections, otherwise known as emergency vehicle preemption (EVP).

While every new safety feature is important, that last one on the list, EVP, is a huge deal because we all know that approaching an intersection is one of the most precarious moments first responders face when responding to a call.

Emergency vehicles approaching the same intersection from multiple directions creates an extremely challenging situation. With the latest technology enabled, the driver of each responding vehicle receives a notification that another emergency vehicle is approaching the intersection at the same time, alerting first responders to take extra precautions when clearing the intersection.

One emergency vehicle incident between two responding vehicles that results in a collision is not only embarrassing but potentially very costly. Today, through products like Whelen Engineering’s Vehicle Safety Gateway (VSG) and the company’s partnership with Global Traffic Technologies (GTT), intersections can now interact with apparatus by using enhanced precision and GPS data through the Whelen Cloud Platform®, which directly links the apparatus to an intersection. The earlier issue of range limitation no longer applies, as the cloud can communicate directly to the signal from any distance. This new, centralized technology is not dependent on a line of sight to the intersection either, so it’s equally effective around corners.

The granularity and fine-tuning of a fleet’s interaction with an intersection becomes much more robust as it is controlled by hardware that interacts with the cloud. First responders and fleet managers no longer need to rely on dated hardware mounted on the apparatus or intersections that require routine maintenance to ensure receivers are tuned accordingly. This new technology and partnership allow first responders to get to emergency scenes more safely than ever before while providing peace of mind that wasn’t possible even a few years ago.

Consider for a moment this scenario. An emergency vehicle approaches an intersection that is located within a turn. The vehicle is outside of the range of infrared preemption, so the signal does not receive the preemption request until the vehicle has turned the corner and is now headed directly toward the signal. This leaves little time for the preemption to be granted and for the signal to clear, so the officer must slow down or stop to proceed through the intersection safely. This results in delayed response times and the apparatus does not get to the emergency as quickly as possible.

Now consider this enhanced scenario with a police vehicle approaching an intersection that is located within a turn. Immediately on switching the vehicle into response mode, and even before approaching the intersection, the signal starts to calculate the vehicle’s estimated time of arrival (ETA) using GPS data based on direction and speed. Once an ETA is determined, and once the vehicle has met the ETA or distance parameter that is set by the department, a green light is automatically requested, and the vehicle clears the intersection safely and quickly. With no range limit or sightline requirements, the technology’s ability to preempt around corners and utilize second-by-second GPS data offers a significant improvement in navigating intersections safely and efficiently.

Another amazing new technology for not just law enforcement but all first responder vehicles is Digital Alerting, offered through HAAS Alert’s Safety Cloud®. This is a revolutionary new way technology is improving emergency scene safety by notifying the motoring public that an apparatus is nearby.

When an apparatus is in motion and connected to the cloud service, alerts can be pushed to the motoring public around it through phone navigation applications like Waze and Apple maps. Notifications like “Emergency Vehicle Approaching” and “Emergency Vehicle Ahead, Please Slow Down and Move Over” are examples of what a driver may see. HAAS Alert says its technology can reduce the risk of collisions by 90 percent. Some vehicle manufacturers, including Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram, are designing their own infotainment systems to receive these alerts. This means drivers will receive notifications even when not using a navigation app.

At nighttime emergency scenes, lighting studies and the science behind them continue to guide the direction of the newest safety enhancements that are brought to market. Today, Whelen is focusing on four key areas. Lowering light intensity, removing flash edges through Dynamic Variable Intensity™ light patterns, using slower flash patterns, and synchronizing flash patterns among vehicles with V2V sync are critical components of creating a calmer and safer nighttime scene.

These critical safety components are incorporated into many of Whelen’s newest products and as new studies and information are uncovered, they use the knowledge to improve products even further, as with the all-new Edge® 9X lightbar. The Edge 9X combines the most valuable design aspects of Whelen’s most popular lightbars with an all-new look and expanded customization.

Whelen Edge® 9X lightbar

The Edge 9X Series celebrates Whelen’s long history of providing innovative, lifesaving equipment to not just law enforcement but the entire emergency warning industry. This new lightbar is designed for durability, competitively priced, and highly configurable for a wide range of applications. With models available in both Short (9SX) and Tall (9TX), the Edge 9X Series is an ideal solution for any vehicle application.

Regardless of the application, Whelen Engineering products continue to not only be industry-leading but cutting-edge innovation. This 70-year-old American company prides itself on pushing the envelope when it comes to enhancing the safety of their customers. That’s probably why a few of their customers have chosen to work there!

 

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