Fluke Networks closing Fotec

May 16, 2002
May 16, 2002--The tester-maker will consolidate Fotec product lines into the Fluke Networks brand name.

Fotec, an optical fiber training resource and a manufacturer of optical fiber test equipment, is closing.

Fluke Networks (www.flukenetworks.com) acquired Fotec last year. Fotec's operation in Everett, MA, is scheduled to close on May 17.

Fotec carried a vast line of optical fiber test equipment and accessory lines, from electronic to cleaning kits. Much of this equipment will now be rebranded into the Fluke Networks FNET line.

"We are just being really smart in a very tough environment. That is why we are consolidating," says Julie Kuntz, public relations manager for Fluke Networks. "We don't think our intent is to short the marketplace of training. We value the technology, and it will continue in various forms."

Jim Hayes, principal engineer for Fluke Networks, launched Fotec, an acronym for Fiber Optic Test Equipment, in the fall of 1980.

"We'd sell equipment to people who didn't know anything about fiber optics, its use or installation," says Hayes. "We would teach people how to install and service it."

Fotec employees have participated in industry standards groups, and helped write many standard test procedures for optical fiber test equipment. The company developed optical fiber test kits in 1982 as solutions to testing network problems.

Fotec also designed a series of portable instruments. The "Smart Instrument" concept uses a microcomputer operating system in optical fiber power meters and sources that are preprogrammed to make optical fiber loss measurements automatically.

Besides the Smart Sources and Meters, the company has written software called FOtest that works with the Smart Instruments to guide installers through measurements, including loss and return loss, then logs the data to files and prints it for permanent records. Most of this equipment will now carry the Fluke Networks logo.

"We are consolidating anything previously labled Fotec," says David Coffin, general manager of enterprise supervision for Fluke Networks.

While most of Fotec's revenues came from the sale of optical fiber testing equipment,
Fotec launched a "hands-on" optical fiber training conference called "Fiber U." The program was intended to be an adjunct to the test equipment business, but Hayes says Fotec trained 10,000 to 15,000 people in person.

Hayes says that the program weathered a difficult economy in the past two years. Yet still, cable contractors sent employees to the course to learn optical fiber installation techniques.

"The need and the want always are in conflict because the overall economy is down, as is a lot of money for training," says Hayes. "But the people who are still having their boys trained these days are the people who see they have now got room to breathe. They say, 'I should get training because when the economy comes back, I will be prepared.'''

Coffin says the economy was not the only reason for the consolidation decision.

"These have been challenging times financially, but that isn't the sole reason for consolidation," says Coffin.

He also says Fluke Networks will continue to offer a commitment to cable installation training through SuperVision Workshops, and a sponsorship of cabletesting.com.

He says Fluke Networks is optimistic about the future.

"The prospects for our forecast are changing, and we are cautiously optimistic about our overall sales," he says.

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