Old School Technology

By JAMIE SLACK
Photos by BRADEN DIMICK

Technology is always evolving—new ideas, increased efficiency—and undoubtedly it has changed exponentially in just the last several years. Phones, which double as computers and social connections, can fit in our pockets, and watches now control the apps with which we connect to the world. Even with so many innovations, technology from two or three generations ago still remains relevant today.

TFM COMMUNICATIONS, located at 125 Jackson Street in Topeka and another location in Lawrence, has been providing valuable two-way communication services for emergency management, manufacturers and other industries since 1948. A licensed Motorola dealer, TFMComm has felt first hand the consequences of new technology in the two-way radio business as well.

“The biggest changes in the industry has been moving from analog to digital,” said Troy Flair, president of TFMComm.

Digital radio offers greater coverage and improved voice quality over analog radio.  Where analog would often result in garbled voice messages requiring the speaker to repeat a message, digital provides automatic error correction to keep voices clear.  Digital also offers better privacy and longer battery life.

old tech 1The company saw continued growth as businesses and organizations recognized the value two-way radio communication systems could bring to day-to-day operations. Two-way radios connect people with, instant and reliable communications. Dispatchers use two-way communication to direct their first responders—law enforcement, fire departments, emergency services and healthcare all rely on two-way radios.

PUBLIC SAFETY
According to Gibbs, two-way radios are essential for public safety because they allow communication from one source to many people at once.

“Let’s say you try to call all your officers in the police department and you need to make an allpoints bulletin about a bank robbery,” Gibbs said. “You can’t try and call them all individually. By then the bank robbers are out of town.”

But public safety operations aren’t the only businesses that find value in two-way communication.

“I would say 70 percent of our business is for public safety and the rest is the other vertical markets like education and manufacturing,” Doug Flair said.

The world of two-way radios has remained relevant for the past 50 years because the system does what it is supposed to do, and no other technology has been able to improve upon it. Even with advancements in cellular capability, no application can replicate the efficiency and quality of two-way radio.

CHARITABLE
For the past 70 years, TFMComm has been able to thrive in our mid-sized community, while also donating equipment and time to various causes. The company has worked with the Special Olympics, Germanfest, and other organizations that facilitate large events that need streamlined communication to operate efficiently.

Doug Flair says the company provides tw-oway radios for non-profit groups to use at events for no cost because they want to give back to the community. And the appreciation shown by the community is evident in the TFMComm offices. Various awards and recognitions of gratitude from organizations that have benefited from their services attest to the importance TFMComm has played in Topeka.

The company employs 19 people in a variety of roles—sales, engineering, technical, installation, tower, office and management work.

“Most people don’t know we do tower and antenna work,” Doug Flair said. “It’s not just radios.”

TFMComm has done work on the WIBW Radio tower and works closely with other communications companies in Omaha, Nebraska, and St. Joseph, Missouri. Working in conjunction with other providers means that the TFMComm clients get the best coverage.

OPPORTUNISTIC
Doug Flair is now semi-retired but continues to be involved wherever possible. He attributes the company’s success to being open to new opportunities.

“We had rapid growth from 1974 when I took over,” he said. “We continued to look at new things like the LED commercial lighting to keep the business growing.”

This philosophy of looking for new opportunities and listening to what their clients want and need from their communication systems has enabled the company to provide a better rounded service. TFMComm works to help clients get what they need in a turnkey environment so it becomes more of a value added product.

Part of these turn-key services include program management, system integration with various types of communication devices, coverage studies to ensure the service will provide what a client needs, and system evaluation to enhance current communication systems.

After serving Topeka and the surrounding area for more than 70 years, TFMComm, Inc. looks forward to many more years of service to the community. While the company recognizes the inevitability of more changes taking place with technology, the owners view it as a challenge they are willing to accept.

TK