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Triton Systems celebrating 25 years in operation

Long Beach — While good news is somewhat hard to come by on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one company, a manufacturer that was one of the first to resume operations after the storm, is cause for celebration. ATM manufacturer Triton Systems turned 25 years old this year, and the company that has forged a global presence is in the midst of yet more growth.

“I credit (co-founder) Ernest Burdette with setting the corporate tone and standards for the way we do business today,” said Brian Kett, president of Triton since March 2003.

Burdette, who is still involved in the business, said, “Looking back, it’s been fantastic. I couldn’t have imagined in 1981 that Triton would have such a significant impact on our industry.”

World player

Burdette has good reasons for his excitement. On February 6, 1981, Triton founders Burdette, Frank Wilem and Robert Sandoz, began operating the company full time (The company was actually founded in 1979.) The aim was to build quality ATMs that offered the lowest possible cost of ownership. The strategy obviously worked. Triton’s customer base, and where those customers are located, continues to expand. Today, the company has more than 145,000 installations in more than 23 countries worldwide, and maintains operations in such far-flung places as Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and San Diego. It is the largest provider of off-premise (non-bank) ATMs in North America and fourth-largest in the world, and enjoys strong brand recognition in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Canada as well as the U.S.

Over its history, Triton has pioneered many new concepts in the ATM industry. In 1985, it introduced the first battery-powered, portable device designed to teach customers how to use then-new ATMs, a product still used by more than 1,800 financial institutions around the globe. Four years later, Triton rolled out its Card Activation System, which allows financial institutions to issue ATM cards with custom PINs. It has also developed two ATM software packages — Triton Connect and Prism. And in 1992, the company pioneered in-store cash withdrawals with the Scrip terminal, allowing customers to use an ATM card to generate a voucher that is redeemable for cash at the register.

Triton’s product lineup has grown steadily, as well. ATM models range from the 9100 series, Triton’s best seller representing nearly half of its domestic sales, to the 8100 series, unveiled in early 2005 and designed as a low-cost solution for customers who lack the traffic and/or the space for the 9100 models, to the 9600 series, which offers high-visibility signage and a color screen all designed to help customers build their ATM traffic. In 2005, Triton launched two new models — the RT2000 and the RL5000, a wireless option.

Triton is still expanding its horizons today. Historically concentrated on the off-premise ATM market, the company recently rolled out the FT7000, a model designed for bank-based machines. The company also offers the FT5000 for financial institutions.

Following the plan

The milestones keep coming at Triton. In 2004, the company merited the Quality Alignment Award, one of the Mississippi Quality Awards that recognize businesses for their commitment to quality control and performance excellence.

Also in 2004, Triton broke its all-time sales record, shipping more than 20,000 ATMs, 19% more than in 2003.
For Burdette’s money, Triton’s biggest happening occurred in 2000 when the company was bought by Dover Corporation. Based in New Jersey, Dover has grown to encompass 50 companies with revenue of $5.5 billion.

“It was important to find the right company to partner with Triton, and it turned out well,” Burdette said.

Burdette deserves a lion’s share of the credit for perhaps Triton’s most enduring accomplishment. Just as with most Coast businesses, Triton took it on the chin when Hurricane Katrina hit last August. However, the company found itself in relatively good stead due to the foresight of its founders.

At its inception, a disaster preparedness plan was developed in case of a tropical storm or some other devastating occurrence. That plan was augmented over time, and eventually included the establishment of an in-house Emergency Management Team. Earlier in 2005 before Katrina struck, the 15-member team was hard at work making sure the company was in the best shape possible to weather a severe storm, including seeing that facilities received reinforced roofs.

Katrina caused between $100,000-$150,000 in damage to Triton, but compared to its neighbors, the company fared well. Operations were interrupted for a mere two weeks, offering its employees not only a paycheck, but a sense of normalcy, as well.

That is not to say the Triton’s employees were lightly impacted. Of the roughly 380 employees in Long Beach, approximately 100 suffered severe or catastrophic damage to their personal property from the storm. According to Anita Nobles Arguelles, Triton’s director of marketing, the company lost 15% of its workforce.

Looking for a way to avoid this in the future, Triton is preparing to open yet another facility, this one in Memphis. Expected to open in the second quarter of this year, the Memphis location will serve as “back up” to the Long Beach operation, offering an alternative site to continue operations if another disaster strikes. The office will also be a training center and house some manufacturing and distribution capabilities.

Arguelles said Triton was already planning to open the Memphis office before Katrina. Triton simply is running out of space in Long Beach. Katrina only expedited those plans.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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