Daktronics – Keeping score on the world’s largest video displays

Go Lean Commentary

The book Go Lean…Caribbean asserts (Page 20) that elevating Caribbean society has to be a total commitment, involving “Head, Heart, Hands”, in full measure. Head refers to visions, roadmaps and strategies; heart refers to the community ethos, the motivation and spirit that drives the community; hands refer to the industrious energy to do the heavy-lifting to make progress.

s largest video displays - Photo 1The Go Lean book, and accompanying blog/commentaries,  frequently focuses on the subject of models and lessons from companies and institutions that exemplify these above values.

One such company stemmed from humble beginnings, in a small town, with the motive to retain local talent in the local area; to give people the opportunity to prosper where they are planted. The firm is Daktronics, founded in 1968 by Drs. Aelred Kurtenbach and Duane Sander, professors of electrical engineering at South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. The company began with the design and manufacture of electronic voting systems for state legislatures.

In 1971, Daktronics developed the patented Matside® wrestling scoreboard, the first product in the company’s growing and evolving line. Then in 1994, Daktronics continued growth allowed them to become a publicly traded company, offering shares under the symbol DAKT on the NASDAQ National Market Exchange.

s largest video displays - Photo 6Today, Daktronics has grown from a small company operating out of a garage to the world leader, offering the most complete product lineup in the display industry. The company’s vision is to be the world leader at informing and entertaining audiences through dynamic audio-visual communications systems. Their mission statement details a commitment to:

  • Deliver industry leading value to customers
  • Engage employees through challenging and rewarding opportunities
  • Develop strategic partnerships with suppliers
  • Leverage their strengths in product innovation, manufacturing, and service
  • Contribute to the betterment of their communities
  • Generate an attractive return for investors

The book Go Lean…Caribbean boasts a similar vision and mission for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), to impact the Caribbean region. The book describes initiatives from top-to-bottom in the Information Technology/ICT industry space, asserting that the region should not only consume, but should create, develop and produce as well. So Daktronics is a good role model for Caribbean initiatives. The book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic CU. This CU roadmap is designed to elevate the economic, security and governing engines of Caribbean society; this vision is defined early in the book (Page 14) with these statements in the opening Declaration of Interdependence:

xxvii. Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

xxxiii. Whereas lessons can be learned and applied from the study of the recent history of other societies, the Federation must formalize statutes and organizational dimensions to … implement the good examples learned from developments/communities like New York City, Germany, Japan, Canada, the old American West and tenants of the US Constitution.

Daktronics has found its niche, especially in the market of giant scoreboards at sports stadiums; consider their activities as highlighted in the following VIDEO; (or the written narrative below):

VIDEO: Daktronics Featured on CBS Sunday Morninghttp://youtu.be/KY9SS2jMVUo –

Published on February 1, 2015 – How did a small Midwest company, Daktronics of Brookings-South Dakota, operating out of a garage end up as the leading provider of professional sports scoreboards? CBS News national correspondent Lee Cowan spent three days at company headquarters to find out.

These Go Lean blogs have previously detailed the economic and civic advantages of sports enterprises. Now we can consider how opportunities have been exploited in the attendant functions of sports, scoreboard systems (then spinning-off to Main Street):

The Daktronics difference is obvious from local high school scoreboards to “giant-esque” video systems in major league stadiums; from roadside LED signs to “Gee-Whiz” digital signage in iconic sites like Times Square (New York) and Piccadilly Circus (London) – see sample of non-sports installations in the Appendix below. There is a good chance one can see Daktronics products every day as their range of products make them the most experienced digital display manufacturer in the industry.

s largest video displays - Photo 2From the “comfy confines” of rural South Dakota, this electronics company (Dak + tronics) has shocked the world; proving that change can emerge from anywhere, even remote locales. This provides great inspiration for any island in the Caribbean! Daktronics’ contribution to the world is their focus on efficiency, quality and agility. This is what the Go Lean book refers to as “lean”.

The concept of “lean” is very prominent in the book (and movement), even adapting the title, Go Lean, for the quest for excellence in Caribbean economic empowerment and governing efforts. The label “lean” is indicative of this quest; the word is used as a noun, a verb and an adjective. This point is pronounced early in the book (Page 4) with these statements:

The CU will lean on, lean in, lean over backwards, and then lean towards…
The CU will embrace lean, agile, efficient organizational structures – more virtual, less physical, more systems, less payroll.

The Daktronics experience lends confidence to the viability of the revolutionary changes being proposed by the Go Lean roadmap, that we can succeed in transforming our society through innovative technology. Previous blogs/commentaries also exclaimed societal benefits from pursuits in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Consider this sample of previous blogs:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3974 Google and Mobile Phones – Here comes Change
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3915 Microsoft Holograms Transforming How We See the World
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3889 RBC EZPay and other Banking Automations – Ready for Change
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3490 How One STEM Entrepreneurial Start-up Can Rally a Whole Community
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3276 STEM/Medical Role Model Shaking Up the World of Cancer
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3187 Robots help Amazon tackle and dominate Cyber Monday
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2488 Role Model Jack Ma brings Alibaba to America
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2126 Where the Jobs Are – Computers Reshaping Global Job Market
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1743 Google and Novartis to develop ‘smart’ contact lens
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1698 STEM Jobs Are Filling Slowly
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1416 Amazon’s new FIRE Smartphone
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1277 The need for highway safety innovations – here comes Google
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=888 Book Review: ‘Citizenville – Take the Town Square Digital & Reinvent Govt’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=554 Cuban cancer medication registered in 28 countries
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=308 CARCIP Urges Greater Innovation

The Go Lean book posits that technology and ICT can level the playing field of competition and trade with the rest of the world. Surely this entire Daktronics commentary demonstrates the advantage of leading with technological innovations. We do not have to be in Silicon Valley to have an impact. Daktronics was foundered and remains based in a Midwest rural city (Brookings, SD) of only 22,000 people. Yes, an innovator can also be on a beach in the Caribbean homeland, with a great idea and support of his community.

The Go Lean book details a series of community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to foster great contributions from Caribbean technology innovators. The list is as follows:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Governing Principle – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Governing Principle – Return on Investments Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Promote Intellectual Property Page 29
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Research & Development Page 30
Community Ethos – Ways to Bridge the Digital Divide Page 31
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Mission – Exploit Globalization – Producers & Consumers Page 46
Strategy – Agents of Change – Technology Page 57
Strategy – Agents of Change – Globalization Page 57
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Growing to $800 Billion GDP – East Asian Tigers Lesson Page 69
Tactical – Separation of Powers Page 71
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Ways to Impact Social   Media Page 111
Planning – Big Ideas – Cyber Caribbean Page 127
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 136
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education – STEM Promotion Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Foster e-Commerce Page 198
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Main Street Page 201
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Youth Page 227
Appendix – CU Job Creations Page 257
Appendix – Copyright Infringement – Protecting Intellectual Businesses Page 351

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean to lean-in for the empowerments in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. This is a big deal for the region. The benefits are simply too alluring to not commit to this cause:

  • Optimization of the economic engines; growing the regional economy to $800 Billion & creating 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The region needs this delivery. Without the equalizing effects of technology/ICT, we will continue to be rendered inconsequential on the world scene. This was the motivation of Drs. Aelred Kurtenbach and Duane Sander, founders of Daktronics. We can channel their resolve and commitment to retain our young people to remain in their homeland. We can do for the Caribbean what they have done for rural South Dakota.

Now is the time to deliver the Caribbean as a better place to live, work and play… for today and for the future. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix – Daktronics Sample Non-Sports Client Installations

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Appendix VIDEO Narrative:

Title: Keeping score on the world’s largest video displays
By: Lee Cowan, CBS News National Correspondent; Posted February 1, 2015 from:

Here on the plains of South Dakota, being a football fan can be a bit lonely. The closest NFL team is a four-hour drive from here.

And yet, the town of Brookings, South Dakota, has a big stake in tonight’s Super Bowl — because this is where the NFL goes up in lights.

The town is the home of a company called Daktronics, which, in the late 1990s, entered what’s become an arms race to build the biggest and most vivid video scoreboards in football … including one that will be used at tonight’s big game in Arizona.

If you’re surprised that something that big comes from such a small place, don’t worry — Daktronics CEO Reece Kurtenbach is pretty used to that. He says it’s one of the “mental hurdles” they’ve had to overcome: “We’re here in South Dakota, we have a high-tech company – ‘Where’s South Dakota?'” he laughed. “And you have to kind of position it on the map for some people, even in the U.S.!”

It all started back in 1968 on the campus of South Dakota State University with two friendly engineering professors.

Al Kurtenbach (Reece’s father) and fellow professor Duane Sander were looking for a way to help their students find local jobs.

“We were seeing our students leaving the state and thought we should try to do something to keep our students here,” said Sander.

They rented space in a tire repair shop just off Main Street in Brookings, and never really planned to leave.

“When you talk to startup companies, talk to venture capitalists, those kind of people, they always talk about the exit strategy — ‘What’s your exit strategy?'” said Al Kurtenbach. “And my exit strategy for the company was no exit!”

His first hire was a graduate student named Jim Morgan. He went on to become Daktronics’ CEO years later, but back in those days he didn’t even know what the company was supposed to make.

“Basically, we really didn’t have a product when we started,” said Morgan, “so every accomplishment you celebrated in those days!”

They finally put their engineering minds together to build a scoreboard for wrestling matches. It may look simple, but at the time it was revolutionary.

And they’ve never looked back since.

“If somebody was interested in having us build another scoreboard, we were willing to do that,” said Sander.

They were soon building scoreboards for high schools, colleges, you name it.

In 1980 Daktronics was even asked to ply their trade at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. It was a turning point for them, to have a worldwide audience for what they were building in Brookings. “Yeah, it was fairly good advertising!” laughed Sander.

Back then, they were timing world records. Today, they’re making them. Daktronics holds the distinction of building the largest video displays in sports, installed at the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Each is bigger than the field the Jags plays on — 362 feet long, six stories high.

And with a price-tag to match. The scoreboards come in at nearly $9 million a piece.

To really appreciate their size, you’ve got to see them in person. There’s almost 22,000 square feet of screen. With Cowan’s face displayed, that makes Lee’s face big enough to be on Mount Rushmore. His eyeballs are about 11 feet across.

The NFL is counting on bigger being better, a way to entice fans off their comfy couches to buy tickets to see the spectacle in person.

“You have many great reasons to stay home,” said Larry Rosen, executive producer of the Jaguars’ big screen entertainment. “You have your 62-inch HD in your man cave or whatever. Those are great reasons to stay home. I need to provide you with a different kind of experience that you can only get in a venue.”

The resolution is four times better than what one could get at home. The screens are a constellation of millions of LEDs — about the size of a small thumb tack — spaced about a half an inch apart. Standing near them, it’s hard to actually picture a picture; all your eyes focus on are clusters of red, blue and green lights.

But back away . . . and those clusters miraculously blend together into a portrait in vivid detail.

The panels undergo brutal testing to make sure they can withstand the elements — everything from the steamy heat of Sun Life Stadium in Miami, to the pounding rain and snow of Chicago’s Soldier Field. Some are even submerged in water.

But perhaps the biggest test for Daktronics has been the students at SDSU, where Al Kurtenbach — long since retired as a professor — still rarely misses a Jackrabbits game (under HIS scoreboard, of course).

In the early ’80s, only 22 percent of Engineering graduates here actually found work near Brookings, S.D. Today, that number is closer to 62 percent. Many of Daktronics’ would-be employees now attend class in the university’s Daktronics Engineering Hall.

“I felt we always had to show them exciting work, demonstrate that there was exciting work right here in Brookings,” said Kurtenbach.

Daktronics, of course, isn’t the only manufacturer of stadium big screens. Mitsubishi turned heads years ago with a massive display at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

But it’s Daktronics that has just been awarded the contract to build the biggest scoreboard to date. Called a “Halo Board,” it will ring the top of the new Atlanta Stadium. The only way for this screen to get any bigger is for the stadium itself to grow.

“How big can these displays get?” asked Cowan. “I mean, are we approaching sort of the biggest they’re gonna be?”

“I think it depends on how large the checkbook is,” said Kurtenbach. “That would certainly be a factor. If the checkbook is larger, we’ll sure try to build it!”

And we, undoubtedly, will watch.


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