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Monroeville firm Compunetix stays ahead of the communications curve

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
John Sherrow (left), manufacturing manager at Compunetix, speaks with CEO Giorgio Coraluppi on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in the company’s manufacturing lab in Monroeville.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Giorgio Coraluppi is the CEO of Compunetix Inc. of Monroeville. The company was an early leader in the technology used by the teleconferencing industry.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Giorgio Coraluppi is the CEO of Compunetix Inc. of Monroeville. The company was an early leader in the technology used by the teleconferencing industry.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Giorgio Coraluppi is the CEO of Compunetix Inc. of Monroeville. The company was an early leader in the technology used by the teleconferencing industry.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Chloe Bark, an engineer with Compunetix Inc. in Monroeville, works on software on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. The company was an early leader in the technology used by the teleconferencing industry.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
A circuit board is examined to determine whether an environmental coating has been correctly applied on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in the manufacturing lab of Compunetix Inc. in Monroeville company.

Staying competitive in the rapidly evolving technology industry can be a challenge, but Compunetix Inc. has figured out a formula for success.

The Monroeville company has managed to stay relevant for four decades by focusing on communication products that lead the market rather than react to it.

“We are always facing a market that is changing in front of us,” Compunetix CEO Giorgio Coraluppi said. “Historically, we've been very good at adapting to the changes.”

Known as an early leader in the technology behind the teleconferencing industry, the company has maintained its edge by investing about 20 percent of annual revenue into research and development, diversifying its business and expanding its global reach.

Coraluppi said Compunetix plowed $23 million of its $100 million in 2012 revenue into R&D.

“Hopefully, we leap-frog the competition with products that in some respects are unique and superior,” he said.

Compunetix was the second-largest provider of audio-conferencing products in 2012, with 21.6 percent of the global market, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The company has been profitable for the past 15 years, Compunetix spokeswoman Amy Reese said. She declined to provide specific profit figures.

Founded in 1968, Compunetix originally worked for the Navy, developing and installing communication and data-processing systems around the world that were used to track enemy submarines.

In the 1980s, Coraluppi said, Compunetix won a contract with NASA to develop the first teleconference system, which was used in the space shuttle program.

The technology then was adapted for the private sector, and the company generated a niche that it has expanded upon ever since.

Today, there is a high likelihood that if an audio or video teleconference is being held anywhere in the world, “they're going through our technology,” Coraluppi said.

Compunetix counts among its clients global communications companies such as Verizon and Sprint, and federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration.

In the 1990s, the company formed its Chorus Call division, which hosts and manages conference calls for corporations and organizations, from Monroeville and 10 other countries.

Chorus Call is Compunetix's largest business unit. But the 600-employee company continues to do work for federal agencies, develop audio and video conferencing systems and manufacture circuit boards for a range of electronics, both for in-house use and for other companies.

Four hundred of the company's employees work in Monroeville in a six-story office building, where Compunetix has its corporate offices and employees manage conferences, manufacture circuit boards and other equipment, and develop software and hardware.

Coraluppi, who was recognized this year by the Pittsburgh Technology Council with its CEO of the Year award, credits the company's success to employees, who he said “rise to meet challenges.”

And they have good motivation to do so. Since the 1970s, privately held Compunetix has provided an Employee Stock Ownership Program, and today that program holds 40 percent of the company's stock.

“Throughout the company is a sense of pride of ownership,” Coraluppi said.

Coraluppi, who was born in Italy and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, has been heralded for giving his employees paid time off to vote in national elections.

While Compunetix has been successful during the last 45 years, Coraluppi knows that past performance doesn't guarantee future results.

He didn't want to discuss specifics of Compunetix products that are in development, but he said one big area where the company is focused is so-called unified communications.

It's a highly competitive area with many technology firms chasing the goal of a single system that manages all a worker's communications and data needs.

Coraluppi is confident, he said, because Compunetix chooses its strategic directions carefully and pushes hard to bring an innovation to market.

“Once we decide to do something, we do it,” he said.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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