Pacific Insight Electronics has become the go-to company for automotive manufacturers who want next-generation LED lighting in their vehicles. Lorie Greenspan reports on how the company has become a leading supplier to automotive makers of state-of-the-art interior lighting systems.
What is a LED without the expertise and ability to produce it or manufacture around it?
Referred to fully as a light-emitting diode, a LED is a semi-conductor light source that appeared in some electronic components as early as 1962. LEDs are now ubiquitous, used in applications such as aviation, advertising, general lighting and in traffic signals.
LEDs are also quite common in the automotive arena – and this is where Pacific Insight Electronics shines.
The company’s story is similar to that of Apple Computers, in that it was started in the garage of one of its founders, Stuart Ross, who is today director and CEO. Ross and his team began manufacturing small electronic parts for vehicles and eventually veered into specialty electronic parts for the transportation industry, supplying low volume, high-diversity lighting modules in heavy vehicles, such as fire trucks. The company also supplied electronic modules manufactured by Ford and General Motors.
In 2007 the decision was made to extend fully into automotive, and reverse its manufacturing strategy to produce a lower number of part numbers at a higher volume for tier 2 automotive suppliers.
“We started to manufacture PCB assemblies for customers and supplied lighting applications parts to Ford,” said Laurent Curtil, vice president of business development for Pacific Insight Electronics. “Because of the way the technology was evolving, we specialized in LED lighting, which is today an expertise of ours. By integrating the lighting package with electronic hardware and software we have become the go-to company for new lighting solutions.”
Ford, in particular, is a company that has pioneered new lighting schemes, and is “ahead of the game” when it comes to interior lighting, Curtil said. Indeed, PI now supplies a range of Ford and Lincoln programs, including the Ford Escape, Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, MKX and MKS, Mustang, Edge, and Taurus, along with the newest Lincoln MKC, the 2015 Mustang, the new F150 and the 2015 Ford Edge for the U.S. market and the Ford Galaxy in Europe, as well as the 2016 Lincoln MKX.
By vertically integrating its production of interior lighting assemblies, in addition to manufacturing the lighting source, PI has the ability to produce all lighting devices, and, more importantly, bring more value added assemblies to market.
With 25 years of expertise now under its belt, PI delivers power smart, innovative and cost competitive LED lighting products for interior and exterior applications with LED designs that light faster, last longer and shine brighter than any other product on the market.
In partnership with the Peterson Manufacturing Company, PI’s 800 employees produce both LED PC assemblies and fully assembled lights under the industry recognized Piranha brand name in two manufacturing facilities: One in Nelson, British Columbia, measuring 72,000 square feet and a second in Fresnillo, Mexico, at 86,000 square feet.
- Clearance/Side Marker Lamps;
- PC Rated Marker Lamps;
- Round and Oval Stop, Turn & Tail Lamps;
- LED Rear Trailer Lamp Kits;
- White LED Utility & Licence Lamps;
- Multifunction Strobing LED Lamps;
- 360 Degree LED Strobe Warning Lamps.
These products come with features such as single/dual color LED illumination, solid state LED circuitry, potted material sealing terminals for corrosion resistance, microprocessor controlled circuits and light patterns, all of which meet or exceed FMVSS 108 lighting standards.
Also unique to PI is its PI GLOWS®™ LED ambient lighting technology, an innovative, flexible lighting system that gives cars a more luxurious, customized feel and, according to the company, “offers superior optical performance over mutli-LED solutions.”
PI has enabled LED automotive lighting to evolve into an offering of seven distinct colors for the vehicle owner – such lighting is used on cup holders, footwalls, doors, overhead lights and any other task deemed worthy of a light inside a vehicle. Traditionally, Curtil explains, the downside of LED lighting, by nature, is that there has been little chance that LEDs will have consistently the same color intensity from light to light.
But that has changed with PI’s significant research and development into the problem. “We’re now manufacturing Generation 3 lighting so that each light source is calibrated to guarantee the whole vehicle is the same color and same intensity level,” Curtil explained.
And PI is on track to supply current demands for more dynamic interior lights, not only enabling us all to see better, but personalizing our vehicle space with color and intensity.
By mixing the primary colors in three chips: red, green and blue, designers and engineers at PI can devise any color at any temperature and with a longer-lasting lifespan. “With traditional lighting, light is directed out; the bulb emits light all around and reflectors or optics are necessary,” Curtil said. LED lighting is simpler and allows more freedom in designing interiors.
Curtil added, “Our structure allows us to be flexible and reactive and adapt. We’re experts in the LED in terms of how to use it and drive it and manufacture around it.”
All this expertise is owed to PI’s product management group, which is responsible for linking creative thinking with engineering discipline, and timely customer interaction. By utilizing industry/market based knowledge, lessons learned and benchmarking, PI’s strategy group manages the entire product line life cycle from initial market positioning, planning feature upgrades and creating a direction of the company’s product roadmap. Product Management also leads field implementation and post launch product support activities.
Competencies include high speed circuit board contenting, electronics assembly, environmental encapsulation, optical inspection, computerized end of line functional testing, wire harness and electro-mechanical assembly. PI is also compliant with all industry standards for quality and environmental management, including TS-16949, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001certification, and embraces Lean manufacturing principles to ensure efficient processes and the reduction of waste.
And how well has all this fluid competency all paid off? The answer is in the revenues, which stood at $52 million for the 2012/13 fiscal year, up from $39 million the year before.
“The way we use LEDs have also made us experts in how to reduce cost and bring cost advantages to our customers,” Curtil says.
Another reason why the company is considered world class.