For more than 100 years, Holophane has been lighting the way with innovative luminaires. Gloria P. Cahill reports on this Ohio company’s renowned candlepower.
Holophane Glass Company was incorporated in 1898 in New York City to manufacture “illuminating appliances” based on the work of a French scientist and a Greek engineer. Their concept — to cover a glass globe with horizontal parallel prisms positioned to control light — received a U.S. patent as Holophane® glassware.
Over the decades, changes in the company’s ownership, headquarters and manufacturing locations reflected its evolution along with the science of illumination. Starting as a distributor for the Holophane glass manufacturer in London, the American company eventually began producing reflectors and globes for carbon lamps, gas burners, acetylene lamps and oil lamps. The introduction of electrical lighting soon brought new opportunities for technological innovation and expansion of the product line.
Holophane has evolved into a vertically integrated, international manufacturer and marketer of premium-quality, highly engineered lighting systems for the industrial, commercial and outdoor markets. In the words of John K. Morgan, the company’s president, “We make everything but the light bulbs.” Morgan points out that Holophane produces 95 percent of the components that go into its lighting systems. This roster includes glass, plastics, electrical components, transformers, aluminum die castings and even the decorative poles for outdoor fixtures.
Based in Newark, Ohio, the company operates nine factories — four in Ohio, one in Texas, two in Mexico, one in Spain and one in England. Sales for the coming fiscal year are projected at more than $300 million. The company has 2,400 employees worldwide, with 2,100 in North America. Holophane even has a lighting school, in which its 225 sales representatives are trained in design services and technical solutions for lighting environments.
National Service Industries, Inc. (NSI), a corporation headquartered in Atlanta, acquired the lighting manufacturer in 1999. Holophane’s well-established name and reputation for quality lighting are companions to those of another NSI company, Lithonia Lighting, the world’s largest lighting manufacturer.
History Lights the Way
Morgan discusses Holophane’s history in terms of how the manufacturer has served its clients. “Holophane had its roots in the technology to control light from gas lanterns,” he says. “Gas was inefficient and unattractive, so Holophane developed ways to control light from the light source, making it more effective. In doing this, Holophane built a tremendous product line and manufacturing capabilities to produce lighting of unmatched quality.” The company is credited with many firsts in the lighting industry, including “hibay” lighting to illuminate large areas in factories, in-built lighting that eliminated the heat problem in recessed lighting and high-mast systems that revolutionized highway illumination.
Commenting on how its customers benefit, Morgan says, “Holophane focuses on bringing a blend of lighting as art and science to create better lighting solutions for the customer. This sets us apart from other manufacturers. Ours is a high-end value proposition. Our objective is to provide the most effective life-cycle cost, not just the best initial installed cost.
“We operate with a customer intimacy model. We do not rely on volume alone. We work with designers and clients to understand their needs — reduce energy consumption, increase production, improve security, light roads or walkways. And if we don’t have the product, we create the product. More than half of our sales are custom products. We find out what will meet a customer’s needs. We develop solutions, design the product and build it.”
Shine on Customers
And what do customers want? Morgan says the most common request is for lighting that looks attractive without sacrificing light control: “Customers want and need excellent lighting, but do not want to compromise on energy use or maintenance. So our sales representatives specialize in environments — not just understanding the obvious needs, but helping customers identify potential needs and problems that can be solved during the design stage. This is why customers come back again and again: for innovations and aesthetics that improve the productivity within their environments.”
Morgan cites four examples that show how Holophane meets customer needs with high-quality products that come with the company’s famous five-year warranty:
• Ports: Air, sea, train and departments of transportation ports need lighting for safety and energy conservation. These are rugged environments where chemicals, salt, other pollutants and harsh weather can affect lighting components.
• Factories: Steel mills, automobile manufacture/assembly centers and machine shops use paints, solvents, acids, metal grinders and other materials and equipment that create hot, dirty environments. Ceilings can be 50 feet to 60 feet high, so lighting the process-oriented work is a major design challenge. Further, if a lighting product fails, lost production time in 50,000 to 150,000 square feet of space can be expensive.
• Roadways and walkways: Street lamps must provide reliable lighting for both vehicles and pedestrians and fit into the setting, especially in high-profile or historical sites. Examples of such work from Holophane include the lighting on State Street in Chicago and a current job for a historical streetscape in Orem, Utah.
• Retail stores: Retailers want stores and certain merchandise to sparkle, but fixtures must be silent so they do not distract shoppers. Lighting design must also avoid bounce-back glare from floors.
Added to these is the extensive list of Holophane’s other projects: convention centers, correctional facilities, food-processing plants, gas stations, grocery stores, gymnasiums, libraries, museums, offices, parking lots and garages, recreation centers, refineries, restaurants, schools, sports arenas, tunnels, warehouses and water treatment plants.
Holophane continuously perfects its manufacturing processes to provide glass with superior optics that resists breakage and the effects of exposure to air and elements. The company is constantly improving its ability to produce plastics that absorb impact and withstand exposure, metals that resist corrosion while reducing costs and energy consumption, coatings to protect metal over the long term and electrical transformers (ballasts) that ensure superior thermal and electrical performance. In addition, Holophane’s extensive testing ensures quality at every manufacturing step.
Looking to the future, Morgan says Holophane plans to promote its impressive capabilities in a new market. “We are about to expand into an OEM sales organization,” he says. “We believe that we can improve the state of the art in lighting with our capabilities. The total lighting solution is more than the application, and our products can improve the quality of other companies that focus on quality.” Morgan says the company will augment the engineering of its glass opticals to increase its glass-building capacity by 30 percent. He adds that Holophane also intends to increase production development capacity by 30 percent, with the goal of introducing one new lighting product every month. The name “Holophane” is derived from two Greek words (holos and phanein) and means “to appear completely luminous.” It’s a classical combination that Morgan is applying to Holophane’s future.