November 27, 2010
Ever wonder where all of those downlights, wall washers, and track lights come from? Sure, they all show up on a job site assembled and ready to go, but where do those fixtures start their lives? Our Luminaire Design class had the rare opportunity to find out this past Monday during our tour of the Edison Price Lighting factory in Queens, where we had the chance to observe some of the machining processes that the typical light fixture goes through before it leaves the factory for installation in projects all over the world.
The factory itself is a clean, bright, modern facility, where most fixtures in the Edison Price product line are assembled prior to their delivery on a job site. What this means is that each fixture is manufactured and assembled per order (a “Just-In-Time” business model), so there is no warehousing of large stocks of light fixtures here or at another location — the process is simply: you order it, they’ll build it (all within one to two days). Surprisingly, this doesn’t require legions of employees to accomplish as one might expect. The factory employs less than 75 people that can build hundreds of fixtures per product line, per day, which is due, in large part, to the amount of automated machinery used in the manufacturing process. From automated laser cutters and punch presses to folding press brakes and even packaging machines, the investment in modern technologies in this factory has clearly paid off in efficiency, accuracy, and production. Luckily our hosts allowed me to take some short videos on our tour, so you can see exactly how some of these machines work!
Despite all of the automation, however, a large part of the manufacturing process is completed by hand. All of the assembly of the fixtures, for instance, is done by hand. Some of the raw material processes are done by hand as well. In fact, one of the most interesting processes we observed on our tour was the hand-crafting of an aluminum reflector. The man in the photo below is “spinning” a curved reflector from a flat disk of aluminum by using a series of wooden sticks to push the metal against a form in the machine. It was impressive to watch as he expertly formed each piece in a few fluid strokes.
I find it very reassuring, too, that many of the processes in the factory are left to the human hand. The fact that a company as large as Edison Price trusts in the skill and craft of their employees to construct their fixtures is evidence of a caring company that is concerned with delivering only the highest caliber of products. As a lighting designer, I know that this is a company I can trust to take care of me and my work from the start of a project to its finish (and beyond), because I have seen, first hand, the care that goes into each product.
It’s surprising to me that most businesses like this don’t advertise these parts of their company. Edison Price, for instance, hardly mentions anything about their manufacturing process on their website. In today’s transparency- and social media-driven world, I think any business would benefit from promoting the fact that every one of their products is crafted and inspected by a well-paid American employee. People like to feel a connection to the things they buy and the companies they buy from, and the more they know about the inner workings of a company, the more they are likely to trust and buy from that company. I think if more people knew about what happens behind-the-scenes at companies such as these, it would benefit everyone involved.
Thankfully I can share these photos and videos with you, so now you know and can spread the word about the great work that this company is doing, and hopefully use this knowledge to your own benefit on your next lighting project! Know of any lighting or related companies that promote their behind-the-scenes activities as much as their products? Share with all of us below in the comments!