Light It Up: Bright Days Ahead for Metalumen

Metalumen Manufacturing Inc.
Written by Allison Dempsey

By paying close attention to surrounding architectural contexts to guarantee the ideal lighting solution is created, Guelph, Ontario-based Metalumen Manufacturing Inc. creates, develops, and produces lighting solutions and products that marry cutting-edge trends with traditional styles, combining form and function to fulfill clients’ needs while also expressing the designer’s vision.

A family-run business since 1977, Metalumen strives to merge the science and art of luminaire design to create fixtures that add visual interest to any commercial space.

“My grandfather founded the company,” says Eric Stocker, Regional Sales Manager. “He emigrated from Germany, had some schooling in radiator repair, and had a machine shop doing that. He had a friend who was in lighting in Toronto, so they partnered to develop some lighting, and then they grew the business. They became partners to really develop across Canada and then expand into the United States.”

From then, Stocker’s dad took over, focusing on the operation side, as opposed to his grandfather who was more invested in the sales side.

“He was developing us into more standardized products we use today,” Stocker says, which includes having well-automated machines used for specialty products.

While continuing to find its niche in the market, Metalumen is determined to avoid cheaper components and continue to sell quality products that will last for decades. “If you buy something cheap, it’s a small price now, but in a couple of years you’re probably going to replace the whole thing,” says Stocker.

By maintaining a high level of quality, Metalumen can confidently supply its clientele with exemplary service and product. While the company is always looking forward, it is also determined to continue to improve its daily operations and maintain its core values.

“For right now, we’re really focusing on these specialty products and finding our niche,” says Stocker. “It seems to be really adding to our brand of who Metalumen is and how we’re a family-owned company that supplies these specialty products for these environments, and we’re seeing the growth internationally.” International growth, he adds, has included setting up partnerships to increase its presence globally.

Other core values for this company include sustainability, which is achieved by integrating environmental, social, and economic practices and procedures into all its strategic planning and initiatives. With an extensive recycling program to divert scrap metal, wood, cardboard, paper, and lamps, the company has reduced its natural gas consumption by 30 percent and electrical usage by 15 percent, and has effected a 50 percent reduction in the amount of waste headed to landfill.

Given that lighting accounts for a startling 19 percent of global electricity consumption and 25 to 40 percent of all commercial energy consumption, Metalumen uses a multifaceted approach to promote sustainability at both the manufacturing and consumer levels. Even its packaging is composed of at least 85 percent recyclable materials, at least 65 percent of that coming from post-consumer sources.

Along with these impressive initiatives, keeping the business in the family has also played a vital part in its success and longevity, says Stocker.

“I think it does add to it. You have that expertise adding to the industry knowledge and being able to really focus and connect,” he says. It is an advantage “having that ownership, connecting with the customers, and being able to rapidly innovate.”

Streamlined third-generation family ownership has also allowed Metalumen to continue its dedication to providing a supportive and positive company culture, which included having employees work from home during the pandemic.

“We’ve tried to make sure we retain a lot of our key employees and make sure they’re happy,” Stocker says, “by creating a welcoming work environment, maintaining positive behaviour and attitudes toward team members, and also supporting continuous improvement.” Any team problems or challenges are shared using technology, planners, and task boards, and once a week are reviewed and discussed to see how they can be resolved.

“We also focus on adding value to the employees and make sure we can make their job as easy as possible so there are no headaches or any issues [for them] Stocker adds. “We do have a lot of communication, and want to be supportive of all team members, making sure everyone’s able to be well supported and understands the scope of a project.”

This approach includes regular project meetings and feedback, along with factory tours to show new products to customers given by team members who have the chance to demonstrate the equipment they’re working with.

“It’s one thing for me to talk about it, but it’s getting those team members who work on the machine to really share their passion for the equipment to customers,” Stocker says. “We’ve gotten feedback from those customers saying they can see how invested they are, how excited they are to really talk about their job, which is great to hear.”

Along with its commercial and educational sector work, the company has also recently pivoted into office space manufacturing, where it can provide optimal lighting to foster productivity and collaboration as well as aid employees in maintaining task focus while maximizing energy efficiency. While it’s still a slower market, Metalumen is seeing key projects moving ahead, particularly those planned years before the pandemic.

“We’ve had to look at more government investments and we’ve had to shift and develop products that are more suitable for those environments,” Stocker says. “One thing we’ve seen success with more recently is a lot of public transit. We offer specialty lighting that’s wet-location rated, so external products that are outside and high-impact while still having an architectural look to them.”

The company has subsequently completed transit projects in Ottawa, Boston, and New York City. “Taking that success, we’ve been able to brand those products for other applications as well, such as exteriors of buildings that maybe don’t have commercial tenants moving into them yet. Our strength is providing those products and then being able to diversify to other applications as well.”

The over-capacity healthcare industry is another area of focus for Metalumen, with the government investing in and revamping many facilities or even building new ones.

“We’ve had patient bed lights and rooms that we developed and marketed,” Stocker shares. “We’ve also had MRI-compliant lighting that we’ve promoted; even some of our standard interior parts we’ve been able to promote to those health care applications, and have seen success from those as well.”

Along with navigating COVID, other recent challenges have included addressing company culture and shifting to focus on player retention, especially in the face of economical external factors. “There is a lot of competitiveness, so it’s really [about] focusing on supporting employees and being able to retain them,” Stocker says. “But we feel we have a strong strategy now that’s able to really support us.”

There are several milestones the team is looking forward to as well, including retrofitting more of its office to a more modern standard in hopes of bringing in more customers from across North America. “We could provide training to them on our products, but also information about the fabrication process and the whole cycle of what Metalumen does, from the design phase to the actual production phase to where it ships.”

The company also plans to focus on expansion and has recently signed up a new sales partner in the Middle East to develop a more prominent presence there.

“We’ve previously sold two hospital projects there,” Stocker says. “Our new partner there seems to be quite strong, and they’re expanding to Saudi Arabia. We’ve been seeing all their unique buildings and large hospitals and universities, and we want to make sure that we’re a partner that’s ready to be able to support that growth market.”

When it comes to setting itself apart from the competition, Metalumen realizes that, along with its unique, high-quality products, its strategy of understanding how to be responsive to events such as the pandemic and helping employees navigate various challenges has resulted in greater retention and lower turnover. “We’ve seen ourselves be more productive as well,” Stocker says. “And we’ve also been able to really leverage other products due to the sales shift, too.” This has included using a data-driven approach to pair successful products with new industries.

What really makes Metalumen stand out and shine bright, however, is understanding and embracing what it does best, which is providing personalized attention and innovative solutions to each customer and project.

“It seems there are a lot of large conglomerates in our industry that are not as quick to be innovative or provide value to customers,” Stocker says. “We understand small niches and are really able to provide value and provide solutions to those small niches.”

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