In­te­rior Light­ing

Nel­son-based Pa­cific In­sight Elec­tron­ics pro­duces parts for au­tomak­ers in­clud­ing Ford and Tesla. How does this ex­port suc­cess story com­pete with big­ger ri­vals?

BC Business Magazine - - Small Business -

In one of a se­ries of com­mer­cials by Lin­coln Mo­tor Co., ac­tor Matthew Mcconaughey drives a sedan through city high­ways at night, look­ing con­tem­pla­tive. He de­liv­ers a script over mu­sic in his slow Texas drawl: “Some­times you got to go back, to ac­tu­ally move for­ward...” The ads, which also fea­ture Mcconaughey star­ing down a longhorn bull, have been cred­ited for a spike in Lin­coln sales and par­o­died by Jim Car­rey on Satur­day Night Live. The am­bi­ence may go over the top, but it's un­de­ni­able.

That at­mos­phere—at least in­side the car—is cre­ated by a Nel­son-based au­to­mo­tive parts man­u­fac­turer, Pa­cific In­sight Elec­tron­ics Corp., whose prod­uct lines in­clude light-emit­ting diode ( LED) sys­tems for in­te­rior and ex­te­rior ap­pli­ca­tions. If you watch the com­mer­cials care­fully, you'll no­tice a tech­nol­ogy that Lin­coln calls Em­brace Light­ing. “[Mcconaughey] gets in the ve­hi­cle, and the lights go on, then they work from front to back,” says Pa­cific In­sight COO Ian Scott. “It kind of wraps around you. Ev­ery­thing lights up to your lik­ing, and you can change that as you go.”

Other func­tions of the sys­tem in­clude wel­come lamps, which light up the in­te­rior foot ar­eas as the driver steps into the ve­hi­cle, and light­ing in the door pan­els and around cup hold­ers. The light­ing sys­tem in­cor­po­rates Pa­cific In­sight's other prod­uct lines: elec­tronic mod­ules that con­trol fea­tures such as heated seats, steer­ing lock, gauges and in­stru­men­ta­tion; and wiring har­nesses, elec­tronic ca­bles con­nect­ing the var­i­ous com­po­nents.

Be­sides Lin­coln par­ent Ford Mo­tor Co., Pa­cific In­sight sells to Port­land­based Daim­ler Trucks North Amer­ica LLC and to auto parts sup­pli­ers such as Borg­warner Inc. of Michi­gan and Shang­hai-based Yan­feng Au­to­mo­tive In­te­rior Sys­tems Co. Ltd. About 75 per cent of the com­pany's prod­ucts go to U.S. clients and 15 per cent to cus­tomers out­side North Amer­ica, Scott says. From the un­likely lo­ca­tion of Nel­son, far from the well-es­tab­lished clus­ter of auto plants and parts mak­ers in south­west­ern On­tario, Pa­cific In­sight proves that small B.C. busi­nesses can com­pete glob­ally.

Di­rec­tor and CEO Stuart Ross founded the com­pany in Prince Ge­orge in 1984 and moved it to Nel­son in 1987. Pa­cific In­sight en­tered the in­ter­na­tional arena that decade by sell­ing some­thing new—day­time run­ning light con­trol mod­ules—to Gen­eral Mo­tors' af­ter­mar­ket divi­sion and heavy-truck mak­ers. The com­pany's Nel­son fa­cil­ity, a few min­utes out­side town in a val­ley near an arm of Koote­nay Lake, now em­ploys about 200 peo­ple, and an­other 20 work at a Burn­aby cor­po­rate of­fice. Pa­cific In­sight also has a fac­tory in Fres­nillo, Mex­ico, and an of­fice in Detroit.

For the 2016 fis­cal year, the Toronto Stock Ex­change– listed com­pany posted some $127 mil­lion in sales and a net profit of $9.8 mil­lion. Both were records, and rev­enue surged 54 per cent year-overyear. But Scott notes that this haul is tiny com­pared to firms like Grupo An­tolinIrausa S.A., a Span­ish maker of parts for au­to­mo­tive in­te­ri­ors, which re­ported sales of €5.2 bil­lion (about $7.5 bil­lion) in fis­cal 2016.

A key ac­com­plish­ment last year for Pa­cific In­sight was the de­vel­op­ment and pro­to­typ­ing of ad­vanced light­ing sys­tems for an im­por­tant new cus­tomer: U.S. elec­tric car maker Tesla Mo­tors Inc. The abil­ity to ser­vice con­ven­tional and elec­tric ve­hi­cles po­si­tions the com­pany well for the fu­ture, Scott says. Am­bi­ent light­ing will be­come even more of a fo­cus with the ad­vent of self-driv­ing cars. En­vi­sioned as an of­fice or entertainment cen­tre on wheels, au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will de­liver a per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ence, with so­phis­ti­cated light­ing as a sell­ing fea­ture.

Pa­cific In­sight's de­sign phi­los­o­phy sounds like a catch­phrase from a Lin­coln commercial: evo­lu­tion rather than rev­o­lu­tion. This is how to take on the big play­ers, ac­cord­ing to Scott. “Some com­pa­nies might have bil­lion-dol­lar re­search departments that are look­ing at white space 10 or 15 years out. We tend to come up with in­no­va­tive ideas that are ex­ten­sions of our prod­uct lines to­day,” he says, ex­plain­ing that clients like that ap­proach be­cause they can get the new prod­ucts into their ve­hi­cles within a few years. “We ser­vice the heck out of our cus­tomer, and we very rarely lose a cus­tomer. It's that old adage where you don't have to be way ahead of your com­peti­tors, as long as you're con­stantly ahead of them.”

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