From component distribution to lighting the tunnels of Whitehall: How one of the UK’s leading lighting solutions companies was born.
Operating in the lighting sector for almost 30 years, Prime Light have certainly earned their stripes in the lighting industry. But how did this business become a leading distributor that also advises and provides lighting solutions to some of the biggest household names in retail, sport and defence? Here we talk to Sean Hounslow, Managing Director at Prime Light about the company’s journey and where things are heading for the lighting sector in 2021 and beyond.
In 1992, an existing colleague of mine set up Prime Light and I soon joined him. Working out of a small rented office in Hayes, with a sub-contracted warehouse we focused on our four key European suppliers, selling their component ranges into lighting manufacturers. I’m proud to say we’re still working with these suppliers today.
Over time, we were in a position to diversify as we acquired other businesses. CIA was our first acquisition, they sold components into domestic appliance manufacturers and items outside of traditional lighting. Shortly after we acquired Arlen EFA who had been our biggest competitor and a similar company to us. This enabled us to bring their product range into our portfolio, which included products on the periphery of lighting, such as components for water purification and sterilisation.
More recently we acquired a company called Walter Logan who distributed wire suspension systems for concert rigging, lighting, and signage but also interestingly products for the rail, machine and specialist equipment markets. Amongst their partners were Pflitsch, who is one of the world leaders in the manufacturing of high-end cable glands used in applications such as the rail industry, nuclear power stations, and wind turbines.
These acquisitions have undoubtedly enabled us to diversify our portfolio and we enjoy working closely with customers in their respective markets, but it’s safe to say that the lighting industry will always remain a primary focus for us. We pride ourselves on being a leading distributor in the sector, with around 95% of lighting manufacturers purchasing at least one component from us; maintaining these relationships remains a key priority.
We are seeing a shift in terms of customer requirements though, with an increasing demand for our expertise to provide solutions for customers.
For some customers, it’s about looking to reduce running costs in their business. We’ve been approached by customers looking to reduce the number of suppliers they work with to see whether we can supply all their components whilst remaining competitive. In some cases this means we’re sourcing products from competitors or even outside of the lighting sector, to meet our customers’ needs.
For other customers, it’s about manufacturing solutions, we like to problem solve and over the years we’ve worked with customers to adapt products to meet specific needs. At the moment we’re working with a contractor on the MoD building in Whitehall. The contractor approached us initially for modular wiring leads, which we produced to their specification; but once they understood the benefits we could offer in sourcing and supplying, they asked us to work with them in developing a gear tray solution for a cost-effective retrofitting of the tunnel lighting in the basement in Whitehall. We promptly visited the site to understand the requirement and went on to design and specify the components to offer the perfect solution.
We’ve done a similar solutions-piece with a major customer supplying a leading supermarket chain. The design company we were working with needed a harness and diffuser to go with an LED retrofit kit. Again we sourced the right components, in some cases got our suppliers to test and increase the rating of certain components, giving us the peace of mind that the solution being offered went beyond the customer’s requirement. The lead times were short but we worked night and day to ensure the product arrived on time.
We’ve become a business that not only supplies a multitude of components but also use our expertise and connections to deliver solutions for customers all over the world. If our customer needs a bespoke solution, we'll source it or have it made.
There are clearly some areas of growth in the lighting sector and we have recently invested heavily in specific expertise to add to our existing team.
Cost-efficiency and reduced consumption of power is a massive area of growth in the sector and product controls and reporting are central to meet this demand. For example, we have a system that can automatically test and report on emergency lighting, helping customers efficiently meet their regulatory requirements. The same system can monitor luminaire and HVAC efficiencies, daylight harvest, offer remote monitoring whilst offering numerous other benefits.
This is just a glimpse at the potential for controls and so we’ve recently appointed two experts in this field, Ben Brunton and Mark Willmott who have a raft of experience between them. They’re able to interpret customers’ requirements, offer site support and recommend products, essentially ensuring our customers can deliver the right solution for any project, large or small. We’re also teaming up with additional suppliers of leading-edge tech in this field, whilst continuously creating new solutions of our own.
The other area of opportunity we see is in emergency lighting and we’ve appointed an expert to head up this our offering, Ben Williams. Ben has a wealth of experience and his technical knowledge is second to none. We’ve also partnered with a leading EU manufacture of emergency exit signs and lighting called TM Technologie. They offer our customers high-quality, beautifully designed luminaires, Kitemarked at extremely competitive pricing. The response from the market has been amazing, it’s been exciting to watch the demand increase.
I’m proud to say that over the last 29 years we’ve been agile, opportunistic, and adapted to suit the markets we work in. This has enabled us to grow into what many would call “a one-stop-shop” for lighting solutions and I’m very excited to see what the future holds.