Light and Motion—Support the Good Guys

We have always been big fans of Light and Motion products, so we were very excited to attend their 2010 dealer meeting, held at their factory/headquarters on Monterey, California’s historic Cannery Row.

After an amazing lunch of homemade tamales, quesadillas, and horchata, (thanks, Salsa!) we broke into small groups for a tour of the facilities. Light and Motion is housed in an old cannery building—tall ceilings, brick walls, four levels, and it’s right on the water. The ocean-side location is fitting since Light and Motion began by designing and building premium underwater lights and housings for video cameras, and they are still leaders in that industry.

The first stop was the assembly line, where we were put to work building Stella 200‘s. There is a  lot of skill required to create a high-end light, and you don’t pick it up quickly. Luckily, the guys who work the line were generous with their knowledge and walked us through the process, making sure we were able to complete a working light system, albeit they could’ve built ten in the time it took me to make one. Don’t worry, we got to keep the lights we built, Light and Motion‘s customers deserve a product built by the best—their assemblers—not by me.

Next up was an overview of the history of Light and Motion products. Everything they’ve built from the very first bike light and water housing  up until the yet-to-be-released 2010 stuff was on display. Most impressive to me was observing how the batteries shrunk every year, even as the light got more powerful. As an aside, Light and Motion underwater engineers are chasing down a two-thousand lumen video light—which would only light an object about ten feet away, since so much of the light’s energy is absorbed by water.

Finally we were taken through the lower levels of the cannery building. This is where the Light and Motion Skunkworks is housed. Almost every part of their lights are built and designed here. Molds for the rubber and plastic bits are designed and machined in-house, a state-of-the-art three-dimensional printer creates models of developing product for testing and refinement, and vigorous tests are carried out on custom-built machines.

What’s most impressive about Light and Motion, besides their amazing lights, is the company itself. Everyone who works there is committed to building the best product possible, and their pride in their work is evident. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the folks who monitor quality control, take care of warranties and repairs, solder the circuit boards, and make sure every box that leaves the factory has all the parts it should have, and they all work as they should. Light and Motion’s dedication to sustainability is evident in every step of the building process—aluminum scraps from tooling is recycled, excess molded rubber is re-used, and they generously support environmental awareness programs in their community. Light and Motion uses a Kanban system to maximize efficiency. A smooth-running factory  results, in which problems are recognized and solved quickly by the people who actually have their hands in the process.

After touring the Light and Motion headquarters, I’m more impressed than ever with the bike lights company that supports it’s community, which includes cyclists everywhere, not just in Monterey. Light and Motion goes the extra step in everything they do, whether it’s hand-tapping reflectors to get the absolute perfect beam pattern for mountain biking, to creating new and better manufacturing techniques to protect our planet.