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How [P2] Builds Energy Efficient LED And Fluorescent Lighting

Thu, 09/27/2012 - 3:59pm

At three manufacturing facilities in California, Wisconsin and Florida, Precision-Paragon [P2] is building energy efficient lighting that can reduce the energy costs for lighting systems by up to 60 percent in commercial and industrial buildings. The company built its first fixture in 1992, and some things haven’t changed in nearly 20 years.

“We’ve never sold a ‘standard’ fixture,” says Joe Martin, vice president and general manager. “Every fixture that’s come out of our doors has been customized for a specific application.”

[P2] doesn’t maintain an inventory of finished lighting fixtures. Instead, it has a catalog of designs which are then customized and manufactured to meet the exact needs of the company’s customers. That was true when the company was operating out of a garage in Placentia, California in 1992, and it’s still true today. As it’s grown, Precision-Paragon [P2] has adapted its custom manufacturing processes to its current scale, while also working to compete on price and turnaround times.

For the first 15 years of its existence, [P2] sold energy efficient fluorescent lighting almost exclusively. Then, just a few years ago, the company found that commercial LED lighting began to become a viable energy efficient option.

“In just a few years, LED lighting went from being a novelty to representing a large part of our business,” says Dan Rodriguez, senior vice president for operations.

And that number is expected to grow. Over that short period of time, [P2] has adapted its manufacturing facilities to run two parallel and sometimes intersecting manufacturing processes, one for each technology.

Making the sale

When a customer places an order with [P2] for either LED or fluorescent fixtures, it’s placed with the company’s Service Hub. The Service Hub is [P2]’s customer-facing sales and support team, spread across all three locations in California, Wisconsin and Florida.

After verifying the order, it’s passed from the Service Hub to the company’s engineering team. The engineering team validates the order’s required parts and supplies, checks for any conflicts with the order’s unique customization and then translates the purchase order into an internal work order.

Since all three of [P2]’s facilities have largely redundant capabilities, an individual order could be produced at any one of the facilities. Often, orders are produced at the facility closest to the fixture’s final destination to minimize shipping costs and times, or spread across the three factories to avoid bottlenecks.

Once it’s been assigned to a manufacturing facility, the work order is then sent to two different departments simultaneously. [P2]’s purchasing department goes to work procuring any parts and supplies that aren’t in stock, while at the same time the shop floor goes to work manufacturing and assembling components that can be made from on-hand inventory.

Fluorescent

At this part of the process, the differences between manufacturing LED and fluorescent fixtures begin to emerge. Fluorescent fixture bodies are generally made from sheet metal, and [P2]’s manufacturing facilities have machines that sheer, punch and bend flat pieces of sheet metal into fixture bodies right on the factory floor. Each fixture body can be fabricated with custom shapes, dimensions and configurations.

By the time the fixture body manufacturing process is finished, any additional parts and supplies have been obtained by the purchasing department, and so the fixtures can then move onto the assembly line.

On the assembly line, the fluorescent fixture bodies are wired, fitted with the ballast-and-lamp configuration requested by the customer and often customized with sensors or controllers. At the end of the assembly line, every fluorescent fixture is turned on to test that everything works properly. Once that’s been confirmed, the fluorescent fixtures are packed into boxes or pallets and shipped to their final destination.

LED

LED fixtures have different demands than fluorescent fixtures, and so require a unique manufacturing process. One of the critical components of an efficient, long-lasting LED light fixture is effective heat dissipation. LED diodes generate heat, and the more effective a fixture body is at dissipating that heat, the longer those diodes will last. Since a long, maintenance-free lifespan is one of the key advantages of LED based fixtures, heat dissipation is something that [P2]’s engineers take very seriously when they’re designing fixture bodies.

As a consequence, [P2]’s LED based fixtures are essentially an LED-covered circuit board and driver that’s attached to an aluminum heat sink, which also serves as the fixture body. In order to maximize the thermal performance of the LED fixture bodies, engineers create a large surface area in a small space by forming the fixture body into a collection of heat dissipating fins.  Of course, these shapes can’t be created through the same sheet-metal bending processes as fluorescent fixture bodies, so engineers create designs which are either die cast or extruded aluminum manufactured off-site and shipped back to [P2]’s factories.

While the actual shape and configuration of [P2]’s LED fixture housing doesn’t offer the same level of customization as the company’s fluorescent housings, there are still many opportunities for customization in other parts of the fixture’s construction.

“LED lighting is a very flexible technology,” says Martin. “We incorporate everything from a fixture’s total light output all the way through the shape of the area it illuminates into our product designs.”

LED fixtures also require specialized circuit boards. When the circuit boards arrive at a [P2] factory, they’re taken into an electrostatic discharge (ESD) control room where the actual LED optics are attached. Once the finished circuit boards are attached to metal bezels, they’re grounded and can be moved out of the ESD room on to the assembly line.

When the LED fixtures hit the assembly line, the process is similar to the assembly of fluorescent fixtures. The circuit boards are attached to the fixture bodies, sensors are integrated and the whole thing is wired. However, the testing process for [P2]’s LED based fixtures is unique.

“Every LED fixture goes through a twelve-hour burn in before it leaves our factory,” explains Rodriguez. “Most defects in an LED fixture will show themselves in those first twelve hours, so we can be confident that after this burn in period, we’re shipping out high-quality fixtures.”

The final word

Running two parallel manufacturing processes can be a challenge, but for [P2], the advantages have always outweighed the challenges.

“When you buy a [P2] fixture, you’re not buying something off the shelf, you’re buying the exact fixture you need for your lighting project,” says Martin.

“There have been times we’ve lost a sale because we didn’t have an inventory of fixtures sitting on our shelves ready to go out the door,” Rodriguez admits. “But, we’re OK with that. Our entire manufacturing, sales and support process is set up to provide the best solution for the job, every time.”


About Precision-Paragon [P2]:

For nearly 20 years, [P2] has made high-quality, indoor-and-outdoor light fixtures for just about any setting—including retail, commercial and industrial spaces. [P2]’s energy-efficient lighting drastically cuts energy consumption, creating big cost savings and significant environmental benefits.

Over the last two decades, [P2] has earned a reputation for going the extra distance in customer support by producing high quality, American-made products. [P2] products are manufactured in Gainesville, Fla., Hudson, Wis., and at the company’s headquarters in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Learn more at www.p-2.com.

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