In 1964, Luminator Technology Group, an electronics manufacturer in the mass transit and aerospace industries, outgrew its Chicago facilities and relocated corporate headquarters and manufacturing. At the time, Luminator executives saw the Dallas-Fort Worth area as full of enthusiastic business and developers. Luminator CEO Kirk Goins says the desirable market and labor climate in Plano attracted his group to move there—and they would go on to become pioneers in the region.
Plano remains Luminator’s global headquarters, but it now also has offices in New York, Washington State, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland. Customers are in more than 85 countries. The global operations serve the company’s core business in transit bus, rail, and aerospace solutions, which is divided into three categories: passenger information systems, video security, and lighting.
The company has grown—particularly over the last ten years—via a deliberate acquisition strategy that made it realize its mission of helping transit agencies meet evolving passenger demands. Goins told Dallas Innovates the company realized that mission was larger in scope than it could develop using existing resources, which led to a thoughtful acquisition and strategic partnership path.
Luminator’s strategy has merged a broad range of expertise and innovative technology with best-in-class products from successful and well-known regional companies. Its products cover a wide range, from 4K resolution on-board video security systems and e-paper stationary passenger information systems to advanced software solutions designed to improve the efficiency of transit operators.
“For each different transit solution we have introduced (many from acquisition), we have a dedicated development center that leverages the strengths and developments from that region,” Goins says. “For example, BMG | MIS was acquired in 2015 [and] their office and staff in Germany continue to lead our efforts globally for development and innovation in stationary passenger information systems, like digital signage you find at bus stops and rail stations.”
Pursuing strategic partnerships is another piece of the big-picture corporate growth strategy. As Luminator integrates with complementary technologies, it can add value, gain efficiency, and reduce friction between solutions used in the transit space.
“There is an immense amount of data that is generated and by sharing data feeds and propagating information to a central software, transit agencies will be able to gain intelligence by better utilization of the data and reduce costs—both up-front and on-going operationally—by using an integrated solution,” Goins says. “An example of this is utilizing a single GPS source for all on-board technology. By sharing the data feed of a single antenna, all on-board technologies are synchronized with location, time and date, and the number of antennas that have to be installed on the roof of the vehicle is reduced.”
Mass transit is a continuously evolving industry. One example of innovation is destination sign technology. It has changed from paper rolls to flip-dot signs to smart digital signage that’s wirelessly updated. Each enhancement has introduced more automation into the process to improve the daily operations of a transit bus driver.
Goins sees more automation in transit’s near future with the advent of 5G networks, AI, machine learning, and autonomous vehicles.
“With nearly a century of experience in developing and introducing new transit technologies, we are not only embracing these emerging trends but implementing them in a way that our customers will be able to realize tangible benefits from their implementation. Our goal is to continue to expand in new innovations so our customers can gain more efficiencies and provide safer transportation through integrated and smart systems,” he says.
North Texas is more than just home to Luminator’s headquarters, though. Dallas Area Rapid Transit is a longtime customer and Fort Worth’s Trinity Metro has shown interest in Luminator’s rail division products.
“The North Texas region provides a great talent pool and is a thriving business market for our global headquarters with access to great technology innovators and business leaders,” Goins says. “When we do find talent outside of the region, it’s fairly easy to convince them to relocate with the great weather and affordability that Dallas offers.”
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