Unique's Manufacturing Process

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by nate mullen, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. nate mullen

    nate mullen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 47

    Made in the USA

    This is a challenging subject to attempt to make clear in a few paragraphs, but I will give it a shot. You should all know that you can contact me personally if you want to discuss this further, or to discuss any other topic for that matter.

    So where do I start?

    There are many factors that go into the where and why we have a particular product line or specific part manufactured. Typical manufacturing may include all or part of the intermediate processes that are required for the production and integration of components during assembly.

    First: you might consider Total Vertical Integration – Manufacturing all the parts in house. This would include sheet metal stamping of transformer cans, making our own wire, having a foundry for our cast brass line, machining, polishing and finishing, and so on. This would require an enormous amount of capital as well as extensive expertise in many varied disciplines.

    Second: Intermediate Integration: Having certain parts manufactured for us to our specifications by a qualified supplier. When we first released our Odyssey brass product line, we brought in the raw brass parts and performed the weathered brass process in house. That was until the EPA came knocking on our door. O.M.G……..You can’t believe what a nightmare that was…..

    We all know that between OSHA, the EPA, workman’s comp, insurance, overtime, employee rights, and class action lawsuits, it is a miracle anything is still being manufactured and or assembled in the USA. Our own system is forcing us out! To be compliant with everything that it takes to manufacture; casting brass, stamping copper, machining steel, and finishing these products, we would have to dramatically increase the cost of our fixtures. If we chose to make all aluminum fixtures and powder coat them, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Now, so it is clear, the vast majority of components we use here at Unique in our fixtures and transformers are made to our stringent specifications and are proprietary to us. The exceptions to this include lamps, fuses, crimps, connectors other miscellaneous electrical items, of which we only purchase the highest quality offerings from industry leaders. Most manufactures buy lighting fixtures as they buy clothes; “I’ll take this one, that one and, yeah, that one looks like Unique, so some of those on the order as well.”

    As for our proprietary components, here are a few examples;

    Sockets: Our sockets are the only ones in the industry to utilize beryllium copper contacts. This material has the highest temperature rating of any contact material available, and will not deteriorate over time as plain stainless steel, bare copper, or even nickel-plated copper will. It is simply the best material available, and we pay a premium for it, but we feel that our products and customers are worth this premium.

    Wire: Our insulation is made of 99% pure PVC plastic mixed with the latest in UV inhibitors. No regrind is used, so we know exactly what is going into the product. The reason we do this is so the leads lay flat in the trench without memory. We also use a very high copper strand count, which makes for a more flexible and compliant lead wire, and actually allows for more copper per foot than a course strand. The copper is 99.5% pure, which is the purest available. Copper of this purity carries an electrical current much more efficiently than lower-grade copper, which is why you will notice less voltage drop with our wire leads and home run wire. The stranded copper conductor is made from rod conforming to ASTM B-49 and B-115 standards. Obviously, these specifications make our wire more expensive, but again, we believe that the performance is worth the cost.

    O-rings: All of our O-Rings are aircraft grade and manufactured from materials engineered for maximum life in the harsh environment typically found in low-voltage lighting.

    Housing: Every single fixture is ours, and requires hundreds and hundreds of man hours to go from concept to finished product.

    For example…

    1. Idea on paper Start
    2. Concept to CAD 6 weeks
    3. CAD to review 2 weeks
    4. Review back to CAD 2 weeks
    5. CAD to review 2 weeks
    6. CAD to E-Drawing 4 weeks
    7. E- Drawing to Prototype 2 weeks
    8. Revised E- Drawing 4 weeks
    9. E-Drawing to Prototype 8 weeks
    10. Prototype to 1st article 8 weeks
    11. Apply for patent 3 to 5 years
    12. Beta run 12 weeks
    13. Modifications ?
    14. Testing ?
    15. 2ND article 12 weeks
    16. Soft Release 12 weeks
    17. Production 6 weeks

    Unique Lighting Systems is very proud of the fact that we not only design our fixtures, but we own our own molds as well. We use the very best materials possible because QUALITY MATTERS AT UNIQUE.

    We all know that copper has almost tripled in cost in the past two years. Brass is composed of roughly 60% copper, so its price has followed suit. Stainless steel has also increased two-fold during this same time period. Even with this huge run-up in raw material costs, the price of our products has only moved up marginally. We work very hard with our vending partners to keep costs at a minimum, and we pass these savings along to our customers to keep our prices competitive.

    After raw materials, direct labor is the next biggest cost component of our fixtures. We would like nothing more than to have our parts cast and machined in the USA, and we have looked at a cost effective way to do this from every angle. This is a labor-intensive process, and when you factor in the wage differential overseas and combine it with the tough environmental compliance standards we live with, the cost to build our product from scratch domestically would make our products unaffordable. We live in a global economy, and there are sound financial reasons for sourcing material and components from locations that are highly competitive in that particular industry. Mexico was the place to be for labor-intensive production in the last decade, and today China is the world’s low-cost labor leader, so in order to remain competitive, we utilize this advantage. If the market would accept a good old “Made in the USA” fixture for close to $200.00, we would be the first to offer it.

    Some may question the quality of any product coming out of China, and with the extensive media coverage given the recent toy recalls, it is understandable how the uninformed could draw this conclusion. The reality is that quality varies greatly from company to company in China, just as it does here or anywhere else in the world. It is prejudicial and ignorant to paint all products coming out of China as being of inferior quality. Japan faced this same issue in the sixties and early seventies, and look at them now. The Toyota Production System is now a world standard that is emulated globally.

    So how does Unique Lighting ensure that our Chinese partners are only supplying top-quality product? In dealing with outside sources, it is critical that you put a lot of systems in place to ensure the products are made to our high expectations and quality standards. First, we start with our conceptual drawings and CAD designs. We establish min-max tolerances within 1/100 of an inch. I won’t bore you with the entire product design details, but I can tell you we go through first, second, and sometimes third article samples before approving any design. We then test the product in the field and put it through the ringer, making sure that everything we designed digitally is working as planned.

    We have a full time QC department whose job is to verify that incoming approved products are built to spec before they are given to the line for assembly. We also have a full time outside QC firm performing QC audits in China. We have a full time team of Unique personnel whose job is to verify that parts being assembled are being done in a quality fashion. We also have in-house product engineers to fix and develop procedures to resolve potential or current problems. We have people in charge of Document Control to make sure all changes are then implemented fully all the way back to our overseas factories. The point is that we do add quite a bit of value to our products here in the States, and because of this, almost all defects are caught here before they make it out to our customers. Do we ever have a bad batch of parts brought in from overseas? YES, but everything from Design, ASSEMBLY, QC, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Shipping, Tech support, etc…..is done right here in the USA. For the record, our injection molded products such as well lights are done here in the US.

    So what is Unique Lighting Systems?

    Unique Lighting Systems is a landscape lighting manufacturer in Escondido, CA. We manufacture our own Transformers from winding the bobbin all the way up to riveting the core into our stainless enclosures. We manufacture our own fixtures after bringing in the components from our outside sources. I stand strong on this issue regarding us manufacturing in the USA because a lot of people including our competition would like you to think we are just another Chinese-made product. Although we do not shy away from the fact we have some cast parts made overseas, we do take great pride in having our product assembled and manufactured here! Beware of those out there selling products that look like ours and are passing them off as just as good or better because of price. Based on what you know from reading this, you should now understand that it is simply impossible for these imposters to be “just as good as Unique.” They may be cheaper out of the box, but over the long run, the quality of the product and the team that stands behind it here at Unique make our fixtures and transformers the best value on the market.

    As stated at the beginning, you may always contact me personally at my office. I am available by cell or email, and I encourage you to contact me with any questions, comments, or ideas you might have concerning Unique Lighting Systems.

    Thank you

    To a brighter future

    Nate Mullen
    760-580-4980 cell
  2. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    Let me preface my comments by saying no offense intended to either Nate or Joey...

    Might I humbly suggest that this be moved over to the Unique sponsor's forum?

    On most online forums that I've been to, a lengthy post promoting your products like this would be considered SPAM.

    No doubt it's good information, and I can uinderstand why you want to get it out there after hearing a little of what people ran across at the IA show.

    I'm just questioning the placement...
  3. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    The reason it was posted here was out of response to the whole "Whats So Unique about Unique." He looked at posting it in that thread but it had been spun into something completely off topic. This response was created due to discussion in this forum regarding our manufacturing process and location of it.

    I know you are a very respectable person no hard feelings here. Please undertand we only want to "set the record strait" here where this may be read by all. Nate and I have no problem if the mods want to move it but know our intent was not to advertise, I think I do enough posting that people know what I and Nate are about here on Lawnsite, that is to learn and to spread good knowledge to our industry. If we wanted to advertise this I would be posting this in every catagory on lawnsite and running an ad in a magazine, instead we posted this where all who may have an interest would be able to read it. And it is a topic that has been discussed regularly.

    If others feel as you do I have no problem having it posted or moved into the Unique forum.

    Joey D.
  4. pete scalia

    pete scalia LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 960

    So you get all of the pieces of the fixtures from China already acid finished and then you assemble, install sockets, o-rings, lenses etc in house?
  5. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    Correct Pete, Our casted brass molds do come in already finished in what we call our weathered brass finish. We then do all the assembly from their on here in San Diego!
  6. pete scalia

    pete scalia LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 960

  7. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Messages: 1,988

    No doubt it's good information

    I agree. But I got lost on the SPAM thing.

    SOUTHERNGREENSCAPES LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 763

    You know what would be nice. the same letter typed up on Unique letter head and posted with the thread. that is a great piece of literature straight from the horses mouth on what makes Unique a better product. it would be nice to have to show to customers when they ask why Unique is a little bit more than some of the other cheaper guys.

    Thanks for taking the time Nate. You don't see to many company's getting this involved with thier customers as to be a member of Lawnsite.
  9. Eden Lights

    Eden Lights LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 805

    That's alot of work to cut off some black sewer pipe and stick a tractor headlamp it.

    No I am just kidding, I couldn't resist and little PAR jab. Thanks for sharing the information on Unique.
  10. nate mullen

    nate mullen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 47

    that was in 1989, then I started to use 5" DB GRAY electrial conduit I used to spray paint green and brown then I had a mold made in 1993 the f125 was born. fyi all of our well lights are injected molded now and come in brown or black

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