From ocean to warehouse: Aqualuma’s illuminating LEDs

An Aqualuma highbay LED in action.

Carl Amor, director of Aqualuma LED Lighting spoke to Manufacturers’ Monthly about how experience in underwater LED lighting helped his company succeed in the industrial and commercial lighting markets.

Based in Helensvale on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Aqualuma has been in the lighting business since 2005, quickly establishing itself as a leader in the marine LED lighting market.

The company’s success in this sphere has led to it exporting its products for motoryachts, superyachts, sportsfishers and marinas to 56 countries around the world.

During the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) ten years ago, however, Aqualuma’s co-founding directors, brothers Carl and Grant Amor, saw the need to expand the company’s reach and focus, as sales for luxury goods such as boats sank.

“When the GFC hit, nobody was buying boats,” Carl Amor said. “They certainly didn’t need lights for the boats they weren’t buying. So, we looked at what else we could do,
how we could move forward with another product.”

In 2011, the Amors saw the potential of moving forward producing high bay lights for warehouses, factories and other industrial and commercial operations, and spent 18 months developing their first light in this area.

Amor said it was initially a challenge to get the word out that Aqualuma was more than just a marine lighting company. “Name-change was one of the things that was brought up. But
when we got KPMG to do a study on Aqualuma, they came back to us and said: don’t change your name, you’ve got a fantastic name around the world, and changing the name would be a mistake.

“So one of the challenges was convincing people that Aqualuma doesn’t just focus on underwater lighting anymore,” Amor said.

But this challenge was overcome soon enough. Amor said the company’s wealth of experience in the marine lighting sector gave Aqualuma an edge over its competitors, and eased the difficulties of moving into producing LED high bay lighting solutions.

“We were coming from building lights for the world’s harshest environment,” Amor said. “We have kept that mentality going as a high bays manufacturer: our lights are water-proof, dust-proof and corrosion-proof. They can be hung outside, or even hung next to a saltwater environment.”

For Aqualuma, success in the commercial and industrial LED market meant aspiring to be the best in the field from the very beginning. With seven years in the commercial lighting market, Aqualuma now exports to Europe, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The company is also top-listed in the in DLC (Design Light Consortium) in the US.

Staying competitive as an Australian manufacturer is a challenge that Amor said Aqualuma
is well equipped for. A slim, lean company, with 19 staff in total, all Aqualuma’s design work is carried out in-house. Most of its manufacturing processes are carried out at its Helensvale site, with some components subcontracted to other Australian companies – its die-casting work, for instance, is carried out by Melbourne-based company and plastic components in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast.

Amor said maintaining flexibility, diversity and quality in its product range was key to Aqualuma’s success. “One of the things we have had to do is make sure we are the best, because we can’t be the cheapest,” he said.

“It’s about quality. We offer free lighting plans to anybody that wants to put our lights into their facility: we do the lighting plan, we give recommendations and we try to use the minimum number of lights for each facility to minimise power consumption. We also have a wide range of products, from movement sensor lights to aisle optics, petrol station lights and food grade lights for food preparation areas.”

Being approachable

Approachability and dedication to high-quality customer service has also been essential, Amor said. He and his brother Grant have their phones on all the time. Amor said that it was important that, as the company directors and decision makers, they were readily accessible to their clients.

“We are a 24/7 company. We’re the farthest thing from anonymous you can get. My mobile phone number has been the same for 28 years.”

Proud of its status as an Australian manufacturer with a high-quality product range, Aqualuma has no intention of moving offshore.

“We want to remain an Australian company and to continue supporting Australian companies with our subcontracting,” Amor said. “And we just hope that Australian companies will keep supporting us.”

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