LMI Technologies, a Vancouver-based developer of smart 3D inspection and scanning solutions for material optimization and factory automation, recently expanded into a 62,400 sq. ft. facility in order to accommodate year-over-year growth of 15 to 20%. Tripling its space will allow for more sensor production and provide employees with an enriched work experience, including access to a gym, tennis courts, riverside parkland and walking paths.
West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to speak with Terry Arden, CEO of LMI Technologies, about the firm’s history of growth, in addition to how the Gocator series of all-in-one 3D smart sensors contributed to its expansion. We also touched on how the recent politics south of the border might impact all producers in Canada.
Q: Great to see a West Coast company develop new products in such an exciting space – what was the impetus for the startup of LMI, and developing 3D Sensors?
“LMI Technologies was a merging of five companies back in 1998, all of which shared a common laser triangulation technology but applied to different vertical markets, such as automotive, factory automation, rubber and tire, wood processing, road surface measurement, and metals,” explains Arden. The oldest company in that group of five was Selcom, a company that dates back to 1978 who developed one of the first industrial laser measurement sensors.
Q: When did you join LMI and how do you merge five companies together?
“I joined LMI in 2003 as the CTO. My first job was merging the technology from the five companies, identifying all the undocumented knowledge in sensor design and rolling out a new hardware platform that we could use as LEGO like building blocks to create our next generation of products,” says Arden. This process of centralizing this knowledge took over 5 years, after which, Terry Arden took over as CEO of LMI in 2009.
Q: What are the main applications of your products, and how would EP&T’s readership benefit from LMI’s technology?
“LMI builds 3D scanning and inspection products. This 3D shape data is used for optimization such as scanning cheese blocks and cutting [these blocks] into slices with the perfect weight, or scanning logs and boards in a sawmill to optimally cut wood and extract maximum value,” explains Arden. “3D data is also used for inspecting manufactured components and assemblies to ensure they go together with perfect fit and finish. All our products run in factories of some sort and scan and/or inspect 100% of materials.”
Q: What has been a key to your early success and recent success?
“The key to LMI’s growth was finding a better way to deliver 3D technologies to customers that provided greater ease of use with enough flexibility to cover a broad range of markets. [The product line that did this for us was] called Gocator, formed from Go, making a go/no-go decision, and cator, implying onboard calculation. Gocator led to the development of distribution channels that could sell the product, “ says Arden. Gocator got LMI into new markets, and gave them a sensor platform that could support various 3D scanning and measurement approaches such as laser triangulation and structured light. This led to growth around the globe, especially in consumer electronics.? As much as 80% of the world’s cellphones, tablets, laptops, and wearables come from southern China. LMI has opened an office in Shenzhen and developed direct sales and support to capture the opportunities in this industry.
Q: With LMI growing and attracting both staff and purchase orders from outside our borders, what are your thoughts on how the current politics south of the border affects Canadian producers?
“The US is going through a volatile period of change right now. I think we all feel the uncertainty. Talk of protectionism, increasing duties, and bringing back jobs to America is the current rhetoric. I think the American government has to realize that the world is facing the rise of a digital economy and that means automation everywhere,” explains Arden. “Retraining the trades, for example, to use computers, email, and 3D CAD planning tools, makes everyone more efficient and competitive but I run into tradespeople who don’t know any of this today. Here in Canada, I’m proud of our staff diversity and how our country embraces multiculturalism overall.” It is great to hear these thoughts from Terry Arden. Let’s continue to guard against divisive politics and embrace diversity in this changing time as we work together to grow and expand in the global economy. For more information on LMI, go to http://lmi3d.com/.