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Why Does R & D Take So Long?

Salespeople and end-users alike are always excited at new perspectives on products. As a society, we like looking into the future for the next greatest thing because, let’s face it, new is exciting. New also shows an evolutionary change taking place, whether adding a new feature to an existing product or making an LED brighter in our case. People love new stuff and product launches. Some pride themselves on being early adopters of new technologies. New products can sometimes be treated in a mysterious way—it’s all about building anticipation. But, why does it take so long to get new products sometimes? There is a long list of determining factors.

You don’t want to rush. You want it to be done right the first time. That goes for quality assurance. The longer it takes to develop a product, the more testing has taken place. It shows you’ve explored all possible options with beta testing, and ensuring that products don’t fail in the field. Our mantra is not to simply fall in line with everyone else’s product offerings, but try to come out with unique solutions.

Research itself is time-consuming. Between conceptualizing products, running bench tests to prove theoretical concepts, and taking that idea to drafting on a computer, fabricating a prototype, testing that prototype, and going back to start changing the design based on current test results. You reverse and repeat that process over and over until the product is done.

Next is doing a small production run. The production team will run into issues you didn’t even expect, so you go back and implement those changes. Once done with internal testing, you’re happy with the design process, and you’ve worked out all the production kinks, then you submit the product to CSA/UL which we’ve discussed previously. That takes 6-8 weeks depending upon whether the product passes or not. If you have to make changes and resubmit, that takes even more time. Your product isn’t rushed through on repeat submissions. After that, working with vendors on ordering all necessary parts can also take weeks or months so that you have enough supplies for a full production run. Then, comes the creation of marketing materials and getting the word out about your new product.

So, when we say “We’re working on it,” we are in one of those many phases of research and development to ensure that what we’re going to give you is exactly what you want with the standard quality assurance behind it that CantoUSA offers on all of their products.

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An Interview with Our VP of Product Development, Brian Moon

Tell us about your background in the lighting industry that led to your current position at Canto.

When I was about thirteen-years-old, I knew I wanted to work in the theatre industry. I was interested in props building, carpentry, special effects, set design—I did it all as most theatre people do early on in their careers. I always focused on the lighting because of how it enhanced the audience’s emotions during scenes. If done properly, lighting added a lot of depth to a show. In eighth grade, I was told that if I wanted to work in the industry for a living, I needed go to North Carolina School of the Arts (now University of North Carolina, School of the Arts). They were at the top of my list, and luckily, I was admitted after graduating high school. I got my B.F.A. in Lighting with a focus in Lighting Technology. From there, I toured with Sesame Street Live, The Producers National Tour, Joyce Meyer Ministries, and a variety of other artists.

Brian Moon Early Years

What got me on the manufacturing side of the industry after being on the production side for so long was an opportunity to work for a manufacturer’s rep firm as a field technician for ETC. I worked my way up and became a project manager, systems integrator, and technical sales rep, which is how I met John Luhrs, our General Manager, who at the time was at Strong Lighting. We talked quite frequently and became friends. I was starting to design products, seeing holes in the marketplace for lighting accessories. LEDs were emerging, and we saw an opportunity to create a product that the industry had so-far ignored; hence, the birth of the RETRO series. We talked to different manufacturers about the concept of the RETRO, and none were interested in that particular application. They were interested only in new fixtures and low voltage control fixtures. The technology did not exist at that time to do what we accomplished.

Once we had a concept in 2012, I spent the next two years in research and development, learning more about LED technology, while still working my other job full-time. With my dimming and controls background, I was able to understand what hurdles there were to dim an LED properly using an existing dimming system. The rest is history! We launched the product in 2014, and from there, the RETRO series has grown and evolved into our other products such as the Astro 500. Lately, we are spending a lot of time developing new followspots—coming soon—LED and other. I’m very excited to see what others think of these products and concepts.

What inspires you to create something new?

Having been an end-user and maintenance tech for years, I apply those experiences to what we design while keeping an open mind and listening to customers’ feedback. I’ve been in their positions and know what I want and don’t want.

There’s a term in the manufacturing industry that is coined “me 2 products.” That is not something I ever wanted to do, as I like to come up with unique ideas to accomplish the same end goals. For example, there hasn’t been much development in the xenon followspot technology for years, and it’s time for a change. Overall, the industry needs brighter, more efficient, and energy friendly products.

What leads you to revise current products? What types of revisions have you done?

With the RETRO-Fusion™, after having the RETRO-Classic™ in the field for four years, we’ve learned a lot from the different configurations we’ve built the RETRO in, feedback from the customers, and new applications for the product in mind, we came up with some physical body changes. The RETRO-Fusion is lighter, lower profile, more streamlined, easier to manufacture, and ‘sexier.’

What would you like our clients to know about you?

I used to perform stand-up comedy. I joked that it was cheaper than therapy in college, and I had fun doing that. I felt like it helped me improve my people skills and become more outgoing. Nowadays, my stand-up act has been aimed at my eight-month-old daughter in making her laugh while my very patient wife laughs in the background.

I love being a part of this company and being a co-leader with John and Wandra Luhrs. I’m excited about the future and seeing how best we can improve it—or make it a little bit (or a lot) brighter.