HUDSONVILLE — SoundOff Signal, a global supplier of LED vehicle lighting, control systems, and electronic warning products, prides itself on a quarter century of “smart design” and hometown service.
The Hudsonville-based company started in 1992 with a single innovative solution to a uniquely dangerous problem. At the time, research indicated that motorcyclists were inadvertently leaving their turn signals on after completing a turn, resulting in motorist confusion and leading to serious accidents. SoundOff Signal designed a device that initiated a beeping sound once the turn signal was activated, reminding the cyclist to turn the signal off once a turn was complete.
Since then, SoundOff Signal has designed and introduced products like the “wig wag,” a heavy-duty headlight flasher that cautions motorists of an oncoming emergency vehicle. It’s also developed the “GHOST,” an extremely bright, compact warning lightbar that, when not in use, “practically disappears” on the hood, grille or window of any type of vehicle, according to Marni Epstein, vice president of marketing at SoundOff Signal.
“We’re always working with the police departments, the department of transportation, campus security, private security and other agencies to find better, smarter ways to flash those lights,” Epstein told MiBiz.
Since introducing the first LED warning lights for American school buses in 2002, SoundOff Signal has also become a primary provider of OEM school bus warning lights across the nation.
In recent years, the company has graduated into designing and manufacturing the software control systems behind even safer, smarter lights.
“Back in the day, when police officers pulled someone over, they had a lot to do,” Epstein said.
Now, the recently developed software behind SoundOff Signal lights can run through a series of reactions to multiple scenarios, like engaging the correct visibility lights and sounding a unique siren, locking the vehicle and “making sure that the officer isn’t also getting blinded by these lights” when they approach a suspect.
“Our control system actually automates a lot of that stuff so (the police officer) is not pushing buttons and switches and putting codes in,” she said.
After “doubling” in sales and growth every five years for the past quarter-century, according to Epstein, SoundOff Signal is investing heavily in infrastructure, equipment and personnel. Last month, the company announced an expansion of its Hudsonville headquarters after taking over a recently purchased 31,000-square-foot building within the same industrial park as its existing facility. The new space will house sales, customer service, finance and I.T. as well as serve as the central warehouse.
The company plans to begin operations in the new building this month.
SoundOff Signal’s expansion comes during a period of rapid growth and innovation in the LED lighting industry, said Epstein.
According to a recent research report by Global Market Insights Inc., the automotive lighting market is set to exceed $40 billion by 2024.
The study predicts demand from OEMs to increase for advanced LEDs and laser-based light modules for both safety and aesthetics. Simultaneously, the popularity of intelligent lighting technologies in commercial vehicles, such as situation-based light control and driver assistance at night, create further growth opportunities in the market.
According to the firm, the automotive lighting industry is fragmented with the presence of “small players” and large established enterprises that possess significant purchasing power and have strong partnerships and collaborations with the suppliers and OEMs.
According to Epstein, even though a lot of entities in the industry make “lights that are very comparable to each other,” SoundOff Signal sets itself apart from its competitors through a commitment to customer service and relationship building.
“We’ve just always been that West Michigan kind of mentality of making sure that we’re always doing the right thing,” she said.
SoundOff Signal is structured as 70-percent privately-owned and 30-percent owned by employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
“That really gives people an opportunity to come into a company and be an owner or part-owner,” she said.
Throughout its 26 years, and “even during the recession,” Epstein said SoundOff Signal has never laid off an employee.
“We really just believe it’s a family mentality for how we approach our business, both to our employees, but then also to our customers, as they’re an extension of our family as well,” she said.
Because of that mentality and good fortune, “a lot of people have some very impressive tenure” among the company’s approximately 350 employees, Epstein said.
Up until this month’s expansion, the entire company engineered, designed and manufactured from the same building, which Epstein said has helped SoundOff Signal develop some of the fastest lead times in the industry.
“Everybody knows everybody,” she said. “You know exactly who you need to go to.”
Now, although some employees are “a little bit concerned” about what the move to into an additional building might do to employee culture, Epstein is optimistic about the continued growth.
“It’s literally right around the corner,” she said. “It really will continue to be a nice thing that we’re very, very accessible to each other.”
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