The year is 1991 and the old Soviet Union is in economic decline. New ideas are being brought forward, and new priorities are emerging – among them, a much greater attention is being paid to the environment and the many issues that had been created by years of environmental neglect. For the first time it was also possible to create a business outside of state control. And thus a group of scientists formed a manufacturing company to fill a brand new need – analytical equipment to detect and quantify environmental pollutants. With its first prototype machine to detect and monitor water borne pollutants, Lumex Instruments was born.
Fast forward to 2012. Lumex has become a major player in its field. It has obtained ISO 9001 certification. It has developed close to twenty different pieces of equipment, has formed a European division and is sourcing components in China. Its next step is to obtain a North American presence, not only to tap into a very promising American market but also the Pacific Rim countries.
What happens next is an Economic Development Officer’s dream. Especially if that officer works in Mission, British Columbia, Canada. With over three hundred employees, Lumex was a substantial company, based in Russia and had the entire continent to choose from.
Its choice was Mission.
“We were looking for that balance of affordability, proximity to markets and lifestyle”, says Lumex Canada Marketing Director Artem Egorov. “Canada offered us the stability, the right political climate and the social structure we were looking for. British Columbia offered us a place on the Pacific Rim.
Okay, but why Mission? Aren’t larger tech companies more attracted to places like Vancouver, Burnaby or Kelowna?
“Cost is a factor”, acknowledges Artem. “But we are a high tech business. We need skilled and educated employees, and so we must locate in an area that offers our employees a lifestyle and affordability they need and want. Mission gave us that balance. Mission is a great location for us”.
He goes on to mention another important factor that attracted him to Mission – the Venture Acceleration Program training he received through SRCTec at Mission’s Technical Centre of Excellence. “We were experienced in business”, he explains, “but not in Canadian business. SRCTec’s training programs were extremely valuable for us”.
Even the president of the entire Lumex group of companies lives and works in Mission. Alexander Stroganov has joined the conversation. “Mission is very underestimated in this area”, he says. “But compare here to so many other places around the world….” He shrugs. Both he and Artem have lived and worked in Russia, and both came here with the specific intent of setting up Lumex Instruments Canada. Both have seen enough of the world to recognize a jewel when they see one.
Your scribe remembers the earlier discussion about sourcing components from China, and asks the obvious question. Considering that so many other companies have moved all their manufacturing to China, why not Lumex? Alex Stroganov smiles. “We are taking the exactly opposite road”, he says with pride. “We use to source items like injection moulded components from China, but no more. In fact, we are making those components in Canada, and shipping finished product to China. My directors thought I was crazy when I suggested it, but it’s turned out to be a very smart move”.
He goes on to explain his reasoning. Lumex makes expensive products where delivery time and reliability are critical. Components are now available within days compared to months from China.
“And there are also the issues of component quality and reliability that are much easier to control from here”, interjects Artem. “When you put everything together, purchasing and manufacturing locally is a very cost effective solution”.
Certainly what they have created here is impressive. Lumex Canada currently occupies two bays in the Silver Creek Industrial Park, and is looking for a third. The company employs more than 15 people, most of them local. As one of two main operations centres for the company, Mission manufactures more than half of the 30 plus analytical instruments developed since 1991. There is an active and productive research and development effort happening, and so devices that have been both invented and produced in Mission are not far down the road.
Which begs the question. What exactly are these instruments, and what are they used for? President Stroganov provides the answer which shows his vision for the company. “When you think about it, our world is still very much a mystery”, he says. “Minute differences in chemical composition and properties can have huge effect, both on our lives and on the planet. Our business is to explore these deeply hidden mysteries”.
In fact, Lumex tackles successfully analytical problems ranging from:
- monitoring mercury content in the air
- identifying amino acids in biological samples
- determination of basic composition of a material
- tracing micro amounts of impurities
- Lumex machines can detect differences in the range of parts per billion, or, in some cases, even parts per trillion.
“Not only do we develop instruments, we also develop multiple analytical procedures”, notes Artem. “We like to partner with our customers, either by hosting them at our training centres or by visiting them in more than eighty countries around the world”.
Today this multinational company, with its major Mission footprint, serves clients in the food and beverage industry, in agriculture, energy, chemical production, pharmaceuticals, clinical research and the academic community. In fact, the quality of much of what keeps us healthy and prosperous relies to some degree on the sophistication and accuracy of Lumex machines. The company is a perfect example of the strength of Mission’s appeal to the high tech community, and is proof that “Tech Starts Here”.