The Future Is Now: Kirk Goins of Luminator Technology Group On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirk Goins. Kirk Goins is CEO of Luminator Technology Group (Luminator), a global manufacturer of technology, communication and safety solutions for mass transit applications. Founded in 1928, Luminator supports transit bus and rail car manufacturers and public transit operators around the world with customers in more than 85 countries.
Under Goins’s leadership, the organization has successfully merged dozens of reputable worldwide brands. By leveraging Luminator’s extensive engineering resources, Goins has led the organization in developing integrated best-in-class solutions for on and off-board passenger information, video security, lighting and other safety solutions designed to increase the safety, efficiency, and intelligence of transit operations.
Goins has over 30 years of experience in industrial automation and technology, previously serving as CEO for the Paslin Company, a turnkey systems integrator focused on robotic automation in the automotive market. Goins also served as North American CEO for manufacturing assembly company Comau Inc. and held multiple senior executive roles at robotics manufacturer ABB Inc. Goins graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and participated in a business leadership program at through IMD Business School.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In1986, I graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. After school I worked in factory automation where I really enjoyed the process of applying technology to solve manufacturing solutions. In 2010 I attended an IMD business leadership program that provided a different lens in which to view a business beyond technology. Now, with over 30 years of experience in industrial automation and technology roles, I’ve had the opportunity to hold multiple leadership positions within ABB Robotics and Low Voltage Divisions, serving as North American CEO of Comau and Head of Body and White businesses.
Prior to joining Luminator Technology Group (Luminator), a global manufacturer of technology, communication, and safety solutions for mass transit applications, I served as CEO for the Paslin Company, a turnkey systems integrator focused on robotic automation in the automotive market. I’ve been with Luminator for about five years.
Founded in 1928, Luminator supports transit bus and rail car manufacturers and public transit operators in more than 85 countries. With extensive engineering capacity, we have developed and integrated best-in-class solutions for on and off-board passenger information, video security, lighting, air treatment and other solutions — all designed to increase the safety, efficiency, and intelligence of transit operations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve had the pleasure to work with many great people, companies and customers throughout my career. There have been a number of successes, some bruising failures and the opportunity to learn from all of them. I’m not sure this is the most interesting story, but one story that seems to stick out in my mind is being on a very large project that was running late and not functioning to the client’s satisfaction. There were many reasons the project was behind but what has stuck with me about the project, was one particular moment — we’d been on site since about 6:30 AM and it was now 11:00 PM…we were planning the next day’s work sitting in a jobsite trailer drinking maybe the worst coffee you can imagine — eating snack chips out of unused coffee filters…and not a single one of those team members was complaining. We were making progress, unified in our goals and focused on completing the task at hand. It’s very special when you get a whole team bought into the mission — a team can really accomplish anything.
Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people? How do you think this might change the world?
Luminator has an extensive product roadmap, with a common theme of making technology easier for transit authorities to deploy, operate and manage. We accomplish this by reducing cost of ownership and integrating solutions. Our objective is to reduce friction with technologies, so that transit operators can focus on their primary goal of transporting passengers. AI technology is the cutting-edge technology that is enabling us to automate the collection of data, propagate information to passengers in real-time, and provide this data back to transit operators, to better improve services. Through the pandemic it became apparent that more needs to be done to protect essential workers and those that rely upon public transportation to keep our cities in motion and by supplying solutions that support efficiencies through transit operations, we can help support this vital infrastructure. Earlier this year we launched a new air treatment solution which is designed specifically to reduce the transmission of airborne virus — such as COVID-19 — in the air, where it is most dangerous. In enclosed transit environments, where social distancing is not feasible other technologies like surface disinfectants, UV-lights and air filters do little for person-to-person transmission. Using an antimicrobial air treatment our system has proven to kill over 98% of COVID-19 in 30 seconds. We believe this will be a game-changer for essential transportation services as we navigate through the current pandemic and those variants and future viruses that may emerge.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
We are implementing all our technologies with security and privacy in mind, to avoid these drawbacks. For example, using AI with our video recording system — while original video footage captured by our video security system is maintained according to local regulations, the AI algorithm uses data converted to remove identification features, and using shapes instead of actual images of people to perform the analytics. So, while our capabilities may be futuristic, their implementations and use cases are far from the dystopian narratives of “Black Mirror,” and we comply with best practices and the latest developments regarding privacy and IT security standards. Likewise, with the air treatment system, we have partnered with an expert in the field — Grignard Pure. Due to the extensive testing, long-term use cases, and because EPA approval is required for the purchase and sale, we are confident that we are supplying a solution to transit that is effective and safe.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Many years ago, through a series of acquisitions globally, we realized the benefit that our technology development centers — located around the world could provide to the transportation market by implementing best practices and processes under one umbrella. This enables the transit agencies in the U.S. and around the world to integrate their transit solutions, gain insights from those integrated sources of data and passenger information and use those insights to better serve and promote mobility in their local communities. Facilitating these common technology development efforts and defining a global roadmap has been my main leadership focus at Luminator. This methodology was applied to our initiative for finding the best COVID-19 solution for transit. Our technology development centers across the globe were tasked with exploring different solutions. The tipping point for the breakthrough of our Renew Air Treatment came through our partnership with Grignard Pure. Their science team of public health experts were adamant from the start of the pandemic that airborne transmission was the biggest threat. With the majority of solutions only effective on surfaces, this was a tipping point in our development of the technology for distributing an aerosol antimicrobial treatment. In reviewing other technologies, like UV lights and applying them to real-world applications, like using it on a transit bus or train, we felt it was a far less effective solution than the airborne solution we settled on developing. This breakthrough was validated in later months when public health officials confirmed the need for airborne solutions.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
AI technology is coming, and we expect transit technology to adopt it quickly. Particularly during the pandemic, we have seen many examples of how information, like capacity — allowing transit riders the ability to determine if they can socially distance on a given bus or train, has shown to have immediate tangible benefits to transit authorities — promoting the ability to safely return ridership. In the case of air treatment, EPA approval is required and currently this is happening at the state level. Currently this is limited and applies to transit applications, some government buildings and a handful of other industries. We are working with Grignard Pure to apply for nationwide approval which will enable transit agencies, and other facilities and businesses to utilize Grignard Pure — which will be an enormously helpful tool to fight the spread of COVID-19.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Our solutions are regularly featured in transit trade publications, demonstrations are slowly returning as conferences and exhibitions come back online. While travel was restricted during the pandemic, our marketing strategies shifted — much like everyone else. Explainer videos and instructional webinars have been critical to communicate the value proposition of all our new solutions, particularly those associated with helping transit return to safe operations. As an international company, we have the advantage of being able to share these messages across the globe.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You are right- no one is successful alone. There are too many people to mention but I’ve always had tremendous support from my family and especially my father who passed away last year. When I first started working as a professional, my father would call my desk phone around 6 AM…if I didn’t answer, he’d ask me that day or later that night what I was doing that caused me to be late? I’m generally an early riser to this day partially due to those interactions.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Mass transit is in itself a public service designed to make the world better and to help our communities and grow and thrive. As CEO of Luminator, I guide the company in its efforts to bring advanced transit technology solutions into the world and put them to the hands of transit agencies and operators. We see the benefits of these transit technologies every day, from passengers that use ADA-compliant technologies to better access transit and passenger information systems to get them where they are going safely and on time to an overall improvement of the experience of passengers — which will hopefully lead to increased ridership and less reliance on single occupancy vehicles.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the people, opportunities and experiences as you go thru your working career. Most of us are going to work for 40+ years…should be great fun along the way.
- The team must come first. We all know we need teamwork, and to be part of the team, but sometimes we don’t appreciate what we could do/change/say or not say that would improve how well our team can exist and create together.
- Leave on time. Get in early, get your stuff done, dedicate a little out of office time for reading or catching up, but leave on time and do something important for you and the people you care about.
- Take care of yourself mentally and physically. No one can do this for you and only you can decide to do it! The impact on family, friends, and work associates is huge. The impact on your satisfaction is even greater.
- Don’t be afraid to try something…maybe it doesn’t work out right, but you can always learn and grow from a new opportunity. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-) Transforming mass transit is the perfect arena in which to inspire a global movement because it touches all of our lives. Mass transit riders come from every region, race, class, gender, and ethnicity, and they all deserve a safe and efficient transit experience. At Luminator, we have a vision of a safer, more accessible future for transit — one that acknowledges the vital role transit plays within all our communities, cities and countries. Mass Transit should be the first transportation method of choice for all of us. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? Life is about winning~ but the score is not just measured in terms of profitability or economic rewards…it’s measured in effort, support, impact and enjoyment given to those you interact with and have the opportunity to share experiences with. Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-) The opportunity to invest in transit technology has never been more important or promising as it is now. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be able to rely upon transportation services to support essential workers. Technology that helps keep us safe and connected as we complete our most essential tasks, like going to work and buying groceries is critical to our well-being and investing in it provides a benefit to society to support mobility throughout our communities. How can our readers follow you on social media? Readers can follow me on LinkedIn and can follow Luminator on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.