Sergio Villalón
Senior Vice President and General Manager Latin America
View from the Top

Innovative Illumination Shines Light on Human Well-being

By Cas Biekmann | Fri, 10/09/2020 - 11:28

Q: What is the story of Signify and its relationship with Mexico?

A: Signify’s story starts in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Philips was known worldwide for its lighting for over 125 years but it also expanded into areas like medical equipment, personal care products and domestic electronics, two of these areas were deemed its most important: medical equipment and lighting. In 2018, the decision was made to spin off the division into two stand-alone companies, both listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. Thus, Philips Healthcare and Signify were born.

Signify’s name originates in the fact that light is an intelligent language, which connects and conveys meaning. As a global leader in lighting, we are present in pretty much every country worldwide, just like Philips’ other divisions. The company has been present in Mexico since 1939 as Philips Mexico. Signify builds further on this platform. Mexico has always been of importance to us, not just as a market but for its manufacturing capabilities as well. Today, we have more than 4,000 employees working for Signify in Mexico. Our factories are mainly in the north: Tijuana, Mexicali, Camargo, Juarez, Nuevo León and Monterrey. Our manufacturing strategy is global: parts and manufacturing take place all over the world, and the added values of the product line are finalized in Mexico.


Q: What does the company consider to be its most visible success story in the Mexican market?

A: We have been active for quite a few years in the implementation of beautification efforts in cities. We have attractive lighting technology, beautifying historic landmarks, for example. One of our popular products is called Color Kinetics, which can be used to illuminate important spaces in an architectural and decorative manner. In September, Mexico celebrates its independence. If you walk around Mexico City or Guadalajara at that time, you can see the application of colored lighting on buildings. They are an excellent example of spot-on applications of this product. Lighting can change the perceptions of buildings or monuments, playing on their beauty. The idea fits nicely within our mission of improving the well-being of people through lighting.


Q: How is the company helping to advance both public and private industrial areas through enhanced lighting?

A: The company is present in the area of public lighting with both conventional technology and energy-saving LED solutions. We are here to help cities along with their technological transitions toward smart cities. Our products can help improve visibility on roads and for security cameras. In the industrial sectors, companies focused on manufacturing, such as the automotive industry, can work under much safer conditions if they have adequate lighting at workstations. In the domestic sphere, we offer Philips Hue. With a mobile app, any user can control and adapt the light’s intensity, color and mood.

Finally, we provide lighting for office areas, even though we are not using these spaces as often due to the pandemic. Here, workspace lighting can improve productivity. With intelligent lighting, various metrics can be applied. Next to energy savings, sensors, different lighting levels throughout the day and even specialized ultraviolet light to sanitize spaces are major benefits.


Q: How did Signify become 100 percent carbon neutral, focusing on clean energy and sustainability?

A: This has always been a major ambition of the company. We became 100 percent carbon neutral globally in September 2020, although we already achieved this goal in 2019 in Latin America. A key factor was a 70 percent reduction in emissions. We also reduced our transport by switching it to more sustainable methods where possible, a significant action as there are a great deal of global logistics involved in the manufacturing of our products. The company worked to reduce the amount of residual waste in our factories as well, using less plastic, for example. We also implement social responsibility programs. The consumption of all of our energy is now directly tied to clean energy in all our markets, focusing mainly solar and wind. In the case of Mexico, we are associated with Grupo CEMEX through their wind farm. We use their energy in part for our factories.


Q: How does the company invest in R&D to come up with innovative illumination technology?

A: We invest close 4.8 percent of our total annual sales in R&D. Most of our patents are generated and registered in Eindhoven, where our main center focused on these efforts is located. However, we operate other R&D centers in Asia, India, North America and a small one in Brazil. We incorporate new developments into our lighting portfolio and grow our new technologies steadily. In the past few years, the area of lighting has grown significantly. We use lighting for many advanced purposes, such as ultraviolet light for disinfection, which is useful in times like the pandemic. In the Netherlands, lighting is making the production of common vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuce more successful. In Chile, we have a big installation that is helping to boost the reproduction of salmon. In the near future, we will have lights equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, which we call “LiFi.” To gain access, you would merely need to be below a light. Connectivity will be much faster and secure than our current internet.


Q: What are the company’s projections for 2020-2021?
A: This has been a rather atypical year for the global industry, filled with challenges that pushed us to reinvent and follow new trends, such as the specialized ultraviolet light. Even though we have grown significantly in these applications, many commercial centers and offices have been mostly closed for the past half year. This has translated to lower demand for our products. Looking at the entire equation, we have seen several territories drop down to 15 percent in this regard, compared to the previous year. In other territories, we were able to compensate this drop with our new developments, even up to the point of a moderate growth in sales. In Mexico, we are fortunate to have strong operational factories, catering to the local market and serving as a basis of export to nearby countries. We are, therefore, still aiming to reach net growth in 2020.


Signify was born in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, as the rebranded illumation-side of Philips and is a world leader in lighting for professional and consumer markets, as well as lighting for IoT.

Photo by:   Signify
Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst