Wolf’s Technical Director Talks About his Experiences in the Hazardous Area Lighting Industry
Michael Morley, Technical Director at Wolf Safety, has been with the company for over 20 years. We recently sat down with him and spoke about his time helping with the development of Wolf Safety’s range of ATEX and IECEx approved lighting for Hazardous Areas.
Q: When did you join Wolf?
A: My first day was the 16th of July, 1995. I remember the date well as it was my birthday!
Q: What was the Hazardous Area Lighting Industry like when you first started over 20 years ago?
A: There were much fewer products for Hazardous Areas than you see today. There were torches and handlamps, but not the great variety of shapes and sizes that are now available. And, of course, there was no ATEX directive; we worked to British and European standards and it was far more difficult in those days as different countries and regions each had their own individual requirements.
Q: How has the industry changed?
A: Besides ATEX which I’ve just mentioned, there have been some big advances in technology, with probably the biggest being the change from bulbs to LEDs. There have also been big advances in battery technology, especially with the coming along of lithium batteries. These have some great features and are more energy dense, but they do present some challenges in terms of safety and transportation.
Surprisingly, the battery technology in some handlamps is the same as when I started 22 years ago and this is because there’s nothing actually better for the price, power and performance – they’re still the best option for that product, so why change?
Customers attitudes have changed too; the days are long gone when the attitude was “if it’s certified it’ll do”. They will now look around, see what’s available, and select the product which gives them best value and performance for the task they have.
Q: And how do you see the industry changing in the future?
A: It’s clear that advances in technology will continue to bring about more change, especially with batteries and LEDs. The pace of change for LEDs is quite phenomenal, it seems that hardly a week goes by without a different, brighter version, with new and improved features coming on the market. This is great for us because it means we can continually improve and give our customers better products.
Q: How has your work in R&D changed since you joined Wolf?
A: The biggest obvious change is in the size of the team. When I first started there were just 3 of us in R&D – myself, Alex Jackson, who is now our Managing Director, and the draughtsman, Hayden. Now the number of people in the team is in double figures!
The pace of change is now much quicker and we are constantly updating and improving our range. We used to talk about product lives in decades – which is still true in some cases, but this is certainly the exception now, not the norm.
Q: What would you say have been your favourite landmarks or greatest achievements whilst working at Wolf?
A: There are a great many but the one that springs to mind immediately is the work to comply with the ATEX regulations that came into force in July 2003. We got our range of products certified on time – in fact, we beat the competition and were the first company to market with an ATEX approved torch.
The change from bulbs to LEDs was also very interesting, changing both the way we design products and even the type of products we use.
Wolf’s entry into the Temporary Lighting market with products such as luminaires, floodlights and tank lighting kits was quite a challenge and a steep learning curve, but well worth it when you see the success that we have in this market.
It’s always very satisfying when we can use the experience and expertise we have within the company to help solve our customers’ problems – this is always really appreciated and by working together we learn things too which we can then incorporate in our new products, benefitting everybody.
But what I’m most proud of is the quality of our products. We manufacture great, certified products which give excellent value to our customers, helping to keep them safe in what can be dangerous and tough conditions.
Q: What objectives do you have for the future?
A: Our objective, as always, is to help our customers work safely and efficiently in potentially explosive areas. We want to create and supply products that really help our customers do their job and we’re always looking at new ways to do this. It’s not enough to just provide a fully certified product – this is the minimum that we are looking to do. We want to supply other benefits too, and this could be any one of a number of things – for example, a specific light output, light pattern or duration, or a certain power level or cost requirement. Or a specific problem to solve, or opportunity to look at an application and advise how to provide the best safe lighting solution for the customer.
Q: Anything exciting coming up in the pipeline which you’re currently working on?
A: We’re always working on new technologies and we have some very exciting development projects under way, but I think we should keep them under wraps for now, we don’t want to spoil the surprise, do we?
For more information visit www.wolfsafety.com