Executives at Illumination Technology Inc., a manufacturer of incandescent surface mounted lamps and other lighting devices, are beaming. Export sales of the Los Alamitos, Calif.-based firm have soared from virtually zero in 1993 to 90 percent of total income.

Two years ago, Illumination Technology began pursuing business overseas. Technological advances and global acceptance of pagers, cellular phones and other electronic gadgets had fueled a boom in the market for sub- and microminiature lighting sources. The U.S. firm was anxious to capitalize on the subsequent sales opportunities in numerous markets.John Hartley, company president, first pursued a relationship with the Asian divisions of an existing U.S. customer, shipping surface mount lamps used in backlighting to facilities in China, India and Singapore. He also began shipping to a customer facility in Ireland. By the end of 1993, the company was earning 25 percent of total sales from those markets.

"It went very well for us. There were always the logistical and language and cultural issues to deal with, but when you just pay attention to detail and what companies' requirements are, that's the key," Mr. Hartley said.

He said the firm now was gearing up to enter the Japanese market through an existing relationship with a trading company there. In addition, it has set its sights on the United Kingdom and other high-tech markets in Western Europe where demand for sophisticated lighting devices is strong.

In May, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce honored Illumination Technology with an export achievement award.


Chief executive: John Hartley, president.

Headquarters: Los Alamitos, Calif.

Employees and facilities: The company employs 130 people at its Los Alamitos facility. Most work in the manufacturing of products and several speak Chinese in order to assist the company's business with China.

Basic Business: Illumination Technology designs and manufacturers precision miniature lighting devices, including subminiature incandescent surface-mount lamps. The six-sigma quality lamps operate at low-surface temperatures and require less power consumption than other types of incandescent lamps. Approximately 60 percent to 70 percent of all production is exported.

The devices are used to illuminate liquid crystal displays (LCDs), switches and key pads in pagers, cellular phones and other consumer electronic devices, automotive and aircraft instruments, medical examination and diagnostic devices, fiber-optic light engines and portable lighting products. Among the company's customers are several Fortune 100 companies.


Mr. Hartley, echoing many award-winning export companies, said a friendly, hands-on approach to customer relations is pertinent to success in overseas markets. He travels frequently to markets abroad to discuss customer needs, grievances and solutions.

He said the company would consider expanding operations globally in order to better service those foreign customers. Most of its competitors are U.S. firms, with testing, packaging and other manufacturing facilities in the Far East. "If we do expand overseas, we'll do so to be closer to our customers, but not to pursue lower wages," he said.


Mr. Hartley's family started the company in 1990, developing a line of sub- and microminiature incandescent lamps and other lighting devices for telecommunications, automotive and aircraft applications.

Mr. Hartley was very active in the company's start-up and served on its board of directors before taking his father's place as chief executive in 1993.