Dallas Lighthouse Manufacturing
The Dallas Lighthouse manufacturing core dates back to the early 1930s where household products, such as brooms, were manufactured and sold by Lighthouse personnel. With the 1940s came vinyl products manufactured and embossed with each of the US military services to present military achievements to personnel for a broad spectrum of reasons. Eyeglass cases were then designed and brought into production. Both award binders and eyeglass cases remain in production today, chiefly for use by U.S. government services although commercial outlet channels are currently being developed for both items.
Our manufacturing of writing instruments began with the standard-sized permanent and dry erase marker made for the U.S. government GSA. Automation followed along with non-toxic ink engineering and a new robust design to substitute for the standard marker; a new safety cap was also created by way of designing airways in the event of accidental ingestion. Annual quantities continue to be made in the millions each year and remain today in mass production including all the sub-detail components required to manufacture eyeglass cases and markers. All injection molding and assembly have been automated with some robotics.
While product improvements such as non-toxic ink and choking resistant cap have not been actively marketed to the U.S. government as a safety marker, current commercial outlets are being developed to make these markers available for children and households in order to replace markers that contain toxins and/or have caps without an airway incorporated into the design in the event of choking. An additional feature was also recently introduced to make the cap removal and installation easy by virtue of two opposing flat sides that are particularly useful for those with arthritis or another strength reducing condition that impacts the opening and closing of the marker cap. We look forward to the continued sales to GSA and a new broad commercial use of the Dallas Lighthouse markers for many years to come.
A number of textiles were introduced into production since 1931, with variations ranging from military uniform accessories, cargo netting, quick release components, and an entrenchment tool camo-canvas cover that continues in manufacturing to the present time. Reflective public service uniforms, shirts, and pants are also made for state use programs. Our most recent endeavor is to manufacture high-end fashion garments primarily for the women’s apparel market. We have constructed a new garment center and have formed business agreements that ensure solid and long lasting channels to remain strong in the market. This endeavor has also driven the development of a first-of-its-kind, master garment sewing, training apprenticeship program for blind persons. It is also driving new adaptive technology to make this latest design equipment usable by blind and vision-impaired operators.
As with many veteran companies, there are opportunities involving new product development—channels to market and harvesting product obsolescence that introduces improvement. Also how products are made today versus when the company was formed can be vastly different, and an abundance of improvements in efficiency are in store. The use of automation can make a hazardous job process very safe for a blind person to operate. It can also ensure consistent high quality for close-tolerance work. We utilize automation to create jobs and increase the accuracy and quality as opposed to replacing jobs with equipment. The Dallas Lighthouse mission makes our bias very clear that we exist to make jobs for people who are blind and vision-impaired and to help them live independently. So, our automation and vertical integration bring as many facets of the work process as possible in-house and under our direct control.
At the Dallas Lighthouse we ascribe to raw material “in” and finished product “out,” with all steps in between being accomplished in-house by as many blind and vision impaired persons as possible. We utilize the tools of LEAN manufacturing and continuous improvement in all operational phases. All work is a process; therefore all work can be measured and improved. Visitors to the Dallas Lighthouse expect to see high quality, well maintained equipment manned by skilled artisans who are well paid, with good healthcare and retirement benefits in keeping with modern “for-profit” factory environments. We try very hard to meet or exceed those expectations and will continue to do so as our journey continues.