CREATING TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE – FLIR SETS THE STANDARD
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE meets Earl Lewis, President & CEO of FLIR Systems Inc.
BATTLESPACE first interviewed Earl Lewis, CEO of FLIR Systems Inc. in late 2007. The Company had just announced year-to-date revenue for the nine months ended September 30, 2007 of $536.8m, up 38% compared to $389.1m for the first nine months of 2006. From the small kid on the block, FLIR Systems is now setting international standards for IR technology; you could call the Company the Microsoft of the InfraRed world.
“Since we last interviewed you the momentum of FLIR appears unstoppable?”
“Yes, as you know, we have now had ten years of growth, the Company was recently named as the 6th Best Company of the Decade by Standard & Poors and 1st for technology.”
This is a long way from the beginnings of the Company which Earl Lewis joined in 2000 and subsequently turned around. Founded in 1978, FLIR SYSTEMS has corporate offices in Portland, Headquarters, Oregon, Boston, Massachusetts, Stockholm, Sweden and West Malling, Kent, UK. FLIR is publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the Symbol (FLIR). The Company has two divisions: Government Systems and Commercial Vision Systems.
“How did you come to take over the reins at FLIR?”
“I specialised in buying companies in trouble, I bought Fisons Scientific and Thermo which I ran in the U.K in 1977. Thermo then bought Spectragraphics, which traded on the Swedish Stock Exchange and which owned 28% of FLIR. I left Thermo in 2000 to run FLIR. At that time, FLIR had solid products but had reached a crisis stage in its business model and needed new leadership.”
When BATTLESPACE interviewed Earl Lewis, he was ‘somewhere in the U.K’.
“If I told you where I was, you would guess of the purpose of my visit!”
However Earl Lewis did tell BATTLESPACE that he wants to expand the Company’s footprint in the U.K., particularly in the Land Systems area. The acquisition process has continued with several acquisitions announced since 2007. The company purchased Extech Instruments Corp. in October 2007 for $40 million. The following December FLIR executed their third stock split [the other two were in Feb 05 and May 03]. FLIR made another acquisition in April 2008 when it purchased Ifara Tecnologias of Spain for about $11 million. For the 2008 fiscal year, the company recorded $1.1 billion in sales, a record for the company. On January 1, 2009, FLIR was added to the S&P 500 stock index, replacing National City Corporation. FLIR was named as the Northwest’s top company by the Seattle Times in 2009, marking the third time the company was at the top (2002 and 2003). They sold off a small business within Extech, who made printers, in December 2009 and bought security hardware maker Directed Perception that month for $20 million. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.12 ISSUE 02, 07 January 2010)
On October 21st 2009 FLIR’s expansion programme continued with the announcement of the acquisition of OmniTech Partners, Inc. for $42 million in cash. OmniTech, based in Freeport, PA, is a leader in the development and manufacturing of weapon-mounted image intensified (I2) sensors, and image-fused I2/infrared imaging systems. The acquisition provides a bridge for I2 users to the world of infrared and the future of multi-spectral night vision, allowing the merger of these two critical technologies to maximize the benefits of both.
OmniTech’s night sights and other I2 products, which operate in the visible and near infrared bands, are complementary with FLIR’s existing line of mid wave and long wave infrared sighting sensors and systems. FLIR’s low cost, high performance infrared technology will augment OmniTech’s I2 technology and allow the creation of low cost, multi-spectral clip on solutions using OmniTech’s patented optical fusion technologies. With infrared, I2 users will be able to detect targets more quickly despite camouflage, smoke, dust a