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Motion Labs

Kevin M. Mitchell • Company 411July 2021 • July 9, 2021

President/CEA Pete Herrmann is shown here welcoming a new lathe into the shop.

Multifaceted Company Expands with New Facility, Adds Educational Opportunities for Growing Roster of Clients

Pete Herrmann wasn’t part of Motion Laboratories Inc. from day one, but he quickly became a convert, became part of the management team, and today is its President/CEO. “Early on, seeing the response the customers had to Motion Labs really made me want to be part of it,” he says. “Whenever we went out to a convention like LDI, the response from users of the Motion Labs equipment was overwhelming. There is just an unbelievably loyal following, and it’s a great reward to hear from satisfied professionals.”

That trust in the company to provide quality products all these decades is still going strong, as their recent monumental growth attest to.

You likely know some of their story, but maybe not all of it. Motion Labs is a full-service fabrication and assembly facility producing a large segment of what our industry uses, including portable electrical power distribution systems, electric chain hoist control systems, weight monitoring systems, metering equipment, testing equipment, and even cable assemblies. In the touring market specifically, their clients include global production, lighting, sound, and staging companies as well as local and regional live event needs. “Touring companies’ equipment is set up and torn down repeatedly, requiring equipment that can stand up to the rigors of the road — we know that, and that’s what we build for,” Herrmann says. In the rigging world, they work closely with major providers of rigging services, truss manufacturers, and chain hoist manufacturers. Their clients in the broader event production world include providers of audio/visual presentation services, exhibitions, and event services.

Motion Labs supplied their soft limit system for the outer ring of the scoreboard at Minneapolis’ Target Center arena.

“Something Safer”

Herrmann, who hails from New York, started out as a pipe welder tech with the Steamfitters Union. He likely might have made that his lifelong career if he hadn’t got his hand caught in a machine a few years later. Not a good thing for sure — yet in retrospect, it led to a career change, and not an obvious one at that: “I knew I wanted to do something a little safer, so I became an FOH engineer.” In 1986, he put a P.A. system together, kept gathering gear along with a good reputation for his work, and started his own business. He kept busy supporting local and regional heavy metal bands in the greater metro New York area. When baby number two came along, he was inspired to wonder if there wasn’t something related he could be doing that would allow him to be home evenings and weekends.

Meanwhile, in 1981, Sean McCormick and Chris Greco were running a sound company called Audio Support in Irvington, NY. They worked with some pretty big names too, providing sound reinforcement for acts including Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Yes, and Dire Straits, in the U.S. and also in Europe. Greco and McCormick would be joined by Vincent Cannavale, and the trio formed Motion Labs. Herrmann joined two years later. “They were actually renting warehouse space to my company, and then I just got talked into going along for the ride,” he jokes. Today, Cannavale is the sole original executive.

Reflecting on the company’s trajectory so far, he says their commitment to customer service and innovation has allowed Motion Labs to not only grow but survive the three big crashes the live event industry has experienced through this century so far: 9/11, the financial crash of 2007-2008, and now the pandemic. With the latter almost in the rearview, they are well-placed to help everyone in the live event industry reopen. “We have a checklist on our website that helps companies figure out what they need.” Herrmann says. “We’re here for repairs, equipment upgrades — whatever it takes to get you up and running.”

Motion Labs installed a new Haas DS30Y dual spindle lathe with robot arm in 2019.

Steady Growth through Innovations

The company’s initial success came in 1986, when they manufactured fixed speed electric chain hoist control systems. The next year, they moved into portable power distribution equipment with notable success. “As we grew, we brought the manufacturing processes in house,” Herrmann says. This is when they began to manufacture and fabricate the finished product from raw materials. “We branched into doing the whole line,” from small to big modular power distribution, self-contained auxiliary power packages, specialized items for hotels and conventions, and more. “This is in addition to a full range of cable assemblies that connect everything together. Today we’re able to offer an extensive number of products and solutions.” It’s an embarrassment of riches to the point that those who are loyal customers of, say, their electric chain hoist products are sometimes unaware of their power distribution products, and vice-versa. “It is surprising to have that kind of misunderstanding,” Herrmann says, with a chuckle. Customers of one aspect of their business would visit their operation and be surprised to discover a facility that was fully integrated with a full machine shop, a full woodworking shop, an expansive R&D department, a fabrication shop, and “even a UL-listed 1640 and 508A panel building assembly floor upstairs.”

Prudential Center Hockey Arena

Expanding while bringing everything in house has led to further breakthroughs, especially with their portable electric chain hoist control systems. “We started out with fixed speed low voltage portable controllers and have since introduced a substantial variety of product offerings which include SIL-rated safety controllers, automation systems, variable speed systems and weight management systems, all designed to bring a higher level of safety to live events.” Their own load cell system hit the market in 1994 and was one of the earliest ones — and “the original one is still one of the most cost-effective systems out there,” Herrmann notes. They affectionately labeled it “the Load*Cell,” and when they began to develop support products, they created the “Cell*Mate System” product line. Now they are working to market a suspension load cell that fits right into the CM Hoist. “This is so you can replace the OEM hoist suspension with our MLI Hoist Load Cell Suspension,” Herrmann says.

Motion Labs has been expanding and updating their gear – here is the new DoALL Continental Series CNC installed in late summer of 2019

Talos: A Benefit to the Industry

Their control system install division has expanded as well, incorporating the same level of automation including soft limit systems and a variable frequency drive system — the latter of which was just introduced in the last few years. “This year, we are releasing a SCADA system, which is an automation supervisory control system called Talos, which we created to benefit the industry. It is advantageous because it ties together all Motion Labs automation and control packages and brings it all into one central control location. We’re happy to be able to bring that to market and believe it’ll be well-received.” Motion Labs’ PM Series Power Meter, meanwhile, is a true RMS multi-function meter with current values up to 999 amps. “Our new power meter package has a lot of features, including power consumptions and distortion, and users love it because it can be stored on a USB stick or put in a local area network where you can monitor it from any display.”

Then there is their OEM support that supplies products to manufacturers of sound and lighting equipment. Custom designs incorporated into production run capabilities allow their OEM clients to offer product solutions for their customers’ needs. “Our custom work is something we’re very proud of,” Herrmann states. “We’ve been able to create specific solutions for many situations.”

A rendering of the new demo room

New Facilities, Training & Education

Growth has been such that while hanging onto their original 30,000 square foot facility in Cortlandt, NY, they recently opened a new state-of-the-art 40,000-square-foot facility up the road in Peekskill, NY, also less than 50 miles north of NYC. The new location in Peekskill features a learning and development center, sales offices, an impressive R&D department and more. Of course, the pandemic has caused them to pause a lot of uses for it, but now that the industry is opening back up, their new facility is well-prepared and positioned to serve.

But wait, there’s more. In 2017, So-Cal Value Added LLC, a 30,000 square foot facility in Camarillo, California, was acquired by Motion Labs. “They are a contract manufacturer and mainly serve the military, aerospace, and Information Technology sectors,” Herrmann says. While he can’t tell us exactly who their customers are in those segments, he’s more than happy to tell us what that division of the company can do for the live event industry: “This company does injection molding, and now Motion Labs cable lines offer overmolded cable products and can produce IP67 overmolded cable assemblies, which I believe is a first for this industry.” Equally important, the facility allows them to better serve their West Coast clients and begin relationships with companies on that side of the country.

The Motion Labs Learning Center opened at the end of 2019.

Herrmann is understandably more than a little excited and proud of the education and training they can do at the new facility — 20,000 square feet is dedicated to it. His son David was appointed Chief Learning Officer for the company in 2017. (David grew up in the business, starting in 1998, and he graduated from Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2006.) “He first developed training programs for internal use, but we quickly saw the benefit of expanding training opportunities to our customers,” the senior Herrmann explains. Motion Labs then developed programs to teach chain hoist control use, basic repair and electricity basics, creating environments where participants can explore and understand the full capacity of the equipment they are using.

“It was all incorporated at our new facility where we were able to fill a good-sized room with trusses, power distribution, motors, and whatever else,” Pete Herrmann says. “This allows people to get their hands on real products and use it in simulated real-life situations. Here, there are troubleshooting techniques taught, and those who complete a session are able to fix these tools on the spot in the field.” The initial offerings have been expanded to including rigging and will likely include more topics as the industry gets on its feet. They are dedicated to getting top-notch instructors, too. They are dedicated to getting top-notch instructors, too. Former PLSN editor, author, and noted lecturer Richard Cadena was one of the professionals scheduled to be brought in before the pandemic hit. “In that facility, there is even a theater-style demo room being put in that we hope to break ground in this late summer or early fall.”

 

Motion Labs is on the move, and it’s definitely a company to keep an eye on. For more, visit www.motionlabs.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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