Kirlin Lighting - 2023 Coolest Thing Made in Michigan

This article appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

There was a time when surgeons who needed to highlight a certain area of a patient’s body were forced to maneuver a hanging light by hand, which was inefficient and not optimal in terms of sterilization. The light also was not as bright as it could be.

In the 1970s, Kirlin Lighting changed all that by creating a recessed exam lighting system that can be manipulated by a handheld control — resulting in a more efficient, brighter and more sterile environment for everyone involved. The fact that customers appreciate Kirlin’s lighting technologies is crystal clear, as the company has existed for nearly 130 years — no small feat for any business.

Kirlin has also continually updated the INFRALED PRO to keep up with technological advancements, illustrating the ingenuity and foresight of their team. For these reasons and more, the product was recognized with the 2023 Coolest Thing Made in Michigan Award.

“We were humbled and honored to win the award,” says Kirlin Lighting President Chris Brownell. “Just knowing that other people see the value in what we’re doing was very rewarding.”

The Brilliance Behind INFRALED PRO

Based in Detroit, Kirlin has designed and installed a variety of lighting solutions for school laboratories, convention centers, recreation centers, municipal buildings and medical center pavilions, walkways and surgical rooms. The INFRALED PRO was designed for infection control in critical environments, including laboratories and labor/delivery, operating, emergency and patient recovery rooms.

Traditional surgical lights hang down from the ceiling, Brownell explains.

“They’re imposing. It kind of looks like you’re on an alien spaceship, and it feels very clinical,” Brownell says, adding that dust debris, pathogens and bacteria can accumulate on them as well.

The recessed INFRALED PRO lights create brighter and more sterile, aesthetically pleasing and comforting environments, and the system features more modern and optimal functionality.

“What INFRALED PRO does is we take all of the high-quality surgical illumination that you get out of one of those boom lights and recess it above the ceiling behind a sealed and gasketed glass lens,” Brownell says. “Rather than reaching up and grabbing a light, a surgeon will just use a simple remote control.”

The operators can move the very tight and high- powered light beam to the left, right, up or down to highlight any part of the patient’s body as needed. The quality of the beam of light that’s projected from the fixture is outstanding compared to most, says Chief Operating Officer Joseph Strelchuk.

“Because it’s going primarily to hospitals, it makes you feel like you got to be a part of something that helps others,” adds Assembly Lead Albert Pace, for whom the INFRALED PRO is a special source of pride.

A Legacy of Innovation

Along with offering outstanding solutions and services, Kirlin’s success can be attributed to the fact that the team makes decisions and develops strategies based on long-term goals, rather than focusing only on immediate solutions.

“We try to be innovative, so we put extra thought into our products,” says Strelchuk. “We spend a lot of time planning and making certain that we’re one step ahead. We think about what people need, and we come up with solutions that give them the results they are expecting.”

Kirlin also stands out in the industry for being a family owned business that has thrived for five generations.

The company was founded in 1895 by Otis Kirlin — Brownell’s great-great-grandfather — in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Those were the early days of electricity, and the Kirlin team’s primary goal then was to encourage homeowners and businessowners to adopt the electric light bulb.

Later, Brownell’s great-grandfather, Ivan Kirlin, moved the business to Detroit and began mass-producing architectural lights.

Ivan’s son, John, then took over in the 1960s, and they entered the maximum security and health care environments with some specialty and highly engineered products. One of the products was the first recessed motorized exam light, developed in the 1970s.

Jana Kirlin Brownell, Chris’s mother, became the company’s next leader in the late 1980s, and Kirlin soon introduced the first remote-controlled exam light. Much of that technology is still used today but the Kirlin team continues to modernize the product over time.

Kirlin’s lighting solutions have become industry staples, not only here in Michigan but around the world. The INFRALED PRO is a shining example of the power of creativity, resilience and ingenuity in manufacturing, and MMA is proud to recognize it as one of the Coolest Things Made in Michigan.

Manufacturing Excellence AwardsThe Coolest Thing Made in Michigan is part of the annual Manufacturing Excellence Awards which celebrates the leaders and products that are pushing the industry forward. Learn more about the awards program and gala.

Excellence Sponsor LogoThe 2023 Coolest Thing Made in Michigan award was sponsored by Endeavor IT. Visit online: