The future is bright

Published:  03 October, 2019

LED based lighting is an energy efficient technology that offers long life, low carbon emissions and high quality illumination Graeme Shaw, technical application manager at Zumtobel, explains why it’s time for industrial and manufacturing facilities to make the switch.

LED technology has created a step change in lighting with a combination of increasingly innovative solutions and fast return on investment (ROI). So, given that LED lighting can save money and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. By choosing a quality luminaire designed for use in the space and a functional lighting design, helps improve employee productivity and wellbeing, then why aren’t all owners and operators of industrial and manufacturing facilities upgrading to this technology?

Time and effort

The simple answer is that there remains a culture of just replacing defective technology, such as high intensity discharge sodium luminaires (SONs) and T12 fluorescent lamps, with the same inefficient products. While in isolation this might be a relatively quick, easy and low cost fix, it ignores longer-term operational expenditure concerns and leads to a ‘patchwork’ effect of inconsistent light. In addition, carrying out a point for point replacement, or redesign, of an existing lighting infrastructure is usually perceived as being costly, time consuming and, above all else, disruptive.

Lighting industrial and manufacturing environments certainly poses some unique challenges. For example, a lighting specification within a facility may have been amended since its initial design, while the activities carried out within the space may now differ from the original purpose. Furthermore, access to existing lighting may be restrictive and production schedules could hinder any upgrade activity.

Plan of action

With the right planning and a phased implementation that is flexible and accounts for operational requirements, the process can be relatively straightforward. First of all, close discussion with shop-floor shift management and operatives is crucial to ensuring production is not compromised, with a clear programme of works defined. It is advisable to target any ‘low hanging fruit’ first and then rollout a strategy for more complex installations – such as those in high ceilings – based around work patterns. For instance, if there is no work scheduled in a specific area, work can be carried out during this period of downtime.

Continuing with the subject of avoiding disruption, the reliability and long lifetime of LED luminaires can also significantly reduce maintenance and replacement costs, so much so that they can almost be considered a ‘fit and forget’ solution. Studies show that LED light output remains steady at less than one per cent degradation per year over the life of the device, while fluorescent and high intensity discharge SON fixtures can require re-lamping in as little as every two years.

Spend and save

The cost of replacing a lighting infrastructure is often considered prohibitive and LED lighting still suffers from a reputation for being expensive. The truth is that prices have declined to a point where this type of lighting is becoming the economical choice in almost every application.

Most industrial and manufacturing facilities are ‘always on’ and, as a result, energy use can be very high. According to the Carbon Trust, lighting typically consumes 20% of the electricity used in these buildings, so finding cost effective ways to reduce levels of electricity consumed by lighting can deliver appreciable savings. Recent advances in LED technology mean that, dependent on operational hours and existing lighting infrastructure, it can cut lighting costs by up to 80% each year and deliver an ROI in under five years, especially if the Enhanced Capitol Allowance (ECA) benefit is claimed.

Storage areas often have high operational hours with relatively low occupancy. Therefore, lighting control is key in terms of lowering energy use, and presence detection and daylight control can improve savings by 20-40%. LED luminaires can be integrated with sensors to control when and where lighting is used within a space. They can then monitor light levels and make use of daylight harvesting, which uses daylight to offset the amount of electric lighting needed to properly illuminate an area. Zone-by-zone or even luminaire-by-luminaire control is achievable and LED luminaires also have the ability to be integrated with building management systems.

Welfare state

Creating the correct environment for the safe working is vital. Regulation 8 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations simply requires that lighting at work is ‘suitable and sufficient’, however, the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) Lighting at Work booklet (HSG 38) sets out minimum recommended safe lighting levels and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) offers guidelines regarding light levels required in correlation to workplace activities, stating that warehouses should have 150-200 Lux at floor level and 300 Lux in task areas. This is still a guide and each project should be designed to its own particular requirements.

As well as providing a brighter work area, better uniformity and improved colour perception, this also leads to enhanced general wellbeing. Poor quality lighting can cause eyestrain, headaches, lethargy, irritability and low levels of concentration, so it should come as no surprise that employees who are more comfortable are also more productive.

According to the Building Research Establishment (BRE), people in Europe spend around 90% of their time indoors and it is therefore clear that putting human health and wellbeing front and centre is vital. As well as improving productivity, any investment in a human centric lighting system will be returned through less absence through illness and highly motivated personnel. In fact, a Gensler survey found that 90% of employees admitted that their attitude to work is adversely affected by the quality of their workplace environment.

Selection procedure

Implementing an LED lighting retrofit can be somewhat intimidating and while the technological developments associated with this technology are impressive, the pitfalls of selecting a poor quality product can be significant. Premature product failure and the associated costs, poor lumen output, low lm/W and inefficient design can compromise a lighting scheme and prohibit a solid ROI.

Initial price should never be the sole purchasing criterion and although it might be tempting to specify lower cost products, as reliability reduces so will profit margins. Therefore, it is essential to buy from a reputable manufacturer that can back-up any claims regarding product quality, testing, lifetime expectation and standards compliance, and provide a comprehensive warranty, so that if a product does fail a replacement can be sourced, delivered and installed as quickly as possible.

It makes sense to work with manufacturers whose products can be relied on for quality and performance, and which offer a support service that helps ensure that the luminaire type suits the environment in which it will be used. In food manufacturing, for example, ingress protection (IP) rated products that offer protection from dust and pollution will be needed to withstand high pressure and high temperature spray-downs. Also, do not assume that a simple point for point solution will be adequate –consider the existing task/application and identify the correct light level required.

Moving on up

Making wholesale changes to a building’s lighting infrastructure when it is operational on a 24/7 basis might seem daunting. However, a strategic approach can ensure a fast and efficient installation with minimal disruption to day-to-day activities. With industrial and manufacturing facilities trying to lower the amount of money they spend, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions and enhancing employee wellbeing, LED lighting is the right technology at the right time.

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