Optimizing facilities with proper lighting - SmartBrief

All Articles Leadership Optimizing facilities with proper lighting

Optimizing facilities with proper lighting

5 min read


Steven Horst

This post is sponsored by Graybar.

As companies search for cost savings and improved productivity, upgrading facilities to energy- and cost-effective LED lighting offers a solution.

In this post, we talk to Steven Horst, vice president for service and administration at Graybar, about the measurable effects of upgrading lighting and how companies can generate savings, reduce accidents and improve facilities. Horst, who began his career as a warehouse worker, understands first-hand the benefits of improved safety and productivity.

How does lighting fit into continuous improvement?

We focus on three areas of continuous improvement: process, procedures and supply chain optimization. Each is critical to the total improvement and each has measurable impact on the income statement. We have documented cost savings and gross margin improvement of more than $110 million since our continuous improvement started in 2007. When you compare the advances in lighting technology against energy costs that are continually on the rise and its impact on all three areas of focus, lighting is clearly a priority when it comes to continuous improvement of our facilities.

Can you be more specific regarding the measurable impact of upgraded LED lighting in a facility?

Because it’s easy to track, most people think about costs or savings on their electricity bill as benefits of new lighting. But there’s more to consider such as safety, maintenance, productivity and perception.

Let’s start with energy and maintenance. For the same lumens (brightness) as your traditional HID or CFL lighting, LED provides better light quality and coverage with a savings of 60% or more in electricity usage. When you add in lighting controls, the savings can be upwards of 80%. Reductions like that are hard to ignore, especially when lighting typically accounts for 40% to 60% of your electric bill.

LED bulbs can last up to 100,000 hours at optimal brightness. Imagine the time your work crews will save by not having to pull out ladders or 40-foot lifts to change out bulbs, not to mention the aggravation of blocking an aisle or causing downtime. When you remove the expense of replacement lamps and ballasts along with the labor to change them, it is an extremely compelling story. Here’s the best part. Local utilities will often provide rebates to make the upgrade even more attractive.

What improvements are seen in safety and productivity?

According to OSHA, there are approximately 100,000 forklift accidents a year, 34,000 of which are serious. Serious accidents can cost a company about $35,000 each according to the US Department of Labor. While it is difficult to attribute an accident to one factor, the National Institute of Standards and Technology reports that 70% of accidents could have been avoided. It’s clear that poor lighting can cause dark spots, creating an environment that’s unsafe. One of our warehouse managers told me recently that since her facility upgraded to LED, she’s noticed her forklift drivers have more confidence when driving and can pick faster as they don’t need to slow to hit the guidewire.

Productivity is another area where new lighting can produce noticeable gains. That same warehouse manager said her pickers previously used flashlights to see inside boxes on shelves. In fact, MWPVL reports that 2% of picking errors occur because the employees can’t see barcodes. We’ve seen that adequate task lighting can improve productivity by 10% to 50%. Apply these percentages to your business metrics and you can see that it adds up quickly.

You mentioned perception – can you really quantify how lighting impacts perception?

Think about the last time you had a customer visit or showed your facility to a new recruit. To most people, light and bright translates to clean and safe. When our customers tour our facilities, it is critical that what they see equals their expectations of Graybar quality. Exceptional metrics just don’t seem realistic if they come from a business that is dark, dirty and minimal. At the same time, think about unemployment rates, labor shortages and attracting recruits. Look around and ask yourself where you would rather work! Being green really does bring big savings.

What are some of the challenges warehouse managers face when it comes to lighting?

While much has been written about LED and the many options on the market, warehouse managers might not know the best choices for their locations. When multiple facilities are involved, the process can seem daunting. Where do you start, especially when it comes to navigating utility rebate programs? Fortunately, Graybar has been in lighting practically from the beginning. We know the technologies, brands, utilities and we have a proven process that makes upgrading to LED lighting and controls simple. We’ve done it ourselves. Many warehouses are looking for areas to improve and ways to increase their bottom lines. Lighting is a great place to start.

Why are LED lights a better solution?

Besides the obvious points that we mentioned earlier such as energy savings and long life, LEDs simply produce better quality light. They are designed to direct and diffuse light so that you have better light coverage and fewer dark spots. They minimize contrast and glare, helping to reduce the chance for accidents and eye strain. And when you add controls, you only use the light when and where you need it. When you do need it, the lights turn on instantly. The icing on the cake is that they are environmentally friendly.