“Custom” can sometimes feel out of reach. Custom suits, custom-designed cars, anything with a monogram – they cost more, they feel fancy. Is it really worth going custom? Most large commercial and industrial facilities are actually great candidates for a custom engineered LED lighting project. When it comes to energy efficiency, custom does not always mean “more expensive” – it can, in fact, save both time and money.
Manufacturing plants, in particular, are well suited to this approach. Older manufacturing facilities tend to be very inefficient. Energy audits can predict how much these facilities can improve, and through custom-designed energy projects, we can target each facility’s inefficiencies with precision. There are a few key benefits for manufacturing facilities unique to a custom lighting solution.
The four benefits of custom LED lighting in manufacturing facilities:
simple definition | Custom Energy Efficiency Engineering
The design and build process of projects or solutions created to decrease energy use in a specific building or space. Custom energy efficiency engineering is often conducted by a professional Energy Service Company.
Why custom engineering matters in manufacturing
Manufacturing plant design can differ greatly site to site, from square footage and layout to process and building age. I’ve worked with many manufacturing facility managers over the years, and I often ask them: “What’s your priority with lighting? What areas are giving you a hard time right now?” The answers I usually get are either, “Maintenance is tough,” “Light levels are crap” or some combination of both.
Oftentimes, lighting is installed in manufacturing facilities as a general lighting solution, before the space was utilized for the current process and machinery. Over time, a company might add a manufacturing line, but the existing fixtures are difficult to access, or the building doesn’t have the right lift or manufacturing downtime to change fixtures or modify what’s there.
Custom engineering considers the big picture of a building and project. These four benefits rely on this approach.
1. Increased flexibility
Just like the example above shows, flexibility is one of the most important elements of a custom efficiency project. A project designed for a specific manufacturer can shift the schedule, fixture type, project scope and more with speed and ease.
WernerCo, producer of jobsite safety equipment and known for their ladders, had a schedule where their teams worked 100% on for first shift, 75% during the second shift and at 50% team capacity for the third shift. We designed a lighting project where our engineers came onsite only during third shift to work in areas where first and second shift workers typically were. We would time our fixture installation when the third shift guys were on a rolling break and just move down the line, updating around WernerCo’s schedule. Through these adjustments, we were able to work around their timetable and avoid disruption to the production process.
2. Retrofitting fixtures vs replacing
The second benefit to custom lighting projects is retrofitting vs full fixture replacement, based on current conditions. We consider questions such as:
- What type of fixtures are there?
- How are they powered?
- How are they mounted?
Sometimes, retrofitting the existing fixture is less disruptive, making a full replacement unnecessary. A custom project takes these choices into consideration to deliver the best resulting product for each individual customer, building and space.
3. Adding and tuning controls
Adding and tuning controls makes a really big difference in custom LED lighting projects. The most common controls for manufacturers are occupancy sensors. These are typically used in areas that don’t have anybody working under them and with less volume of traffic, e.g. warehousing, storage, office space or over paint lines. Someone might not go down an aisle in a warehouse for two days, so we can program settings accordingly and the facility reaps huge energy savings.
We don’t always know how often a light triggers, so the customization process involves auditing a space carefully, talking with employees and programming certain lights to never shut off, such as those around surveillance cameras.
Typically, when setting occupancy sensors, we walk around with the site contact and ask them how they want fixtures grouped. Some areas are grouped with light levels at 90-100%; in others, we’ll lower some fixtures down to 50% output or less– another tactic that can result in high energy savings. These controls enable a lighting experience customized exactly to the client’s needs.
4. Effect on workspace
Finally, it’s difficult to capture the intrinsic, unmeasurable value of upgrading a facility. A custom lighting project that is installed with attention to schedules considers what’s in place and engages employees to determine things like ideal light levels for working. Therefore, these upgrades reflect the manufacturer’s commitment to the people working in a building day in, day out.
In terms of morale, the quality of production can be tied to lighting. Sometimes employees do a better job because they can actually see better. Lighting projects also send a message that the company is willing to improve working conditions.
Custom approach to manufacturing efficiency projects
These are all benefits of custom lighting design that can be modified to meet the needs of the people operating a manufacturing plant. These four techniques can save facilities money and energy, while maintaining the space’s overall environment – or even improving it.
Through a customized lighting approach, a manufacturer knows that their processes will not be impacted, but their operational costs will: by the increased energy savings month over month. The custom approach makes energy efficiency fit the space instead of having to adjust to the energy efficiency solutions, and it provides the ability to reap all potential energy savings through meeting the unique needs of each client and every facility.