Why LED Lighting Needs Custom Engineering + Agile Teams

By Tom Mahoney
Project Manager at Fairbanks Energy Services

Replacing old fluorescent, metal halide and incandescent fixtures with modern LED lighting and controls is, without question, a good choice for a facility upgrade. LED lighting isn’t a new technology anymore. From facility manager to CFO, your team understands the need for – and benefits of – energy efficient, LED lighting.

Lighting retrofits need to be custom engineered however, to fit the specifications of each project. Unlike residential LED lighting that often replaces an old incandescent bulb for a screw-in LED, commercial/industrial facilities need lighting to support the building’s purpose which can be upgraded with new LED fixtures, retrofit kits (or combination of both) and an updated lighting design.

Our biggest piece of advice for lighting retrofits? Don’t take on LED lighting upgrades without a professional and agile team. Here’s why.


The Right Light Levels for Manufacturing

The Fairbanks Energy team completed a large lighting project for a New England-based manufacturing facility. The processing/manufacturing plant was in an old office park space that had been converted. The facility had very specific needs for the type of product the company manufactured, including very high lighting levels on all manufacturing surface space.

Typical lighting level in a regular office space is 30-50 foot candles. This project needed almost 100 foot candles for staff to identify parts, so upgrading to these levels was a challenge in itself.


Read how this manufacturing facility saves $200K annually thanks to energy  project »


3 Challenges of Manufacturing Plant LED Lighting Upgrades

The manufacturing plant project had 3 key challenges that we see on other projects as well:

  1. 24/7 operation: The plant ran 24/7, so any upgrades had to be done around existing operations.

  2. High light levels required: Because of the light level specifications, we were unable to retrofit the fixtures 1-for-1. We had to redesign the entire space for the new LED fixtures.

  3. Old structure: The manufacturing facility was in an old building. The new design had to be installed in the ceiling with an extremely limited amount of space. In some parts, we had about 3 inches to work with.

The 24/7 run time, high light levels and structural space meant we needed the right types of fixtures to deliver the right output.

Fairbanks Energy is product-agnostic, so we aren’t bound to working with any one particular vendor. This practice means that products we select are exactly the right one for the space and project, just like in this case. That’s when agile and knowledgeable teams really matter.


LED Lighting Installation is a Team Effort

We worked with one of several trusted partners that represented multiple lines of products to specify and deliver the right lighting product. Partners like this also helped us work on the controls system by consulting and reviewing the final design.

Next up: the installation. Remember, this facility was running 24/7 and the lighting installation had to take place over valuable and delicate machinery, and very sensitive equipment. We reviewed our network of subcontractors and qualified electricians for the right support and expertise for this higher profile and complex lighting project. A team that worked together to solve challenges as needed was important for our work in this manufacturing facility.


Agile Teams Are Teams that Deliver

The project ended up needing 700+ fixtures installed. Because of the ceiling space we worked in to install the new LED lighting, we had to constantly adjust the project where needed to meet the customer’s specifications. With the right products and teams in place, we had the ability to be flexible with our design, overcome new challenges, adapt, adjust and deliver the results required by the manufacturing plant.

The Fairbanks Energy team is more than just our staff. It includes subcontractors, vendors, and other experts we choose to work with. Whenever you take on an LED lighting upgrade, don’t forget: it takes high quality people to deliver a high quality solution.

Post categories: LED Lighting, Energy Efficiency, Manufacturing, Project Management

Originally published on March 28, 2019 | Last updated on 07/08/2020

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