Single Sourcing – The Sensible Option

jon theisWhen it comes to specifying lighting solutions there’s far more choice than ever before in terms of the luminaires, lighting controls, emergency lighting systems and modular wiring that are available.

Jon Theis, director at TheisCraft, explains the importance of controlling the lit environment and why procuring lighting technology from a single source supplier can increase value, lower pricing, ensure consistent quality and reduce purchasing workload.

The lighting sector has been at the forefront of the drive to lower carbon emissions and, as it accounts for up to 20 per cent of a commercial building’s electricity use, the efficient control of this vital building service can also deliver appreciable energy reductions. In fact, the global intelligent lighting controls market is estimated to be worth $36bn by 2023, growing at 10.2 per cent from 2017, according to the Global Intelligent Lighting Controls Market report by BIS Research.

Command and control
When it comes to energy wastage, it only takes a drive around any town or commercial district to spot the main offenders – the offices and industrial units left with lights blazing, either due to an oversight by an employee, or as a ‘security measure’. Companies waste a huge amount of money on unnecessary lighting, something that is almost a criminal drain on resources.

In order to comply with existing and future energy reduction legislation, companies in all vertical sectors should be utilising lighting control technology to better manage when and where lighting is used. It allows light usage to be accurately monitored and managed and can make use of daylight harvesting, which uses daylight to offset the amount of electric lighting needed to properly light an area. Its use can also enhance comfort conditions, by controlling the colour and intensity of white light to reflect changes in daylight levels.

Lighting control is easier to configure than ever before and most systems utilise the digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) protocol, as set out set out in IEC 62386. Throughout the last decade it has cemented its position as the foremost standard in this field, with its ability to interoperate with a range of system components. A DALI lighting control system assigns an address to each luminaire, allowing management of each individual device, and can be as simple as a single luminaire containing a driver and a sensor.

The choice is yours
As with any other lighting solution, it is important not to make a selection based on price alone. While their prices can be attractive, cheap imported products and systems, particularly from China, often lack the design and build quality expected and use inferior components. When purchasing any type of lighting product, the old adage ‘if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is’ is well worth bearing in mind.

Buying from a reputable manufacturer is the best way to avoid problems but in the event that a product does fail, knowing that a replacement can be sourced, delivered and installed as quickly as possible offers valuable peace of mind. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong with a cheap imported product, the cost of sending it overseas from the UK is likely to be prohibitive. Conversely, a product that is manufactured and sold under warranty in the UK will lead to a swifter resolution if there’s a problem.

That’s not the end of the story though, as not all warranties are the same. For instance, a return to base warranty means that should a fault develop within the warranty period, the end user will have to send the product back to a service centre, where it will be analysed and repaired before being sent back. If it can’t be repaired, a new product will be delivered. The obvious issue here is that the entire process can take a matter of weeks to resolve.

Under the terms of an advance replacement warranty, the manufacturer immediately delivers a replacement product in the event of a problem. The defective unit is then sent to the manufacturer within a specified time frame, upon which it is tested and repaired if necessary. The upshot is that the time spent without a complete lighting system is vastly reduced.

Single life
The world we live in today is filled with choice and the lighting sector is no different. Amongst its many advantages, the internet provides a variety of options in addition to purchasing directly from manufacturers or going through the traditional distribution channel. We are generally conditioned to believe that choice is a good thing – yet there is a growing sense that too much choice leads to confusion and the possibility of making the wrong purchasing decision.

The need to make this process less of an ordeal was exemplified in late 2015 by Tesco, which decided to scrap 30,000 of the 90,000 products from its shelves. This was, in part, a reaction to the growing market shares of Aldi and Lidl, which only offer between 2,000 and 3,000 lines. For instance, Tesco used to offer 28 tomato ketchups while in Aldi there was just one size and while Tesco offered 224 kinds of air freshener, Aldi had only 12. This development has been repeated in a variety of sectors since, all of which have realised that customers are time constrained and increased choice can be a negative thing.

This principle of ‘less is more’ applies in the lighting sector too. For electrical contractors, contacting numerous lighting equipment suppliers, carrying out lots of product investigations, checking prices, chasing deliveries, receiving deliveries, raising multiple purchase orders, making separate payments and querying invoices can be hugely disruptive and time consuming.

One stop shop
No one likes to needlessly repeat the same task over and over again and while ensuring good value is important, as discussed earlier, this shouldn't be purely based on price. Placing high volumes of relatively low value transactions across multiple product categories spread across a wide mix of different suppliers can prove more expensive and time consuming than first thought. In fact, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) carried out research that found that regardless of the product, the administrative costs related to instigating, processing, recording and paying for a single purchase order amount to around £55.

The key is to spend time identifying a single company that can effectively fulfil as many lighting equipment needs as possible. Although this isn’t as easy as it sounds, it’s well worth asking a potential supplier about how it can help add value by, for example, explaining a problem that has been encountered before and asking how it would offer a solution. Furthermore, it is possible to ‘try before you buy’ and work with a company on an initial project to see how things go. Similarly, ask for a few quotes on a range of product types – that way competitiveness on prices across the board can be ascertained.

Some lighting equipment manufacturers have a diverse range of quality products that are designed and manufactured to offer seamless interoperability and excellent levels of reliability. Once located, a single source supplier can offer increase value, lower pricing due to consolidation of all requirements, ensure consistent quality and reduce purchasing workload.

Money matters
Purchasing from a single source supplier can significantly reduce prices through economies of scale and offer more influence, control and purchasing power through the negotiation price and fulfilment, and more profitable long-term contracts. It also enables an electrical contractor to enjoy the benefits of centralised management and expenditure, with the scope to see exactly where money is being spent.

Just as importantly, it drives compliance, makes it much easier to eliminate any rogue spending and, by paying one consolidated invoice, frees up time by eliminating the need to processing multiple payments. It pays to carry out due diligence on a chosen supplier though, as having a partner that is financially stable means it’s easier to manage and reduce risk. The consequences of badly managed risk can seriously affect a company’s bottom line, reputation and ability to meet deadlines.

It is also possible reduce waste – and therefore cost – on packaging and transport by batching products together. This can help increase margins and enhances environmental sustainability, something that is increasingly important for customers when selecting an electrical contractor. In terms of day-to-day operational benefits, just dealing with one dedicated account manager, who can provide a high level of service and ensure that orders are completed and delivered when required and sort out any issues, can prove invaluable.

Opportunity knocks
The growth in demand for lighting solutions puts electrical contractors in pole position to benefit from the specification and installation of this technology. However, the electrical contracting sector is notoriously price competitive and, with margins still tight, the temptation to purchase what appears to be a bargain should be resisted until all the facts about testing, lifetime expectation, standards compliance and the scope of any warranty are ascertained. Furthermore, identifying and partnering with a single trusted supplier, whose products can be relied on for quality and performance, and which offers an excellent support service, can address many of these issues.


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