I recently had the opportunity to interview Andrew Banovic, Product Director Commercial Indoor Lighting, Acuity Brands Lighting, for an article I’m writing for tED Magazine’s March 2022 issue. The topic: field-adjustable luminaires. Transcript follows.
DiLouie: How would you define a field-adjustable luminaire?
Banovic: Field-adjustable luminaires are essentially single SKUs which can be manufactured and shipped to a job site where they can replace multiple “static” configurations. Effectively, these luminaires can be fine tuned to match the exact requirements of the space.
DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for field-adjustable luminaires, and would you consider this category a trend?
Banovic: The demand for field-adjustable luminaires has absolutely increased in the past 12 months. In some of the product categories driven more from stock, we are seeing more demand for field-adjustable product than for their static predecessors.
DiLouie: How does the field adjustable mechanism work, who does it, and how can it be changed in the future after installation?
Banovic: There are multiple mechanisms used to adjust the lumens, color, or light output in luminaires. The most common is a set of mechanical switches, either designed into the luminaire’s driver or wired to the driver. These switches tell the driver to emit more or less power based on the desired light output and manage that power between multiple sets of LEDs. The division of power between LEDs of different color temperatures drive the overall luminaire CCT.
DiLouie: What adjustability is most popular? Lumens/Wattage, CCT, light distribution, or some combination of these?
Banovic: We have found that a combination of Light Output (Lumens/Wattage) and CCT are the most popular. These options allow a single luminaire to replace up to 9 static configurations. Those 9 configurations typically cover 90-95% of the configurations that could be needed for a given luminaire type.
DiLouie: What lighting products are covered in this category? Troffers, downlights, etc? Is it only indoor, or are there outdoor products with this capability as well?
Banovic: Lower wattage products like downlights and lay-ins (troffers and panel) were some of the first to adopt this technology because of the economics and cost/benefits of products that often ship from stock. Outdoor luminaries like wall packs and even industrial high bays have also started moving toward adjustable lumen products. Use in Outdoor and Industrial environments is typically about lumen reduction and SKU consolidation.
DiLouie: What are the benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for electrical distributors, contractors, and owners?
Banovic: There are some great benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for everyone in the value chain. Two of the largest investments in the distribution business are inventory and space to store that inventory. Field-adjustable luminaires allow for drastic working-capital reductions, as well as increasing the turns on the SKUs that are being stocked. This also can eliminate a great deal of returns as a good percentage of returns to a distributor are because of lumen output or color changes that are needed.
Contractors save time by using field-adjustable products. Some contractors have told us they have eliminated site audits for small/medium opportunities and simply ask the client how many downlights or lay-ins are needed. They know that with switchable products they can tune them to any lumen or color needs on site. They also spend less time going back to jobsites because of unhappy property owners. Electrical contractors can schedule their time more accurately because they know they will be able to complete a job in one trip – every time.
Owners get the ability to see what different light outputs and color temperatures look like in their space. Most people outside of lighting don’t know what 3500K or 5000K represent or what the difference even is. However, when they are shown in a space and asked if a setting is bright enough or too bright – and then adjustments are made on the spot – there is a higher likelihood they are happy with the end product. They are also more likely to get their project done on time because the products have a greater chance of being in stock and the contractor can complete the job on the first trip.
DiLouie: For the contractor and owner, what are typical and ideal applications? Is there a “killer app” for this product?
Banovic: We think almost any application can benefit from field-adjustable products. If designing a lighting system down to every lumen and foot candle, and ordering exactly what every square foot needs, then maybe the benefits are lower. But from what we have seen, most opportunities are not planned out to that level of detail. Think about applications with multiple ceiling heights on a single job. That is the perfect place for adjustable product. A perfect audit is not required by ordering X amount of 3000Lm, Y amount of 4000Lm, and Z amount of 5000Lm. Instead, order an adjustable lay-in and in one large lot. Also, it is more likely that the local distributor has that adjustable product in stock vs 3 different static lumen packages.
DiLouie: Looking more closely: what’s in it for distributors, what types and level of cost and inventory savings can be realized, and what additional value can they offer to customers?
Banovic: There is a great deal of supply chain math and statistics behind this, but most commonly if 3 sets of demand can be serviced with a single part it’s possible for a distributor to cut inventory in half without reducing service levels. If replacing 9 configurations, it can go even lower.
Here’s an example: A local distributor keeps 200 static fixtures on the shelf with a mix of multiple lumen packages and color temperatures. A customer comes in and needs 60 that day. Doesn’t care what lumen package or color temperature – but needs all 60 to match. Unfortunately, the distributor keeps 100 of those units in 3500k and the other half in 4000k. Also, the distributor keeps half of each color in high lumen and half in low lumen. So, despite having 200 fixtures in stock, the distributor has to say “no” to the order of 60 because the inventory does not match up. Now, instead, if that inventory was switchable, the distributor could immediately fulfill that 60-piece order.
DiLouie: As these luminaires typically impose a cost premium, they must justify additional value. Under what application situations would they not prove desirable?
Banovic: The main benefits of field-adjustable products are flexibility and availability. If working on a project where every luminaire is planned and specified down to the lumen, the flexibility benefit may not be needed, and the field adjustable features do not add value. Also, if planning a project well in advance, and there is enough time built in to wait for product to be manufactured and delivered, the added benefit of availability may not be valuable.
DiLouie: What do you see as the future of this category in 3-5 years? Do you believe it will grow to mainstream adoption, or do you see it growing to serve a specific market willing to pay for the additional flexibility?
Banovic: We see field-adjustable lighting playing an even larger role than it does today. The mechanisms that we use to adjust the light may be very different, but the advantages are not going away. Think about Multiple Volt or Universal Voltage drivers and ballasts. Once those caught on there was no going back. Now, almost all commercial applications use universal voltage equipment with the rare outliers only working for 120V or 277V.
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about field-adjustable luminaires, what would it be?
Banovic: Try them. If you haven’t stocked any yet, add a pallet to your warehouse. See how fast it flies off the shelf and see how fast you can get on and off job sites. You will never go back!