I recently had the opportunity to interview Ross Barna, CEO, RAB Lighting, Inc., 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?
Barna: Field adjustable lighting luminaires enable installers and/or end users to control any number of parameters including but not limited to: the amount, color temperature or even distribution of light. The most common adjustable methods include switches or knobs with preset levels but can even be controlled wirelessly using a smart phone or proprietary control system. Some field-adjustable luminaires are designed to be set once during installation and others are able to be adjusted at any time.
DiLouie: How would you characterize demand for field-adjustable luminaires, and would you consider this category a trend?
Barna: Field adjustability is an emerging trend across most categories of lighting including indoor, outdoor and lamps. While still not in the majority of lighting products sold today, I would not be surprised to see field adjustable features in the majority of products within the next couple years.
DiLouie: How does the field adjustable mechanism work, who does it, and how can it be changed in the future after installation?
Barna: The mechanics of field-adjustable lighting can be accomplished in a number of ways but most often it is achieved by accessing switches that have pre-set values, such as color or output. The factory pre-sets these switches and installers can adjust them as needed. In the case of smart lighting adjustments can be made using an app.
DiLouie: What adjustability is most popular? Lumens/Wattage, CCT, light distribution, or some combination of these?
Barna: The earliest trends in adjustability were seen in light output. We are also now seeing strong demand for three-way adjustable products— output, color temperature and photocell.
DiLouie: What lighting products are covered in this category? Troffers, downlights…? Is it only indoor, or are there outdoor products with this apability as well?
Barna: We are seeing strong demand both in indoor and outdoor categories and emerging demand in lamps as well. We currently offer field adjustable downlights, wafers, troffers, panels, undercabinets, floodlights, wallpacks, area lights, A Lamps, PARs, BRs and more.
DiLouie: What are the benefits of field-adjustable luminaires for electrical distributors, contractors, and owners?
Barna: The biggest benefit of field-adjustability for electrical distributors is that in some cases, one SKU can do the work that many used to do, in some cases as many as 18 SKUs. When distributors can concentrate their inventory on fewer SKUs they are more likely to have what contracts need, in stock, today.
Contractors benefit from being able to satisfy end-users needs with less guessing and can dial in just the right result.
DiLouie: For the contractor and owner, what are typical and ideal applications? Is there a “killer app” for this product?
Barna: I don’t believe there’s a “killer app” here, it’s more of a “better mousetrap.” The end result is the same, it’s just easier to get the result the end-user desires.
DiLouie: Looking more closely regarding 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?
Barna: Distributors these days are facing a very challenging environment, where supply chains are unreliable and inflationary pressure is pushing costs up across the economy. Being able to invest in inventory that can hit many birds with one stone and is simply the best option to win in today’s market.
DiLouie: As typically these luminaires impose a cost premium, they have to justify additional value. Under what application situations would they not prove desirable?
Barna: RAB has taken all efforts to ensure that field-adjustable luminaires are very competitively priced relative to their predecessors. We do this by engineering cost out throughout the design to enable the addition of the components needed to enable field adjustability.
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?
Barna: In the next 3-5 years, I expect to see field adjustable products to become the majority of what is sold in the market across nearly all categories.
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about field adjustable luminaires, what would it be?
Barna: Now is the time for distributors to invest in field-adjustable inventory across all lighting categories. With continued high costs of freight and shortages of labor and materials, the sooner you stock up, the better! It’s a no-brainer.