Look Up: There’s Money Hanging from Your Ceiling

The money you need for your short-term objectives may be available through an upgraded lighting system

The Green Supply Chain Awards are posted, and once again, you find yourself looking at the list wondering, “What do I have to do to get there?”

There are a lot of energy-savings options to consider. The type of facility you have, the condition of the facility, the operational needs, and the plans you have to stay or move on dictate many of the things you do.

Most options aren’t cheap, and in your operation, a quick payback is always a high priority.

Last week, you found yourself digging through the budget looking for scraps. Your management team is pressing you to install a new conveyor system because they want to push some additional business through the facility. The system you have is fine for the volume you are currently managing, but if you are going to increase inventory by another 25 percent, you’re going to need another line.

But where are you going to find the money?

Thinking Short Term, Thinking Long Term

Would it surprise you to know that the money you need for your short-term objectives may be available through an investment in an upgraded lighting system?

Stop shaking your head.

You read that right ... now look up.

There are lots of factors to consider. Depending on your location, your energy rates and the incentives available in your area for energy-efficient lighting conversions, you may have an opportunity to shift money currently slotted for energy costs, within your budget year, into the capital bucket to support the purchase of that new conveyor system.

Don’t tell the accounting team about it just yet.

This short-term approach certainly has its merits, but let’s look at things through a longer term lens.

If you just renewed that lease of yours for another five, 10, 15 or 20 years, then you have other things that can, and likely should, be taken into consideration when evaluating energy-efficient lighting systems.

For instance, how many times does that maintenance company of yours show up to replace lamps at your facility? I’m sure they’re wonderful people. But wouldn’t it be nice not to have them dragging their lifts around so often? And, wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the maintenance costs through a fully warranted and upgraded system?

The total cost of ownership (TCO) of your system options and the long-term impact on your budget should be a part of your evaluation.

Let’s look at this a couple of different ways and then discuss elements that can help you see that, when done right, a lighting conversion can pay big dividends to you and your operation.

Food for Thought

If you are still seeing a round, bell-shaped fixture when you look up, your options for energy savings are extensive. Your organization’s pocket book is practically burning as these fixtures can be pumping out 460 watts or more.

While it depends on your location, the combination of energy savings, local utility incentive values and recently revitalized EPAct tax deductions could result in your investment in a new energy-efficient T8 lighting system paying you back this year. This leaves enough money in your wallet to invest in that conveyor system.

On the other hand, if you have the more energy-efficient T8 fixtures installed and you have an extended lease, well, then you should probably be thinking long term.

The costs that you have in either system over the next five to 10 years are likely going to eclipse the total costs—even with the up-front investment in the newer LED high-bay solutions available to you.

So Many Options … What’s Next?

Time is not your friend. Energy budget dollars spent today cannot be recovered tomorrow. Taking action as soon as possible is in your best interest.

Which steps are most important? Opinions vary on this, but let’s take a shot at a short list here and examine each a bit further:

  1. Design for today and tomorrow.
  2. Leverage controls.
  3. Maximize incentive value.
  4. Get things moving and start saving money.

Design for Today and Tomorrow

The idea of identifying design needs and technical solutions that are affordable, meet the lighting needs of your facility and operational activities, and allow you to get the most out of your investment over the long term may seem lofty, but don’t sell the process short.

When working with qualified partners, the process of reviewing your site, analyzing needs and evaluating product options can provide you with opportunities you may never have considered.

While LED may be what everyone is talking about, it may not be the best alternative for all applications. While exterior lighting, wall packs and aisle lighting are perfect candidates for LED, offices can benefit the most from a simple re-lamp and re-ballast with more efficient components for now.

This approach may provide you with the lowest initial cost, lower long term costs and a baseline for a roadmap to even more energy savings opportunities downstream. A qualified partner can help you with a TCO model that reveals the best combination of technologies and solutions.

Leveraging Controls

Those dusty windows on your ceiling … yep, the ones that you considered painting over last year because they were in such rough shape … clean them off. They are a potential energy-savings enabler that you don’t want to overlook.

Fixture-mounted or area controls can really give your energy-efficient fixtures a swift kick in the energy-savings butt if you do a good job of planning and commissioning.

If you have skylights, you should consider photocell sensors. If you don’t, there probably isn’t a good reason to go without motion sensors in most, if not all, aisles and storage areas.

The number of people who inaccurately think their facility is just buzzing with activity 100 percent of the time in all areas can be surprising. Most often, when dataloggers are installed and data is gathered, we find large pockets of time that areas within these facilities are left dormant. Exterior lighting can also benefit from a controls review.

Controls should be a strong consideration as a part of your lighting solutions portfolio in order to realize the full potential for energy savings and bottom-line impact.

Maximize Incentive Value

Repeat after me: The utility programs are my friends.

I know that it doesn’t always seem that way, but backing away from the table simply because of process challenges unnecessarily increases your initial investment in a solution set.

Partners with the requisite experience can provide support for this process, and work effectively with all utility partners and programs to maximize this value.

Programs provide both prescriptive and custom elements. In some cases, you can creatively combine them to realize the best of both. Consider this during the product selection process to ensure compliant products and solutions are selected, and that those options provide the best incentive value available.

It’s a balancing act, but one that can be managed and maximized. The lower your initial cost, the less you have to recover through energy savings, the closer you are to that conveyor system.

Get Things Moving and Start Saving Money

You made the decision to move ahead, now make sure that the partner you have is prepared to deliver the project quickly and with a done-right-the-first-time approach. They should be in and out of your facility quickly while leaving only a perfect project behind.

Make sure that your partner has a plan, the experience that demonstrates success with that approach, and measurement processes in place to show you the progress being made. There can be so much waste produced along the project path. This robs you of energy-savings potential and the energy to even consider doing another project in your second facility across town.

Why go through all that work to gain budget approval, identify best-fit solutions and secure high-value incentives only to fall down near the finish line? Look for the installation phase of the process to be wrapped in clearly defined expectations and well-structured project communication plans to support your needs for both on-site and corporate communications.

And, when it’s done, make sure you have a nice project book that captures the details of the work done, the results of that work and the tools needed to manage warranty issues if necessary.

Time to Go

So, at the end of the day, if your goal is to see yourself on the cover of the Green Supply Chain Awards issue or to invest in that new conveyor system, I would say it’s time to go. Take a look up at that ceiling and then find a qualified partner to support you throughout the process. Do something to help your bottom line now before that 25 percent capacity increase occurs.


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