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Land of Confusion

Land of Confusion

With so many new products and features, a plethora of manufacturers, the ongoing introduction of increasingly sophisticated, highly-connected technology that supports the IoT, and a lack of common standards, the world of LED technology is much like the hit 1986 Genesis song – a ‘land of confusion.’

Following, lightED asked several distributors what they and their customers find most confusing/challenging in the LED arena today and how they navigate these tricky waters.

“It’s a constant challenge to stay on top of the latest technology,” shared Mike Grossman, quotations specialist/inside sales at Dakota Supply Group in Fargo, North Dakota.  “We want to help the customer by being the expert, but when the product constantly changes it makes it very difficult to know all the details on what you’re presenting as solutions.”

Scott Germeraad, lighting & design sales manager at Springfield Electric Supply in Springfield, Illinois, agreed. “LEDs are constantly changing and more and more manufacturers regularly appear in the market.  Making sure to sell and lead with quality products versus a price-pointed item becomes challenging, and compatibility with dimmers is a constant issue as well.”

John Christensen, lighting & switchgear segment manager at Werner Electric Supply in Appleton, Wisconsin, echoed the sentiment. “Keeping up with the rapid changes in LED products can make it challenging to stay current on new offerings, keep the right product in stock, and keep our customers informed and educated,” he said.  “Additionally, emerging technologies in lighting control — from wired versus wireless control and power over ethernet (PoE) to full-building network solutions — can make it challenging to find the best solutions for various applications.”

Managing Matters for Customers

As for their customers, Grossman said that their contractors mostly worry about lighting control (e.g., dimming, occupancy sensors, etc.) and how different styles of fixtures work with the controls they have in mind or that DSG is presenting. When questions arise, “we typically handle them in-house,” Grossman said. “I work with another lighting quotation expert in our office and we’ll put our heads together and come up with the solution most of the time. In the beginning, we did get confused on certain issues related to dimming and meeting new codes, but we work with this information every day, all day, so we don’t run into a whole lot that stumps us now. We do reach out to manufacturers on specialty controls,” he said, “but most of the time those products are specified and the engineer works with the manufacturer to clear up any issues.”

Christensen said that their customers are similarly challenged by the changing product offerings and technologies and find it confusing to keep up with current trends. “Many of their questions require simplification of how to apply these products and technology to their specific application,” he said. “The questions can range from simple product inquiries to advanced support needed on a lighting control specification. Many times, with the technologies changing so rapidly, our customers aren’t aware of new solutions and concepts until they work with us on their projects.”

Regarding any particular questions he gets from customers over and over, Germeraad said that “it’s not so much about the questions, but rather the amount of re-educating that needs to be done. The sheer volume of information customers have access to is overwhelming, and not all of it is good,” he said. “We spend most of our time educating or re-educating customers on the basics of LEDs and what to look for when making their selection. Not all LEDs are made the same, so you can’t just compare lumens and Kelvin; it goes beyond that to specifics involving dimming compatibility, battery backup options, hours of use, etc. We’ve experienced many instances of helping customers with the replacement of all of the bulbs/fixtures they opted for instead of going with our original recommendation on the project. It costs them to do it twice.”

All of our experts confirmed that their manufacturers and lighting reps do a solid job of educating and training their distributor teams and hope that they keep up the great work. “The greatest opportunity is for manufacturers and their rep agencies to arm distributors with the knowledge to apply lighting controls to discretionary business,” Werner Electric’s Christensen confirmed. “Teaching the distributor how the technology works and how and where it can be best applied will equip us to be effective in providing the best solutions for our customers in the timeliest manner.”

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Susan Bloomis a 25-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry. Reach her at susan.bloom.chester@gmail.com.

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