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Late to the Party

Late to the Party

Manufacturers discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the slower rate of LED upgrades occurring in the industrial sector.


While LEDs have rapidly penetrated all general lighting applications over the past 5-10 years, current NEMA data, as well as industry forecasts (such as this analysis by Grand View Research), reveal that industrial lighting applications have been among the slowest to convert to the high-efficiency, long-life, and low-maintenance benefits of LED technology. So how are lighting manufacturers reconciling and addressing this challenge/opportunity?


Explaining the Impasse

Devon Jenkins, product line manager for Crouse-Hinds-series industrial lighting and V-Spring technology at Eaton, agreed that industrial applications have remained especially reliant on conventional lighting technologies over time. “The vast majority of industrial lighting fixtures use HID technology in the U.S. and fluorescent lighting internationally,” says Jenkins. “In more recent years, domestic industrial applications have predominantly used high-pressure sodium and metal halide lighting, which have been around for generations.”

Jenkins says that the unique conditions associated with industrial lighting applications have contributed to the slower rate of LED upgrade activity being undertaken there compared to other segments. “Unlike commercial fixtures that are typically installed in climate-controlled environments,” he explained, “industrial lighting has more rigorous requirements and UL safety approvals. Consequently, customers using industrial fixtures are often late adopters of new technology; while today’s LED technology has proven to reliably deliver on industrial requirements, those customers need to be confident in the technology’s long-term performance.”

According to Jenkins, “we’re seeing that customers are typically approaching these projects incrementally, and turning to LEDs to replace end-of-life HID fixtures rather than embarking on the holistic replacement of fixtures at a facility.”

Tony Gineris, vice president & general manager of industrial and life safety for Acuity Brands Lighting, agreed. “With conditions like power surges, power quality, elevated ambient temperatures, and higher line voltage requirements, industrial environments are more complicated areas than typical office spaces,” he says. “However, the improved efficacy and robustness of today’s LEDs and drivers, combined with their reduced price points and attractive ROIs, have opened up that segment of the market to good quality LED fixtures.”

Gineris notes that the unique conditions of the industrial segment have required changes in both Acuity’s product design and sales strategy. “Given the fact that industrial lighting requires more robust capability due to power quality and surge occurrences, it’s imperative that fixtures are both designed and built to adhere to these circumstances and our development teams are providing products that meet these specifications and standards,” he says. “In addition, as the higher temperatures and dusty/dirty environments typical of many industrial applications provide some challenges for LEDs, our strategy is to provide products that not only survive in these spaces, but perform over time. As part of that,” he adds, “we see a need to educate end users who are often unaware of the true ambient temperatures in which their fixtures are installed.”

At Eaton, too, sales strategies support the unique needs of industrial customers. “As part of understanding the challenges of specifying, installing, and maintaining electrical products and systems across applications, we have long-standing relationships with electrical distributors to provide electrical systems, including industrial lighting, and work with customers to identify the best and most appropriate technologies to deploy in their facilities,” Jenkins says.


Distributor Do’s and Don’ts

Following, our experts share some top tips for distributors when selling LEDs to industrial customers:

  • Know Your Customer – “Distributors with a deep understanding of their customers’ business are able to provide insights on the best technologies and are already working with industrials to address lighting projects,” Jenkins says. “Their long-term relationships with customers and understanding of their business challenges are providing positive results and accelerating LED adoption.”
  • Seek Out Opportunities – According to Gineris, “distributors should look for opportunities among their customer base to convert HID and fluorescent lighting, as the return on investment is now at a point where it offers considerable payback and the lost savings from delaying won’t be offset by future efficacy improvements.”\
  • Create Connections — Jenkins confirmed that there are great opportunities for today’s connected LED lighting technologies to provide industrial customers with dramatic reductions in maintenance and energy costs. “These attributes significantly improve ROI and help make the choice easier to upgrade to LED technology,” he says. “With built-in intelligence, sensing, and communications, connected LED lighting solutions are upwards of 80 percent more efficient and can last up to twice as long as traditional LED lighting fixtures.” Gineris wholeheartedly agrees, noting that “the addition of controls into the application will accelerate payback periods and maximize earning potential while saving the customer considerable money.”
  • Buyer Beware – “Don’t think that all LED fixtures are the same,” Gineris warns. “Uneducated customers can be fooled by artificial certifications and inferior products that won’t last in an industrial environment and will cost you more in the long run.” In addition, he shares, “don’t misapply fixtures simply because they’re LED — use the proper fixture for the environment.”
  • Scrutinize Specs – Gineris advises distributors to ensure that the fixture they recommend to their customer is surge-tested to industrial ANSI standards and has a temperature label on it that matches the specification sheet claims.
  • Go Global – “As many customers operate across regions, where multiple certifications and standards apply, the global harmonization of products is a growing and critical industry trend,” Jenkins says. As such, “globally-certified solutions are a differentiator that can help simplify an industrial customer’s global operations.”


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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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