Brighter prospects: How one company implemented a new, smarter lighting solution

In this installment of What Works, an evolution in business focus spurs an evolution in lighting – and yields big savings.

Altamahaw, NC, has been home since 1880 to Glen Raven Inc. Now a global business, Glen Raven was built as a manufacturing company, but the facility in Altamahaw shifted its focus to logistics in 2007 in response to changes in the industrial marketplace.

“(The manufacturing) phase of the business had been obsoleted, so to speak,” says Mike Harrington, project manager at Glen Raven. “We repurposed the building for our logistics operation.”

But Glen Raven discovered that effectively repurposing a space required more than just moving out old equipment and moving in new structures. “It became evident that the lighting had been laid out for manufacturing and centered around equipment and equipment layouts that were no longer there in the floor space,” Harrington says.
What that meant was that the space was ineffectively and inefficiently lit, with lights focusing on the center of the facility floor where large machinery once sat. Reimagined as a warehouse, the facility needed better distribution of light. Moreover, Glen Raven personnel increasingly encountered maintenance issues with the existing 400W metal halide HID fixtures, and it became more and more difficult to source replacement bulbs.

Rather than continuing to stick with the status quo, Glen Raven leadership decided to seek out a new, smarter lighting solution – one that would meet the facility’s changed lighting needs and offer more control over which lights came on and stayed on when. “We were spending a lot of money on virtually wasted energy for lighting when there wasn’t any activity in the warehouse,” said Dan Cox, president of Glen Raven Logistics. “We really needed a lighting system that was smart enough to know when to come on fully when needed and either dim down or turn off when there wasn’t activity in the warehouse,” Cox stated last year.

That added efficiency wouldn’t just be beneficial to Glen Raven’s bottom line, company leaders knew; it also would be in keeping with the company’s sustainability commitment. The company is landfill-free in all of its U.S. facilities.

“Glen Raven has prided themselves on, when we do make those (sourcing) decisions, to make good green decisions,” Harrington says.

After conducting market surveys and researching energy incentives the company could seize for switching to more-efficient lighting, Glen Raven opted to implement LED smart lighting from Cree for the facility, specifically, CXB Series High Bay fixtures and, for lower-ceiling areas, CPY250 canopy lighting.

The motion-sensing high-bay LED fixtures’ zero-restrike time means that lights turn on quickly when any movement in the warehouse is detected; they turn off four minutes after sensing no movement. In addition, dimming controls on the canopy lights in lower-ceiling areas allow the lights to drop to 20% of ordinary energy use when some light – but not the maximum – is needed.

With its changed lighting demands and the use of more-efficient lights, the Glen Raven facility was able to reduce its overall number of lighting fixtures from 274 to 122. The net result: 89% reduced energy use for lighting – a reduction of 442,000 kWh.

The new lights had an estimated return-on-investment time of 1.9 years, but Harrington expects that payback will be faster. Cree worked with Glen Raven, Harrington notes, to provide the necessary documentation for Glen Raven to be able to obtain the energy incentives offered by the company’s local power provider, Duke Energy. “They helped us plow through all of that to help us maximize some of the incentives we could get,” he says.

Team members have responded positively to the change, Harrington indicates. “Our operators, the guys working in the warehouse, appreciate it,” he says. “They can get light when they need it.”

Less than a year after installation of the new lights was completed, it’s apparent that the lighting has “cleared the hurdle” in terms of payback, Harrington says. “Everybody’s a great Monday-morning quarterback,” he says. “In hindsight, I think you’d say we wish we’d done it sooner. We left a lot of money on the table for several years.”

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