WAREHOUSE & MANUFACTURING
Fully lighting a warehouse at all times is one of the least-efficient ways of operating the facility – and the higher costs over time make it a financially poor decision in just about every single case. These five lighting solutions for energy efficient warehouse operations will improve your premises without impacting on workers’ ability to do their job.
Most warehouses have already begun the move towards sensibly zoning the facility by placing the most-picked items in close proximity to their final destination while infrequently-chosen items are allowed to languish in the rear.
This philosophy encourages zoned lighting, where low-hanging arrays can be installed to reduce the expense needed for lighting a given area.
Warehouses are understandably hesitant to implement manual controls for lighting aisles – the few seconds it takes to walk over and flick the switch can add up to a lot of lost picking time over the course of a year. However, automatic controls (such as occupancy sensors) have developed to the point where it’s now practical to use them in a warehouse setting. People within the warehouse can simply move right to their destination without worrying about the lighting – though it’s important for them to be able to see any hazards that may be in the way.
It’s not yet practical to have separate controls for an entire aisle of products, but as technology advances, this will be worth looking into – why light the whole aisle when an employee only needs to move halfway?
Warehouses don’t need to limit themselves to on/off switches. Dimming lights are also an option, particularly in any area that receives a significant amount of natural lighting. Sensors keyed to this can work in tandem with occupancy sensors to limit the lighting of the facility and ultimately create a truly efficient warehouse.
Dimming systems may also be worth using in areas well away from windows and doors if those areas still receive a lot of natural lighting. For example, windows that face the sun may offer enormous opportunities for natural lighting throughout the day, requiring only a minimum investment in lighting outside of the morning and evening hours.
The dropping prices of LED arrays are making them an increasingly practical choice for warehouses that rely on higher arrays for providing adequate illumination. This isn’t a minor consideration for any facility that’s looking at replacing its current arrays – though it’s also important to keep in mind that most of the savings from LEDs come over time, and they still tend to be more expensive when first purchased.
Over the next seven years, LEDs are expected to make up about half of the overall market for lamps, and further developments may speed this along.
LEDs are also more practical at lower levels, particularly for high-traffic areas where lights will need to be on almost constantly. The steady illumination and high efficiency are worth enough that many warehouses (and similar large, open areas) are at least seriously considering the change.
High bays are not the only lighting solution that many warehouses should focus on. In many cases, alternative options like waist-level lamps along walkways can provide adequate illumination without the cost or waste of a higher array. This is something that can only be determined on a case by case basis – warehouses have many different designs, and alternative solutions require creativity as much as anything else.
The keys to keep in mind are the available technologies and the actual cost of the solution. Revisiting the lighting design of the warehouse on a regular basis can help ensure that it’s always functioning in a sensible, affordable, and energy-efficient way.