Lightfair International 2018 was, as always, a feast of innovation. Throughout the miles of aisles in Chicago’s McCormick Place there were new technologies in tunable lighting, controls, connectivity, sensors and health at every turn. While the new technologies are the sizzle, and there was plenty of sizzle, there was also widespread attention to the steak – the meat and potatoes, stock-and-flow lamps, luminaires and control products that address the core of the market served by the traditional trade channel.
Many lighting manufacturers, including both major established brands and relative newcomers, showed lighting systems developed with a focus on simplifying stocking requirements for electrical distributors and selection and installation for electrical contractors.
Recent advances in lighting and controls technologies, along with changes in building energy codes such as California’s Title 24, have placed a heavy burden on electrical contractors and created new stocking challenges for distributors. Contractors have to learn the various different systems that get specified and the nuances in the ways each one is installed, configured and commissioned, making it difficult for them to attain the kind of system mastery that leads to installation efficiencies. Distributors face the puzzle of determining which SKUs to stock as products move through accelerated life cycles from new to obsolete.
Lighting manufacturers have begun to address this by developing distinct product lines aimed at the stock-and-flow market. Cree, for example, was showing its C-Lite line of contractor-oriented luminaires that has 170 products and will be adding more, as well as a new line called One-Spec slated for introduction in 2019 with lighting that can be field-configured with different light outputs without opening the box. LEDvance/Sylvania was showing LED retrofit tubes that can either be used with an existing ballast or direct-wired and an LED high-intensity discharge (HID) replacement that can be configured for different color temperatures and light output using dip switches, replacing nine SKUs with one.
After seeing the lighting market embrace LEDs with every dazzling complication someone can think up over the past decade or so, it was refreshing to see lighting manufacturers adding strength in basic product categories with distributors and contractors in mind.