Delivering Warehouse Energy Savings

 OP NON DURABLE 01By Anthony Corrie

In America, non-refrigerated warehouses use an average of 6.1 kilowatt hours of electricity every year. Lighting and heating account for the vast majority of this – around three quarters of total use – making them obvious areas to target when it comes to energy savings.

Although the profitability of distribution centers will always depend hugely on efficient inventory management and order fulfillment capabilities, keeping the bottom line down is a vital ingredient to success. As supermarkets and convenience stores seek to minimize overstocking in their stores, the distribution sector has been revitalized. While this presents many advantages for leading businesses, it also poses many challenges.

Depots have very specific requirements for lighting compared with the average storage center; many have complex and varied layouts with tall machinery, plant equipment and high shelving areas. Lighting is often required 24 hours a day, exacerbating the problem for distribution center managers.

Safety is a major consideration as to how such a center is lit. Employees need to be working in well-lit areas that are free from flicker, so they can operate sophisticated picking and sorting methods. When deliveries are taking place, loading bays need to be brightly lit to reduce the chance of accidents. Yet other areas, where stock is stored, need not be fully illuminated unless the area is in use. 

All of this adds up to a considerable challenge for any distribution center manager tasked with reducing energy consumption, optimizing on-site lighting and keeping buildings safe. In industrial facilities, however, innovative technologies have come to the forefront and are already helping transform depots into the smart buildings of tomorrow.

Making a Change

Changing from outdated metal halides to energy-efficient LED luminaires is one way of ensuring significant savings from the moment the first switch is flicked. And with the purchase price of an LED luminaire set just below a conventional metal halide solution there is no reason not to adapt to the new technology. 

Offering greater levels of efficiency, longer lifespans and greater controllability, LED options are revolutionizing industrial lighting in the United States. The reduced energy output of LED bulbs has the potential to slash electricity bills in warehouses by as much as 75 percent, while issues such as flicker are all but eliminated. However, combining LED luminaires with the latest control technology offers even greater benefits. 

Taking Control

The new generation of wireless lighting control systems now offer a relatively simple retrofit option for wholesale facility managers looking to gain greater control of their buildings.

Using cloud-based wireless technology, lighting can be configured, controlled and monitored from one dashboard, or graphic user interface (GUI) all through a laptop, a tablet or even a smartphone. By the very nature of being wirelessly enabled, innovative systems allow for a simple and smooth installation and commissioning process – significantly reducing unnecessary stoppages in plant operations and ultimately saving customers money. 

Not only can users gain access to an abundance of real time data on energy consumption, carbon emissions and savings achieved, but they can also begin to implement further control strategies to enhance energy reductions.

Through an intuitive mapping system, wireless lighting controls identify any hotspots where a significant amount of energy is being used, enabling managers to implement control strategies as necessary. In addition, they can identify potential lamp failures at an early stage, which in turn reduces maintenance costs. 

Such solutions offer flexibility and control of single or even multiple sites, enabling lights to be dimmed, switched to full brightness or turned off altogether, depending on the use of different areas. Therefore, loading bays can be fully optimized during deliveries then luminaires dimmed when no shipments are due in or out. 

These changes can be scheduled in advance for certain times of the day, while the use of motion sensors can pinpoint unoccupied areas, allowing the lights to be dimmed accordingly. These sensors can even be used to light a path for an employee walking through an unoccupied area, switching off again afterwards. In areas that benefit from natural light, the output of the LED luminaires can be reduced to 50 per cent, helping drive further energy savings. 

For wholesale distribution center managers, wireless lighting control systems represent a significant step towards providing total facility automation. Previously unattainable for many facilities managers, such goals are now becoming a reality for many distribution facilities.

Anthony Corrie is president of worldwide sales at Harvard Technology.



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