Light Middle East, Messe Franfrut and Scientechnic recently conducted the first edition of Thinklight, a series of webinars which is a build up to Light & Intelligent Building, Middle East scheduled for early next year.
The webinar discussed “The impact of COVID-19 on the Lighting Industry” where Samer Moukalled, Vice President, Scientechnic Lighting Solutions joined a notable panel of industry experts - Sakina Dugawalla as moderator, Founder & Lighting Designer – Light.Func, Paul Bedard, Managing Director - Filix Lighting, Adel Saweres, Senior Sales Director - Lutron Electronics, Regina Santos, Associate Head of Specialist Lighting Design - Godwin Austen Johnson and Patricia López Yánez, Architect & Lighting Designer discussing the regional effects of COVID-19 in the lighting industry, new approaches, challenges and the digital change anticipated in the future. Some of the insights gained from the webinar are listed below:
Initial impact of COVID-19 on business and coping mechanisms
The immediate changes brought about by the pandemic were working from home and resorting to means that would ease communication between team members and colleagues. These proved to be a blessing in disguise saving time and cutting short lengthy processes experienced otherwise. Manufacturers actively engaged in online demos and presentations which proved to be more efficient. Overall, project timelines did not change nor did business undergo the expected slowdown or stoppage in productivity. Rather an increase in the intensity of work has been experienced. Logistics like import and manpower were identified as areas of concern, wherein the primarily affected were Middle Eastern manufacturers since most their raw materials are imported from Italy, Spain and Germany.
Impact on quality and accessibility in design
Focus on quality and accessibility in design, continued to be priority amongst manufacturers and global suppliers. However, Lighting Designers faced the difficulty of prolonged virtual discussions with clients, where earlier a brief workshop and product demo would have sufficed. Even inspecting working samples have been a challenge, but the pandemic has drawn attention to the relationships of trust with manufacturers and the joint acknowledgement of the importance of quality. There has also been an increase in the demand for products and services of the highest quality, the need to be more resourceful and find better alternatives and sustainable solutions that would apply even after COVID-19. With key manufacturers based in Italy and Spain, Lighting Solutions providers experienced delay in cash flow, along with an uncertainty in payments and an increase in freight and shipping charges.
Low budgets and pricing issues – the new norms?
The Lighting Industry had already been facing pricing issues even before COVID-19 struck. However with the pandemic, budgets have taken a bigger hit. Lighting Designers have been experiencing unfit budgets that are insufficient to manage projects on a more regular basis. This has been predicted to be very damaging to the industry, but a viable solution offered is to overcome the economic struggle by delivering designs that can be balanced with budgets. On the other hand, designers found the need to provide clients with practical solutions and design to a purpose. Designing wisely could help reduce costs, rather than having to bargain with quality. Even manufacturers experienced an imbalance in design and pricing. Their recommendations have been a more budget appropriate solution, with no reason for discounts or bargains on quality. The onus however lies on designers who often tend to pitch for tech-savvy solutions, but compromise heavily on quality.
Lighting Solutions providers affirm that not all projects are run on low
budgets. There still are a handful that continue to maintain high standards. The Lighting Industry should educate clients on the best possible alternatives not compromising on quality. This depends on the rapport maintained with clients. However, these unprecedented times have impacted the morale of staff and the sales force due to irregularities in face-to-face meetings and the formidable sense of uncertainty caused by job losses and pay cuts.
Pros and cons witnessed during the pandemic
COVID-19 saw an increased dependency on technology as the primary means to communicate and stay connected with team members and colleagues. The shift permitted time to learn and adopt new skills and identify opportunities and ways to better tackle issues.
Manufacturers witnessed companies and business turn to environmental solutions that offer low CO2 emissions and smart lighting, which has grown to be an essential demand for every buyer. A tremendous increase in demand for touchless controls has been noted as well. Since people have been spending more hours in the comfort of their homes, the need for improved home automation solutions and optimised daylight controls have shot up.
Even Lighting Designers confirm an inflation in the demand for daylight and circadian rhythms. But they lay emphasis on the need for expert designers to be consulted to provide the best customised solution owing to factors like cultural differences and individual choices. Nonetheless, the downside with residential lighting has been the inaccessibility to specialised and optimal lighting solutions. This has always been preceded by a store bought LED or CFL.
The impact of COVID-19 on lighting technologies
Manufacturers experienced a spike in the demand for UVC lighting technology. Even Lighting Designers and Architects saw an increase in redesigning projects that focused on Human Centric Lighting for home and home-office environments. The challenge however, has been to push boundaries and be prepared with solutions that apply to the urban norms of social distancing. Lighting Solution providers also confirmed notable changes in lighting technologies. Integrated lighting systems have been high on demand and would need to be addressed in relation with spatial capacities. Moreover, the industry would need to be ready for any change in supply and finance and further equip itself for any possible pandemic scenarios in the future.
Ecosystem effect: Role for LiFi
In the Lighting Industry there has been the need to educate people on the pros and cons of hi-tech lighting solutions. Although these have been trending, the Lighting Design community still have noticed a favourability towards value engineering; and warned that this would harm the industry. New ways to smartly introduce companies to technologies have to be generated, while maintaining international standards. However, this needs to be approached practically, rather than bombarding the end user with numerous scene proposals that could be confusing and add to costs. Manufacturers did not entirely agree with this point, and instead emphasized on the need for environmental design, so that the consumer has a complete idea of the design, execution, and its effects. Nonetheless, the essentiality of having intelligent systems that provide accurate data was universally expressed as a requisite.
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