LED has been the most disruptive technology in the history of electric lighting. With the advancement of LED, the lighting industry has been turned upside down. The traditional to market model was manufacturer to manufacturer rep to distributor to contractor and/or end user. Historically there were a few dominant lighting manufacturers, now there are hundreds of thousands of players involved. Companies are claiming to be manufacturers when they are just importing direct from China and some of those same “manufacturers” are bypassing the distributors/contractors and going directly to the end user. Some distributors are bypassing traditional manufacturers and importing product themselves as well.
Is it all worth it to save a little money?
It depends on who you ask and when you ask them. Right now, we are still in the growth stage of LED lighting, so the times are good and many companies are riding that wave with no real plan for the future. If you ask them 3 years from now some of those companies will have a different answer. First of all there is a good chance they won’t be around to ask. If they are around, many of those companies will be doing all they can to survive.
So if you are a distributor, contractor, or end-user you need to ask yourself what “manufacturers” make sense to partner with for your best interest now and in the future.
Here’s a list of recommended steps to take and questions to ask when vetting a potential lighting manufacturer partner:
Step 1: Business Background
- How long have they been in business
- Where is their headquarters?
- How many employees do they have?
- What do their employees do (job title, etc..)?
- Do they manufacturer their own product?
- Where is the plant that does their manufacturing?
- Who owns the company?
- Is their website professional?
If you are satisfied with the replies you received on this, you should move on to step 2. If the answers to the business background don’t sit right with you, move on to a new manufacturer.
Step 2: Product
- Does it have the proper certification you need (UL, DLC, Energy Star, etc..)
- How many generations of a particular product have they had?
- Do all products have a spec sheet?
- Are there multiple lumen outputs?
- Are there multiple kelvin temperatures?
- Is it dimmable?
- Is it install friendly?
- Does it look right?
- Will the lighting it provides be acceptable to end-users (lumen output, glare, design, etc..)?
- Is it priced competitively?
If you feel good about Step 1 and 2, then move on to the final step. If not, move on.
Step 3: Service
- Lead time – is product made to order or readily available?
- Are there freight allowed levels?
- What is the ordering process (online availability)?
- Will replacements be readily available and easy to get for the warranty period?
- Do you have representation/customer service you can easily get a hold of? (China is on the opposite time schedule of the US)
There are other questions within each to ask, but this should be a good guideline to follow.
In conclusion, if you want to be in the lighting industry for the long run or if you are an end user deciding on what LED lighting to purchase, you need to make sure you are selecting the right manufacturer/partner. You want someone who is easy to work with, does what they claim to do, and will be by your side when you need them in the future.