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The need for lighting doesn’t change

DIALOG: Mr. Treffers, the Zhaga Consortium has the objective of defining and developing international specifications for LED lighting technology together with representatives from across the industry. How did you recognize that a major transition in technology is about to take place?

MT: The LED technology roadmaps show a steady improvement in energy efficiency of LED lighting (Lumens per Watt) and cost effectiveness of LED lighting (Lumens per dollar). These improvements can be reliably predicted far into the future. These steady improvements mean that at some point LED lighting takes over from conventional lighting. The switching point differs per application and can differ per country because government incentives can influence the switch-over point.

“The key challenge of a technological change is to manage costs and risks.”

DIALOG: According to your experience, what challenges does this technological change pose for the industry in terms of management and organization?

MT: The key challenge of a technological change is to manage costs and risks. It is not so difficult to develop a lighting product with an LED light source. The challenge is in making them reliable and in keeping the products up to date. LED components improve rapidly and the components used in the original design may no longer be available within 6 month of launching the product. That triggers constant redesign. The alternative, keeping high stock levels of LED components, can turn out even more problematic. LED lighting products therefore need higher R&D spending than lighting companies are used to, and a broad portfolio of LED lighting products can become a heavy burden. Warrantee and liabilities need also be carefully considered. Customers expect LED products to last forever. That is not necessarily true if the design of the product was not optimal, or if the product was not properly installed.

DIALOG: Looking at the entire supply chain of LED lights starting at the raw material suppliers, which interfaces will be affected by the current developments and how should the perfect supply chain be organised?

MT: The industry is experimenting with these interfaces and with the supply chain. I cannot claim to know how this will turn out.

DIALOG: Technology shifts have far-reaching consequences for consumers and manufacturers. How does innovative product development affect the industrialisation of products and the optimisation of production processes?

MT: The change of lighting technology does not have big consequences for consumers and professional users. The need for lighting doesn’t change. These users still need luminaires (fixtures) to get the light where it is needed. And the application knowledge needed to create good luminaires is at least as important as the technology that generates the light. The short term effect of a technology change is often overestimated! But LED technology will have a profound impact in providing lighting to people without access to lighting today. In combination with solar cells and batteries, LEDs make lighting more accessible.

DIALOG: More than 250 companies from the lighting industry are members of your consortium, among them several global players. In your opinion, what are the characteristics that set successful companies apart from the mainstream in ever-changing global markets?

MT: That is a very broad question. I would say that in times of rapid technological changes it helps when companies are able to learn fast by experimenting with new product designs while keeping R&D costs under control. Another important characteristic is that it should be easy to work with a company. That helps with establishing new partnerships and with learning from your business partners.

“It helps when companies are able to learn fast by experimenting with new product designs while keeping R&D costs under control.”

About Zhaga Zhaga
is an industry-wide cooperation between companies from across the globe aimed at enabling the interchangeability of LED light sources made by different manufacturers. Interchangeability is achieved by defining interfaces for a variety of application-specific light engines. Members of Zhaga are luminaire manufacturers, LED module makers, material and lighting component suppliers.