The term ‘occupancy’ is a hot topic when talking about highbay LED lighting. The problem is that when you talk to an Operations Manager at a warehouse or manufacturing facility, ‘occupancy’ represents how busy the facility is. If you are running a 3PL warehouse, you like to see the racks filled to the rafters.  In fact, these facilities are designed so that 60% to 70% of the facility, at the very least, is used frequently.  So when Digital Lumens comes into the facility and tells the an Operations Manager that it is only 20% “occupied”, we often get stares of disbelief. That’s because ‘occupancy’ in our world means something entirely different. It means how long a light needs to be on.

And it turns out that most lights in most facilities don’t have to be on 100% of the time – creating a major energy-savings opportunity.  Typically, each light only needs to be on briefly – especially when you figure that the average warehouse has one employee for every 10,000 square feet.  It’s pretty difficult for a forklift operator to be everywhere every moment of the day, so why should you pay to light spaces where your operators aren’t?

And that’s where the many benefits of highbay LED lights come into play.  Unlike conventional lighting sources, LED lighting is immune to the life-cycle reduction problems that plague fluorescents, so they’re easily integrated with occupancy sensors that aggressively turn them on and off based upon local activity.  Intelligently and rapidly turning LED lights on and off saves huge amounts of energy and money – without compromising facility safety of performance or lighting lifetimes.  In fact, LED lifetime is measured in ‘on time’ <link to our earlier blog post on LED lifetime>, so every moment that the fixture is off is another moment of calendar lifetime for the LED. (Worth noting is that conventional lighting, such as fluorescent fixtures, can’t be turned on an off too frequently without greatly lowering the life of the fixture and tubes, as well as potentially violating the warranty.)

But back to occupancy.  What Digital Lumens and our network of resellers mean when we discuss occupancy in industrial LED lighting is what percentage of overall time any one highbay LED light will be on.  For many facilities, that number is 20%.

So, instead of continuing to use the same word for lighting that also pertains to inventory levels, we’ve started using the term ‘Total Lighting Time’ to refer to what percentage of time lights need to be on to support the general activity patterns in a facility.  Does this mean that a facility isn’t busy if we say that occupancy is 20%? No. Just the opposite.  The busier the facility is, the more rapidly the lights will cycle on and off as staff move through.  But because operators are moving quickly through an area, lights cycle on and off, meaning that the lights aren’t staying on any longer than needed. And, as described in ‘Black is the New Green’, the more you can lower the Total Lighting Time by turning off the light, the more money you can save.

In our next post, I’ll dig into how managing settings in the lighting system make all the difference.