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Evolution and Current Trends in the UK Light Fitting Industry

1. Introduction to the UK Light Fitting Industry

UK light fitting producers have increased import competition, and private sector clients demand the variety, low cost, quick delivery, flexibility, and high quality which benefit from worldwide sourcing, while developing luminaries with a mixed mechanical engineering and design content. Meanwhile, the global market for light fittings is being transformed by the emergence of high efficacy white light sources, and more intense guidance will help the lighting community make the technologies, designs, and installations of the future. To that end, following this introductory scene setting, the UK light fitting industry is surveyed.

Facilitating change in the built environment and underpinning many public and private sector activities, lighting is a significant component of electricity demand, fully justifying the attention devoted to its design, development, and use. Light fittings are used mainly in non-domestic settings such as industrial, retail, leisure, healthcare, street, and public lighting, but are also employed on a significant scale in residences. Predictably, possessing a relatively high ratio of trade to final value and being used in a variety of settings, light fittings are an industry of some economic consequence. However, this mature, energy-intensive, mechanical engineering industry is undergoing a major evolutionary transition.

2. Historical Development and Evolution of Light Fittings in the UK

The light fittings industries were concentrated in a few large-scale companies; although the range of their production was wide, they operated within a narrow specialization field, both because of the assisted equipment and because of storing and rendering technologies. Then the industries went over to multi-programming techniques and made use of robotics in order to reduce costs and increase flexibility, varying production without changing the lines. In the sectors of small and medium industries, competition is now being developed with the big concerns, at first through subcontracting. The small and medium concerns were given such impetus as allowed them to build plants in which, unlike before, productive equipment commands the processes. Since the first generally widespread electric lighting systems were developed, the concept of the relationships between man and the environment was examined in a distorted way.

In the United Kingdom and Europe, light fittings emit tubes, bulbs, and fluorescent and discharge lighting equipment, etc. "Luminaires" is the European word and includes the housing for lamps, the lamp itself, ballasts, refractors, lenses, etc., and the support mechanisms for installation. Lamp and ballasts are the words used in this chapter when referring to light fittings' elements. Man has always been attracted to light and shadow. The lights of the major cities and towns today are part of the human adaptation to being exposed to light only under the sun or under the moon or to being kept in the dark. Lighting as a constructed environment is still evolving, following trends of use, style, architecture, and psychology tied to cultures as well as technology and economy.

3. Technological Innovations and Trends in Light Fitting Design

What is expected to happen in the arena of the characteristics of light fittings is a considerable development of the concept of intelligence incorporated into the design. It is a fact that the intelligence, apart from being "invisible" in the final design, makes it possible for the lighting designer to control the environment in a dynamic way, using a number of parameters such as light intensity, colour, direction, or day space coordinates. Commercial and office light fittings already solve some of these issues. All the latest innovations are present in these fittings, such as electronic ballast units (minimum operating temperature and total harmonic distortion of power line current as a result of differences between voltage and current phase), automatic start or security shut-down in case of lamp warm-up failure, reduced electromagnetic emissions, operating frequency of device that eliminates the effect of stroboscopic effect in end users due to the operation with the frequency greater than perceptible limit of human eye.

The light fitting market is strongly driven by other areas of design such as architectural, interior, industrial, and lighting design. Therefore, it is difficult to set some industry trends since different perspectives in these areas are preserved. However, it is possible to say what the perception criteria would be that would set the trend in the next period in the field of light fitting design. Taking into account the design features of the latest lighting systems, there is a definite tendency towards the miniaturisation of fittings currently seen in areas such as specialist downlighters, display units, electronic transformers, or even remote gear systems. On the other hand, there are light fittings that have the aim of integration with demand management systems, such as central battery and/or UPS systems or advanced systems.

4. Market Analysis and Key Players in the UK Light Fitting Industry

Throughout the 90s, the UK manufacturers' share of the market for general lighting fittings showed a gradual decline. In 1989, the UK manufacturers' share reached 67% of the £920 million market. The market's value increased to £1,200 million in the next year, but then began to contract gradually. In 1993, the UK light fittings market was estimated to be £855 million. After that, market values were estimated rather than calculated. Throughout the early 1990s, material costs accounted for less than 50% of the fittings production costs. Similarly, labor costs were around 20% of the production cost. The remaining 30% of the production cost accounted for other factors like sales and distribution expenses, loss and management, and administration expenses. The dominance of construction expenditure in the tools market is explained by the fact that the fittings were primarily used in non-domestic applications, mainly for offices and schools. In 1995, UK manufacturers had combined sales of £200 million for lighting equipment according to their direct sales. This represents a minor increase from the £190 million obtained in 1993. It appears that the lighting fittings industry's financial performance in 1995 showed no strong improvement, with many companies showing a reduction in activity. The lighting market is complex and covers a wide range of products, including a variety of luminaries, lampshades, parts, and chandeliers manufactured with diverse materials and styles. In addition, there seems to be a sizable import market which was not taken into account. There is also the issue of the large number of manufacturers ranging from importers and assemblers at the low end of the market to brand name leaders like Thorn and Philips in a £200 million fittings market. In fact, the restructuring process of the past five years has seen most of the large contract orders of the industry changing hands. Only a minority of customers such as Marks and Spencer, B & Q House, Norwich Union, and the government departments offer long-term orders that will keep the more substantial players profitable. In view of these facts, the issue of supplier dominance becomes more real when examined carefully. Reasoning like this in mind, one might easily refute the article mentioned in the last paragraph which claimed only 15% of the market was captured by the two larger players in the lighting industry.

According to the Lighting Industry Federation, the size of the UK light fitting industry was approximately 200 million, compared to an estimated 160 million for the light bulb and 50 million for the lighting control gear (ballasts and ignitors for discharge lamps). This figure is also corroborated by an independent study performed on behalf of an international light source company. Investigating the size of the fittings market in the UK, however, is not a straightforward operation owing to the nature of the industry. The fittings market is not a direct market like the market for lamps, ballasts, or lighting controls. In reality, the switch from one lighting product to another is driven by other activities such as refurbishment, renovations, new constructions, light pollution, exports, delamping, light shelf, etc. These activities are not easily quantifiable.

5. Sustainability and Environmental Considerations in Light Fitting Manufacturing

LED technology is causing a significant change in light-fitting design and manufacturing. LED fittings contain LEDs and their support electronics and optics in place of incandescent, halogen, or compact fluorescent lamps. Moving some of the energy expenditure and struggle to comply with the lamps or the luminaries themselves provides a double benefit to human life and the environment. The use of LEDs strives to be compliant with photometric requirements, to improve light fittings' performance, reduce the environmental impact, and also reduce energy use. LEDs offer advancement in direction, thermal management, heat generation, shocks and vibration, and electronic design. Developed LEDs are fine by nature, and their smaller heat translates into smaller thermal issues with other materials.

Sustainability is now a major consideration in light fitting design and manufacturing. The manufacture of light fittings has long been based on the use of steel, aluminum, brass, copper, and their alloys based on their physical, mechanical, and aesthetic properties. These materials are energy dense and are energy-hungry when processed from their respective raw materials to final product form. High-impact processes, such as casting, forging, die-casting, extrusion, and deep drawing, are typical of light fitting production. Other manufacturing processes include finishing, e.g., coating, power coating, chemical or electroplating, anodizing, and painting. Lamps and extensive use of electronic gear and control equipment are employed to integrate lighting with other services.