Good warehouse lighting is important for two main reasons: cost and safety. A third reason is the requirement to meet carbon emission targets not just for the operators themselves but to convince their main customers that their green credentials are in order.

Inefficient warehouse lighting costs operators millions of pounds every year. A report from the United Kingdom Warehouse Association, supported by the Carbon Trust, suggests that the UK warehousing sector could cut energy costs by at least £200m a year, and the implementation costs are far from prohibitive. Quick returns on no and low cost actions can often provide costs savings of up to 20%, with further savings of up to 50% per year through cost effective measures, delivering paybacks within less than three years.

Given that lighting can account for 50-60% of the electrical energy costs in warehouses why is it, then, that there is still so much disregard for this issue? It is a combination of reasons but there is evidence that busy warehouse managers, pressured to get goods in and out quickly, have little time to devote to issues which, relatively speaking, are out of sight and out of mind.

Site managers may be unaware of legislation governing visibility levels and the advances in lighting technology in recent years. Many organisations simply lack the skills to formulate and communicate a robust business case for action to reduce energy use. For example, the links do not exist between maintenance budgets and improvement budgets and energy efficiency is not explicitly considered as part of the procurement process.

Like it or not, however, warehouse management will have to address lighting issues more seriously because of Britain’s targets to meet carbon emission reductions by 2020. Emerging regulations, for example, will include the requirement from 2019 that all new buildings must be carbon neutral.
Further legislation, such as the CRC Energy Efficiency scheme, will require many businesses to trade carbon and appear in a published league table with their peers. Moreover, more distribution companies’ clients are requiring their supply chain partners to show improvements in their green credentials, in order to meet their own environmental targets.

Fortunately, there is help for hard pressed warehouse management. The Carbon Trust offers a range of support including site audits, guidance documents and interest free loans of up to £200,000 to support investment in energy efficient opportunities. Included in the help will be advice on how the latest advances in lighting can seriously cut costs and improve safety. The latter is crucially important because any neglect here can lead to heavy fines following serious accidents. The HSE often cites substandard lighting as a contributory factor in workplace accidents. Good lighting will overcome problems like age-related vision levels. A 60-year old forklift driver, for example, needs six times as much light to discern objects clearly as a 20-year old.

The thought of fines brings us to the third leg of the stool – environmental issues. The Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme places a tariff on the use of black energy, such as oil and gas. Although targeted at high energy users consuming more than 6,000 kWh of energy a year, it is likely that this ceiling will be cut and that transport will also be included. Participants in the scheme will be fined if they are deemed to be wasteful or submit late reports. The 3PLs, in particular, could lose big contracts including those from government agencies. Paying proper attention to warehouse lighting issues would prevent such losses.

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