As solid-state lighting (SSL) continues to penetrate the overall general lighting market, it's generating significant new market opportunities for both traditional lighting companies, as well as technology companies that may be new to lighting.
Continued, rapid technology advancements are facilitating greater performance for more value, which in turn creates a more compelling ROI payback model. That said, this accelerated pace of technological change can create significant challenges for manufacturers, namely by creating a perpetual design environment of chasing the latest and greatest product introductions, and deferring getting to money with optimal market timing.
While there are a myriad of challenges companies may face in transitioning to SSL, I'd like to highlight four mission critical ones that likely will mean the difference between success and failure — and why partnering with a full service SSL solutions provider may significantly assist in navigating or avoiding potential pitfalls.
It all starts with the concept phase. While LEDs often get top billing and focus, a typical SSL solution has to address power, thermal, optical, and interconnect concerns as well. It's critically important during concept to have broad access to the world's leading SSL technologies. These early decisions will have significant impact on project definition, pricing, timeline, and ultimately provide the basis for a successful product marketing launch.
Once the concept phase is completed, the focus quickly shifts to the design engineering phase. The challenges here are almost endless. Many traditional lighting companies that are making early transition into SSL face significant new challenges, namely, selecting and designing electronic circuits and associated thermal and optical management concerns. Does the design need to meet industry standards/certifications such as DLC (DesignLights Consortium) or EnergyStar?
Can a modular design approach “future-proof” or serve as a technology platform for new product introductions? Are there existing reference designs that can facilitate faster time to market? The complexities are plenty, and while some companies have the benefit of internal resources and expertise to navigate these, many do not. In this case, partnering with a trusted advisor that can assist in meeting any/all design challenges is a must.
Once the design gets locked down, the focus shifts to the production and manufacturing of the electronic guts of the system. While putting LEDs on boards won't get confused with rocket science, there are intricacies that can derail success. For example, there are certain manufacturing chemical compounds that can adversely affect LED quality. Finding a partner that has specific experience manufacturing SSL solutions is another strong recommendation to insure a quality product gets delivered on time.
Last, but certainly not least, there is often the need for global supply chain and logistics. This is a business that has historically existed with minimal lead-time. Fixture and lamp were typically married at the time of order, and orders were largely fulfilled with minimal lead-time, if any. These dynamics change significantly with SSL and require infrastructure and core competency with regard to supply chain and logistics.
Electronic manufacturing and final assembly are often completed in different geographies, and the ability to seamlessly manage these requirements is critical to the end product being at the right place, at the right time.
As with most highly competitive, large market potential industries, windows of opportunity open and close quickly. There is a premium on execution. Many of the firms trying to successfully leverage this opportunity find themselves in unchartered waters as it relates to many of the above challenges. Recognizing where internal, core competencies exist, and which ones need to be externally leveraged, can have a meaningful impact on getting to profit.