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Illuminating the Back of the House: How Smart Lighting Improves Retail Ops

BY CSA STAFF

While much emphasis is placed on optimizing the front-of-the-house retail experience, improving back-of-the-house operations can also help retailers better meet customers’ evolving expectations – and intelligent lighting systems may be a key to improving those operations.

With the growing smart lighting industry, it’s easier than ever for retailers to gather information about their warehouses and back-of-the-house storerooms by simply updating a system that’s already in place. With an intelligent lighting system, retailers have the ability to gather and analyze data to make changes that will streamline processes and improve customer experience.

Here are three benefits of using intelligent lighting in the back of the house:

1. Insights into retail operations

Just as smart devices provide consumers with all kinds of information about the products they are considering, intelligent lighting systems provide retailers with a plethora of information about the products they are storing. The information is gathered via sensors installed in lighting fixtures, providing unprecedented visibility into the goings-on within a warehouse, and allowing facility managers access to nearly unlimited data and analytics, as well as the ability to streamline warehouse processes if necessary.

Given the ubiquity of lighting within a warehouse, there can be many sensors gathering data at once, allowing them to collect massive amounts of information. One application of sensor-based data is tracking occupancy, which allows sensors within intelligent lighting fixtures to collect data on movement of people and assets throughout a warehouse at a very granular level.

Additionally, with the help of sensors attached to specific assets within a warehouse, these systems can track where specific items – ladders, pallets of products, forklifts – are at any moment, known as “indoor positioning.”

With this data, systems can develop a heat map showing which parts of a warehouse are occupied (or unoccupied) and when, providing valuable insight into traffic patterns. This information equips retailers to make a range of data-based business decisions, from how to heat or cool a facility to how to light it, and even how to manage inventory. For example, by looking at the heat map, a facility manager may find that popular inventory is located farther than necessary from the warehouse’s loading dock or shipping station, causing employees to spend valuable time walking back and forth from the inventory to the shipping station. By shifting the location of this inventory closer to the front of the warehouse, retailers streamline the shipping process by cutting down on the time employees are in transit, and increase both employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

2. Streamlined business processes and improved employee productivity

With the ability to consider occupancy, time of day, and available daylight, networked lighting solutions also have the ability to create a better work environment for employees that offers fewer distractions, higher levels of comfort, and in some cases, personalized settings for each employee. The result is a more engaged, productive workforce.

One way this occurs is via the dimming settings offered by intelligent lighting systems, which allows lighting to only occur in occupied sections of a facility, and automatically dims that light depending on staff utilization, occupancy, or availability of natural light. This is particularly useful for third shift employees, as lights can be set to a level designed to help employees stay awake as they work through the night.

Additionally, HVAC systems integrated with connected lighting platforms allow for more comfortable facility temperatures, and depending on occupancy, time of day, or outdoor temperature, ensure a more pleasant working environment.

3. Contributions to the bottom line

In addition to the human-centric benefits offered by intelligent lighting systems, these systems contribute greatly to a facility’s bottom line, helping to save huge amounts of energy.

Aside from the obvious benefits, including reduced energy costs from more targeted use of HVAC and lighting, benefits like improving employee engagement and productivity make massive contributions to the bottom line by improving return on salaries and allowing more work to get done in a shorter period of time. These systems also allow for facility managers to have a single source of control for lighting-related settings, reducing manual efforts to get lighting settings just right, and providing managers with the ability to share information gathered by the systems across the organization.

This information sharing, coupled with the unprecedented visibility offered by these systems, allows for organizations to make smarter decisions when it comes to making upgrades within a warehouse. For example, by reviewing heat maps and traffic patterns within a facility while planning for a new pedestrian walkway through a busy warehouse floor well-traveled by larger machinery, managers are able to determine where the busiest areas of the warehouse are, and ensure that the walkway is located in a space where travelers will be safe and not disrupt workflow. The data gathered by these systems can also influence purchasing decisions by providing insight into potential bottlenecks within a warehouse that are slowing workflow. By shedding light on potential bottlenecks, managers who may have been considering purchasing a new piece of equipment to keep up with demand may see that they simply need to streamline traffic patterns or adjust routes to see an improvement, allowing them to save company funds while still improving performance.

While in the front of the house consumers may have the upper hand in terms of data informing their decisions, those managing the back of the house also have a wealth of data at their fingertips. With the data collected via intelligent lighting systems, managers are able to make informed decisions about their warehouses, improving customer experience, streamlining processes, and increasing employee productivity.


Kaynam Hedayat is VP of product marketing and management at Digital Lumens, a provider of intelligent LED lighting and sensor-based smart building applications.

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