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    Lighting for well-being in industry

    Can lighting ensure safety, comfort, and efficiency?

    Industrial and warehousing environments pose unique challenges for keeping workers safe, productive, and comfortable. Warehouses and manufacturing facilities are often cavernous and windowless, making them difficult to illuminate sufficiently and cost-effectively. Various types of machinery, forklifts and other heavy-duty vehicles, and hard-to-access storage areas contribute to employee risk. Facilities that operate 24/7 may find that the risks are even greater for third-shift and swing-shift workers, when there are typically fewer people on hand and therefore less immediate access to help if something goes wrong.

    Given these special circumstances, what kind of lighting do workers need to ensure safety, comfort, and the efficient completion of tasks? And how might smart lighting management approaches help to balance the needs of human users of these spaces with the business need to optimize energy savings and minimize costs?

    Lighting that can be optimized per task—or even per person

    In some industries, the absence of windows and skylights in facilities is entirely by design. Exposure to natural light conditions as they vary throughout the day has been shown to be great for human health. But variable illumination can wreak havoc with production processes that depend on specific and consistent lighting conditions. Not only that, but skylighting can cause both hot spots and cool spots that require increased HVAC activity to mitigate.
    Tunable, digitally controllable LED lighting may be the answer here. LED lighting is extremely energy-efficient compared with conventional lighting, and its long useful life radically reduces the need for lamp replacements, which often require the use of cherry-pickers or scissor lifts in large industrial spaces. 
    This saves the company energy and money—but it’s the tunability that delivers the biggest benefits for employees. Tunable LED lighting allows adjustment not only of brightness but also of color temperature, so that lighting can be optimized for specific tasks (an average of 30 fc for equipment observation, 100 fc for close inspection, 5000 K when color evaluation is key, and so on). And when tunable lighting is managed by a smart lighting system, with control down to the individual luminaire, you can go a step further and optimize lighting for the varying needs of individual workers.

    Lighting that can track environmental conditions

    As in many other applications, connected lighting can do better than LED lighting by collecting actionable data from the lit environment. Sensors in the lighting grid can track compliance with healthy environment guidelines set either by standards-making organizations, worker advocacy groups, or the businesses themselves. Typical environmental factors that sensors can track include sound levels, particle levels of various substances, temperature, and humidity.

    Connected lighting systems offer an extremely convenient and cost-effective way to distribute sensor networks throughout an industrial facility. Lighting is everywhere that people need to work and move within the building, it’s powered, it’s in an effective location for many sensing tasks (usually overhead) and when it’s connected, it’s also data-enabled. It therefore makes perfect sense to outfit the lighting grid with sensors and gather data from them through the connected lighting infrastructure.

    Lighting that can keep workers safe

    With management software running in the back end, businesses can use the data collected from the connected lighting system to help identify dangerous situations and send alerts. Integrating data from multiple services and facilities systems opens the door for greater transparency of conditions, remote monitoring and, most importantly, coordinated response when issues do occur.

    As the industrial Internet of Things transforms the way industrial workers do their jobs, a new industrial “safety culture” is emerging. But technologies and policies that support worker safety must keep pace with workplace transformation. As productivity expert Kayla Matthews writes in Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, “safety-related advantages could become less apparent if organizations don't update their safety plans to incorporate IIoT equipment.” This might include the use of a digital twin to run what-if scenarios, as well as integrating wearables into montoring systems to track the worker vitals in real-time. And of course proper training is a must-have.

    Connected lighting can also support indoor positioning systems that deliver location-based services such as forklift tracking or management of automically guided vehicles. Such applications both increase operational efficiency by reducing unplanned downtime and improve worker safety, helping businesses reach workplace safety goals and saving accident-related costs. Forklift tracking can be done with Bluetooth or RFID-based systems, but indoor positioning systems using visible light communications embedded in LED luminaires can deliver significantly higher levels of granularity and accuracy.

    Lighting that can support human health

    The discovery of non-visual photoreception and its profound impact on the Circadian rhythm that regulates the human sleep-wake cycle has revolutionized our understanding of the importance of the right lighting in indoor environments. Because we spend an average of 80 to 90 percent of our time indoors, most of the light we receive is from non-natural sources. This is especially the case in industrial facilities with no natural light.
    Spectrally tunable LED luminaires—luminaires with multiple channels of white and colored LEDs that can be digitally controlled to produce virtually any color of light—allow businesses to implement bio-adaptive lighting in workspaces to support human health and alertness. With the right software and digital controls, lighting systems can use research-based lighting “recipes” that change throughout the day (or night) to reduce worker fatigue, increase focus, and ensure a good night’s sleep between shifts.
    Studies run by organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicate that LED lighting can produce a demonstrable decrease in industrial accidents. Similar studies are now being run on the effectiveness of bio-adaptive lighting to make industrial and warehouse environments ever more safe.

    About the author

    Headshot of Ton van de Wiel
    Ton van de Wiel is the global segment lead for industrial end-users within Signify and co-founder of Interact. With over twenty years of business experience, he now works to shape tomorrow’s world of smart manufacturing and warehousing as enabled via connected lighting.

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