It was about a year ago that you realized the challenges in reading the manifests and inventory paperwork in the stocking aisles. Error rates had been increasing, and you’re sure it’s because your staff hasn’t been able to see what they’re doing.
The decision you made a year ago to pursue a capital investment in your lighting system feels like one of the best decisions you’ve made in some time. While the approval process took a lot of work, you are there —signatures in hand, ready to move forward.
Bids—Do they really save you money?
You now have capital assigned to your lighting project. Oftentimes the immediate response is to turn to procurement or a third party program management company to set up a bid for the work. But, that may not result in the success you had originally envisioned.
What you need and want is the greatest potential value from the dollars you are about to spend. The process of developing the specification requires that those involved fully understand the needs of the facility, and the potential value of each technology or solution choice available to you.
While your internal procurement department or an external program management company are typically quite adept at setting up and managing the process of procurement for specific items and services, it is less likely that the bid development process will be born out of a thorough evaluation of your lighting needs and options.
Simply put, they aren’t lighting experts. Without this experience it’s easy to overlook key opportunities to save—both on your initial investment and the downstream costs of the installed solution.
Also, a bid process, even when it is put together well, can take 60-90 days or more just to prepare. Then there is the bid process itself. During that time you’ve spent the savings you could have realized by moving ahead with a qualified, turnkey solution provider.
The savings, depending upon your location, can easily surpass the value realized through a bid process. And, a bid process typically removes the real value from the field of providers that you are talking to. The perceived need to drive down to the lowest available cost can rob your organization of real value that is available from true turnkey providers.
So, what have you gotten for all the hard work you put in to gaining capital approval? A devalued solution, installed by a low cost provider that is likely most interested in getting in and getting out without an eye to your long term interests.
You understand that your operation can benefit from the right lighting solution. Yet, from a lighting solutions standpoint, you don’t know what you don’t know—which could be a lot. This unknown and the absence of lighting expertise in the decision making process has the potential to undermine your ability to maximize the value of the capital dollars you fought so hard to get.
Spending the time to make yourself the new “lighting expert” is an option, but that takes time—which translates into lost energy savings—and your “day job” requires your attention.
Who can provide the greatest value from your investment?
Finding the right turnkey partner will be a key to your success. It is best to identify someone that has both the experience you need, and the flexibility to address your needs in all areas and all facilities. Local providers may provide a quick answer, but they often lack the staff and capacity needed to maximize the potential solution.
Some larger and more diverse firms are too large to focus on the unique needs of your facility, and you may receive quick, over-simplified or short-sighted answers in order to move forward.
What to look for:
True turnkey capabilities
Vendor neutral product and solution providers
Track record of a value added partnership approach
Experience that supports your needs
Lighting designers that are a part of a turnkey solution can produce a series of options that help you reduce initial costs, improve performance against goals and improve downstream value.
The synergy between the designed solution and incentive program value can further reduce initial costs.
Incentive programs like those available through the Efficiency Vermont RELIGHT program recognize the increased energy savings typically seen as a result of a robust design process. According to Efficiency Vermont, the RELIGHT program has yielded twice the savings seen through standard customer lighting conversions.
Will implementation steal valuable energy savings?
You’ve identified your vendor partner. Products have been selected, and it appears that things are ready to move ahead. Now the key is to get things done quickly and efficiently. If you have one site to convert, then staging and avoiding high volume operational activities will be critical. If you have multiple sites, additional work will be needed to maximize the scheduling and material movement for all locations. This can save valuable time and money through the process.
The vendor partner you select should be able to effectively manage all the moving parts to ensure that pre-inspections for utility rebates are performed as quickly as possible, product is landed when and where needed and installation crews arrive when the site is ready to go.
Finally, site coordination should be tight so as to ensure a smooth transition from space to space, and to accommodate operational changes that may require project schedule adjustments.
Timely completion of projects can add thousands of dollars to your bottom line, improving the payback that you’ve already had approved for your project. This will help you increase the project value and can help ensure success with future capital requests.
Project timelines, if mis-managed, can be costly and are impacted by several key actions and decisions before AND after your capital project has been approved. Working with a true turnkey provider to review and prepare for these in advance of your capital approval will ensure your project maximizes the potential of the hidden savings available to you and your organization.
John Loheit is director of marketing and rebate administration for Energy Management Collaborative. www.emcllc.com