By Steve Barnette
1. American Innovation. Capitalism in the U.S. drives our country to be the most innovative economy and the global leader in emerging technologies. U.S. lighting manufacturers have to consider fit, form, installation, packaging, shipping, energy compliance, ADA concerns, production methodologies, liabilities, warranties, the environment, availability of components, cost competitiveness, marketing, sales, specification, etc. It requires innovation to balance all of these considerations in producing lighting products and bringing them to market.
2. Protection of Intellectual Property. Manufacturing lighting in the U.S. naturally promotes the protection of innovative ideas not only for the products, but all the innovations required to produce and deliver them. R&D in China is many times facetiously referred to as Research and Duplicate. Domestic American lighting manufacturers understand the U.S. lighting culture, the specific use of lighting products, the specification and construction process, the exacting product requirements needed, and so on. These factors make it more difficult for a Research and Duplicate strategy to be effective.
3. Language Barrier Elimination. Open and effective communication is the key to any successful business relationship and transaction. Technical communication can be difficult enough without a language barrier. Clear communication provides for better products and improves the sales and specification process, the installation process, customer service, and ongoing product support through the warranty period.
4. Assured Specification Performance. S.-manufactured lighting products are more likely to perform as specified. Samples of imported products have sometimes been labeled as the “Golden Sample,” only to have the final product be value-engineered to reduce costs. Domestic manufacturers understand the legal and civil liabilities associated with product liability and specified performance.
5. Better Lead Times. S.-made lighting products can usually be produced in the time that imported products would be in transit on the water — and that’s by pre-pandemic standards. Imported, standard off-the-shelf products that is stocked in the U.S. may eliminate a longer lead time in some cases, but they are subject to availability when a project commences
6. Product Customization.S. lighting manufacturers have the ability to offer changes in their standard offering, whether that be a different wattage, lumen output, CCT temperature, finish color, or mounting/installation options. Products sourced overseas would likely need larger minimum order quantities, longer lead times, plus the order would be subject to the risk of proper communication of the desired specifications
7. Customer Service and the “Collar Factor.” American lighting manufacturers and their representatives are there in the U.S. to provide answers and support if there is a problem. Since they are physically in the U.S., they could visit on site at a project or your office, and be available on a Zoom or conference call — in other words, if needed, you can grab them by the collar. Domestic lighting manufacturers don’t have an ocean between you and your project.
8. Environmental Compliance.S.-made products are manufactured under the strict environmental U.S. guidelines rather than that of third world countries. Through plant visits, literature, and open rep communication, any compliance issues or concerns can be verified
9. Human Resources. American manufacturers are regulated for safety, minimum wages, and overall working conditions. Therefore, specifiers can be assured that they are not supporting child labor, unsafe work conditions, and unfair wages
10. Local and National Economy. Specifying American-made lighting products supports the local regional economy as well as the overall U.S. economy. Dollars spent globally stay globally, while dollars spent in the U.S. stay in the U.S. and produce jobs which, in turn, drives the local and U.S. economy.
Especially in the pandemic-affected world we are doing business in, a major concern in specifying imported products is cost. Since the pandemic slowed production and increased demand, the supply chain has been – and remains – crippled. This has increased shipping costs and lead times by as much as five times — with no relief in sight. Simultaneously, in order to reduce SKUs, selectable power and CCT fixtures have become the standard for imported products. This increases overall cost by accommodating twice as many LEDs and increased driver costs with more components and sizing for the highest wattage. Due to these factors, we have seen a dramatic increase in costs on imported products. By using dedicated CCT and specifically matched driver components, domestic lighting manufacturers can narrow the price gap between American-made and imported products. With all the benefits of U.S.-made lighting products and a narrowing cost difference, specifying American-made lighting products makes sense.
The Bottom Line
Specifying U.S.-made lighting products reduces the overall risk factor through compliance and accountability, plus it supports the local and national economies sustaining the U.S. as the world economic leader.
About the Author
Steve Barnette has been in the lighting and power industry for 38 years. He is the owner of Luraline Lighting Products, Inc., which manufactures RLM shades, pendants, and cylinder products in Miami. He also owns America Light, Inc. located in Palm Beach County, Florida. America Light brands lighting products, assembles lighting fixtures, and manufactures lighting poles and brackets.