Arup launches Luminaire Broker, and a new way of working

This is how lighting specification usually works.

A designer has a very good idea of what’s wanted for a specific application in a project. What happens next? The designer will have some knowledge of the marketplace, based on past experience or recent manufacturer engagement. No one can know what they don’t know, so that list is, inevitably, a very restricted one. The designer may approach two or three – maybe five or six – manufacturers, but the chances are that project time demands mean that only one or two companies are approached. Job done.

Well, not really. There’s this thing called due diligence that a client should expect of the consultants who are charging for their expert knowledge. And when a client wants to know whether they are getting value for money, one of their questions will be “how do I know that your specification offers me value for money.”  And it’s this information gap that is one of the reasons that allows Value Engineering in through the door. But, unless we can find a way to talk to every manufacturer who has a likely luminaire, how can we answer that question?

Here’s a way.

Arup is a multi-disciplinary practice with lighting design teams spread around the world. It does a lot of work and talks to a lot of manufacturers. But their specification process has been just the same as everyone else’s. A huge amount of specification data goes through the practice – the question was asked, how can designers demonstrate due diligence; how can designers become more aware of the products on offer; how can we engage with the market in a more open and transparent way; how can we make specification more efficient; how can we gather data and make that data work much harder for us?

As that conversation developed it became clear that change was necessary in order to answer these questions, and it’s at this point that Luminaire Broker was born and started to take shape.

 A new way for manufacturers.

Manufacturers also have their traditions; and, in the main, they still rely on the sales force knocking on literal or metaphorical doors. But what if an avenue could be opened whereby these companies are automatically approached by the designer? . . .  a situation whereby the manufacturer inbox pings whenever an Arup designer is looking for a product that just might be satisfied from that manufacturer’s offering?

Without thinking about the minutiae of how this might be organised on a day-to-day basis, who suffers from this new way of looking at how that specification might work?

The designer: issues a generic description of a product via the Luminaire Broker  application and receives detailed information about actual product, including fixtures that they may not even be aware exists, from manufacturers registered on Luminaire Broker.

The client: has the confidence to see that their appointed designers are testing the marketplace with a degree of robustness that has never been available before.

The manufacturer: is provided with a level of access to the designer’s desk that is very rare these days. Yes, they will have to maintain a tight financial control over their prices because they will constantly be in competition with others, but they will be guaranteed a shout at every project cooing out of the design house.

The project: and – let’s be clear on this – if the market is being tested for price, then it’s also being tested for quality. Luminaire Broker will act as a gatekeeper for product quality, driving the quality agenda and a common understanding of expectations between designer and manufacturer. Manufacturers will have to display their product quality, and that will require full testing procedures in order to have access to the Luminaire Broker platform. With client backing, the excesses of the value engineering can be significantly reduced, and we can hope to see the end of inappropriate product procurement.

Everyone benefits.

Luminaire Broker will be launched for all of the Arup design offices in the UK during Q1 of 2020. After a pause to take breath and see how it’s getting on, the intention is to extend it to the lighting teams in the USA, followed by Europe and then, finally East Asia and Australasia. This will include 150+ lighting designers in total, as well as 900+ electrical engineers who are also specifying lighting.

And Arup’s ambitions?

Once Luminaire Broker is working and everyone is comfortable with progress,  the ambition is to invite any lighting design studio to make use of the service. And at the moment, extraordinarily, there is no intention to charge for access; neither the manufacturer who stands to win specification, nor the designers potentially saving enormous amounts of studio time, will be charged for Luminaire Broker. The ambition is to disrupt and transform how lighting is specified and to drive quality for the benefit of the whole industry – which includes everyone within it: designers, suppliers, clients and collaborators.

Watch this space.

There’s an awful lot more to write about this initiative. And, at the moment, it may appear wholly altruistic, but there is a hard edge to what’s being proposed here. This is a serious attempt to protect project quality by controlling product quality; the more designers who get involved – and the more Manufacturers of Quality who get involved, the better chance the endeavour has to succeed.

I think The Light Review will be back in a couple of months to see how things are coming along.

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