Protecting and reinforcing the lighting supply chain

At the EDA Annual Awards Dinner 2020, Trevor Grote, MD of Bell Lighting, presented the audience with two challenges; how we survive when the supply chain is disrupted . . . and how we survive when on-line sales of unknown product are undermining the quality of the UK lighting service.
I think its worthwhile repeating here:

Trevor Grote, Managing Director of Bell Lighting Ltd

Dear EDA members and guests.

I am honoured to be speaking tonight within an organisation (EDA) that has now reached its 106th year; that is some achievement !  And I’m especially proud since my own business has also reached that special milestone and is 100 years old this May. Representing the 4th generation, my family has seen this organisation grow, change and flourish.   

So, what has changed in last 100 years?  

Technologies, Global production patterns and routes to market remained relatively unchanged for the first 80 years.  In the last 20 years, however – and in particular the last 5, we have seen unprecedented changes to our industry. Changes that represent significant challenges to us all.  

I am briefly just going to talk about two of these changes that are relevant and topical right now:  

  1. World global production
  2. E-commerce

The electrical components and finished electrical goods that flow through your doors every day are now predominantly manufactured in the Far East. If we take lighting as one of the mainstream sectors, last reports in 2018 estimated it was worth £2.5 Billion to the UK economy. £1 Billion of that was produced in the Far East.  These are conservative estimates, and if we take out street lighting and specialist sectors it’s more like 70%.  

The lighting supply chain

You have all read the news: Corona virus.  In China, recorded as of yesterday (5th March 2020): 80282 cases, 2981 deaths, 6416 serious or critical. A nation of 1.42 Billion, completely locked down for 2 weeks. Absolute control of free movement and closure of an entire nation’s production was forcibly carried out.  Think about that.

We really need to reflect on what this means to our industry and what reliance we have on the supply chain. Already, many common electronic component parts such as capacitors, resistors and SMT units have doubled in price in the last week.  Only by working and talking together can we face the challenges of these new world wide pandemics.                        

Now to e-commerce and the World Wide Web:

Everyone has talked about this ,I know, but it’s such a massive part of how we do business today, it can’t be ignored… it’s here to stay.      

I thought to myself; “ what are some of the daily challenges electrical wholesalers face by the worldwide web?” 
I typed into Google . . . ‘UK LED High Bays’ … 117,000 results. 
I thought I’d better be more specific and typed in . . . ‘150w LED High bays for sale’ … 1670 results – with more or less identical products ranging from £50 to £246.
Typing the same into EBay … 16493 results – with the best buy on EBay for a new product was . . . any guesses ?? . . .  £17.99 + free delivery!!!!  

Yes, we did test it, and Yes it was dangerous and non-compliant in nearly every category. 

If we can’t stop these products being sold on the open market, what do we do about it? Well, we need to embrace it, and use it to our advantage. The choices and options are so confusing and so broad that, inevitably, end-users and contractors will need a professional and knowledgeable supplier of electrical goods. This may be over the counter or on a good professional web site.

The key is to offer quality branded goods that are qualified and certified and approved by the sector associations.

  Then we need to shout about this from the rooftops, both on-line and in-store.  This is what we do well as an industry, we consolidate our supply chain to approved suppliers and educate.  We give our contractors good quality, branded, product and competitive prices.    

 Don’t forget this is a still a people’s industry. I had a contractor do some work on my house last week.  I asked him where he would go to get some good shower vents. The reply was “I’ll go and see Andy at X wholesaler he is a really good guy”.  The trade counter is not dying anytime soon.

So, yes, a lot has changed in our industry over these 100 years, I have highlighted just a couple. However, one main reason why businesses survive and adapt is because we communicate as an industry and that’s why events like this Awards Dinner and the EDA as an organisation are so important.

And that’s why it’s crucial that we continue to talk and ensure that TOGETHER we meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. 

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