New Lighting System Gives Order Pickers a Clear View

Oct. 1, 2006
New Warehouse lighting system cuts energy and maintenance costs.

When Sea Gull Lighting Products L.L.C. built a new warehouse in Burlington, N.J. twice the size of its old facility, it managed to keep energy bills about the same. It did not need to turn off any lights to reduce-energy costs. Instead, it installed a new, modern, more efficient lighting system from Westinghouse Lighting-Solutions (Philadelphia).

Sea Gull Lighting is a family-owned company that was founded in Philadelphia, after the First World War. Today, it has a plant in Riverside, N.J. and maintains operations in Philadelphia, Houston, and Las Vegas, along with showrooms in Riverside and Dallas.

It sells residential and industrial lighting fixtures nationwide to lighting distributors and retailers like Lowe's and DYI Warehouses. The company runs an active warehouse—it carries more than 3,500 SKUs and ships about 14,000 cases a day. Imports are a large part of its business. It handles seven to eight overseas container loads every day. Product also comes in daily from domestic suppliers and its own manufacturing facility. Eighty employees work two shifts a day to handle the volume.

The new lighting system saves Sea Gull $80,000 annually by decreasing energy consumption and increasing light. Its old warehouse had less-efficient metal halide light fixtures lighting its aisles. The new system uses about 2,400 fewer lamps than competing systems.

Bright Lights
The new lighting system really sets the new facility apart from its former 189,000 sq.-ft. leased space. The new 503,000 sq.-ft. warehouse has aisles of high racks. It is important to have an adequate lighting system so order pickers can read the labels on the items they are selecting. Doug Fauver, Sea Gull's inventory manager, says a number of lighting designs were considered for the new facility. The first two designs were inefficient systems that fell short of the company's expectations. The first design included 600, 400-watt metal halide fixtures. The redesign used 660, 6-T8 fluorescent lamps per fixture. In both cases, the foot-candle goal was 10. In the world of lighting, a foot-candle is a measurement of illumination where one unit is equal to the light of a candle at a distance of one foot.

"We were on the verge of installing 660 six-lamp T8 fixtures," Fauver recalls, when he gave Westinghouse Lighting Solutions an opportunity to design a lighting systems for warehouses. It turned out to be the best solution.

Westinghouse engineered and installed 510, 2-lamp, 54-watt, T5 highoutput (HO) narrow-beam fixtures and 77, 3-lamp, 54-watt, T5HO medium beam fixtures for Sea Gull. The fixtures' beam control eliminated unnecessary light over the racks and focused it precisely where it was needed most in each aisle. At a mounting height of 33 ft., the lighting system produced a foot-candle average of 14. Westinghouse says its T5HO lamps can last longer than three years during normal use and the ballasts, which regulates the current to the lamps and provides sufficient voltage to start them, are guaranteed for five years.

Narrow-beam lighting, or aisle lighting, provides a narrow-focused rectangular beam that gives uniform vertical illumination in tall, stacked pallet aisles. Medium-beam lighting produces a balance of diffused and focused lighting, which is well suited for medium or low-racks and open-aisles. In contrast, metal halide lighting only reaches the tops of racks and produces shadows in the aisles below.

Fauver expects that over 10 years, the new lighting system could save Sea Gull $260,000 in energy and an additional $100,000 in maintenance costs by making 7,500 less lamp changes than if it chose to install one the first T8 lighting designs it had considered. "This was a wise investment," he adds.

These figures don't take into account the savings the company will realize through more accurate picking. The system provides improved light distribution and color rendition while reducing glare and provides a consistent lighting level throughout the building, and the system's lamps don't have to be changed as often. "We were able to light every aisle verses the general area lights generally seen with metal halide lights. Our lighting level in the aisles is where it needs to be so employees can read the product labels and information," Fauver says.

Warehouse Basics
The new Burlington, N.J. facility stays true to the company's philosophy of providing its employees with the tools they need to do their jobs. As a result, not much of its old equipment was brought to the new facility. The new warehouse, with its 45-ft. ceiling, has new, snap-together 27-ft-high racks from Interlake Material Handling (Naperville, Ill., to hold and store product. The company actually holds a fair amount of inventory as a hedge to cover the long lead times required by overseas shipments.

It also owns a 40-plus vehicle fleet of Crown (New Bremen. Ohio) electric lift trucks that include stock pickers, pallet jacks and double deep reach trucks. It has a charging room to power the trucks and a service agreement with Crown to maintain the fleet.

Warehouse Boss warehouse management software from Infor ( Chicago) directs slotting, putaway, order picking and batch processing. It is also integrated into the company's accounting software. Everything in the facility is RF controlled. Order pickers, for example, use Intermec Technologies Corp. (Everett, Wash.) handheld RF devices.

The warehouse is equipped with an extensive Dematic (Grand Rapids, Mich.) conveyor sortation system. Picked product is put on the conveyor and travels to a circular loop where it is diverted into separate orders. Ten lanes come off of the conveyor system. In the shipping area, orders are staged for customers and trucking lines. It does some pre-staging and handles full-pallet picks that do not go through the conveyor system.

Trucks are bulk loaded at any one of its 35 dock doors in shipping; it has 25 receiving dock doors. The company uses common carriers like FedEx and UPS, and various trucking companies to ship orders.

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