A Brighter Future

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-By John Boley

Two decades ago, we were all just learning that our lighting was wasteful. The incandescent bulbs that had served us well since they were made popular a century previous by Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison, among others, was being branded as consuming too much energy both in its manufacture and usage – not to mention the problem of disposal. Things have changed a lot since then.

One company that has kept tabs on the changes and been quick to adopt new technology in the last 20 years is Melbourne-based ANL Lighting. Director Eddy Awad told us the company started with fluorescent lamps and grew – to a point where it may be considered one of the country’s leading suppliers of lights, fittings and systems.

Twenty one years ago, Eddy and three business associates were looking for “a consumable product we could talk direct to people about.” They were coming from an office supplies background and knew their marketing, although Eddy admits they “knew nothing about lamps.” In 1990, in the depths of the recession, they began talking to store owners, showing them a new range of lamps that offered not only better illumination but improved colour rendition, so that it made their shops more attractive to passers-by and then showed off the products better when those people came inside.

Business grew fast and soon ANL had branches almost throughout the country, with a partner in Brisbane who “grew that area well for us too.” If the company is a leading light these days, it’s because, Eddy says, “we have been very proactive. There are two main areas in which we have taken a lead – first, it’s very important to get the right quality of products. Secondly, and also important, we’ve got the right calibre of staff to present the products and show the customer what they can do.”

Today, the company has around 50 sales staff working in four main sectors – direct to end users, including a lot of government and commercial businesses, the trade, which is largely concerned with light fittings (the “Bakelite” type of products, as Eddy describes them), distribution through wholesalers of the entire range, and contacts with architects and designers, marketing all the latest trends in lighting and fittings. “The combination of all four is how we penetrate the market. It is a lot of hard work and it needs to be done well. This is what makes the difference between what we do and what some others do.”

It’s not hard, says Eddy, to get into China, buy something and try to sell it back here. The only problem is that “you’ve got to make sure the product is Australian approved and that it fits in with all the MEPs, and that it fits in with any other technical information. Then you’ve got to take it into the market. It’s not always about price. Price is important but I think overall it has more to do with the performance and quality of the product and the service that you get from it. It’s more about value than just price.”

Bakelite? That’s a catchall term for power switches, power points; all those areas with a backing in the wall that usually remains unseen by the user. ANL supplies much of this equipment and switches and boxes form a substantial sector of the total business.

Fluorescent tubes, however, form the largest single part of the business. “We have a very close relationship with Hitachi; because their tubes are produced in Japan, they are high quality. In a lot of cases there is a real difference between their product and something that is produced in China or somewhere else – whether it’s [length of] life or getting more light out of the same lamp.”

Fluorescent remains a very good, low energy consumption lamp, says Eddy. “These days LEDs are starting to take over, but fluorescent still has quite a big market because it’s still a lamp that saves energy and gives the best possible light for the money.” It remains a popular lighting product because energy-wise it produces more lumen per watt. “If you look at your old incandescent lamp, it would give you, say, between 9-12 lumens per watt. A good quality fluorescent lamp will give you up to 97 lumens per watt.”

ANL runs its own brand, Vibe by Design, with a nearly 400-page catalogue of ideas and solutions for architects, designers, and lighting engineers sourced from all over the world. “These are very good quality products. It makes it so much easier for the architect or the designer because of the information we provide in the catalogue, such as the photometrics, so they can read quite clearly what a light is going to do for a specific area. The catalogue references our website so people can download IES files, which enables them to put specific fittings into a programme, and it will show them how much light they’ll get.”

For ANL, this is an area of the business that started only 18 months ago. “We are starting to make some ground, however; we would like to be ahead of the competition in probably three or four years, although we still have a little way to go. We never stand still.” Another service for architects or designers that are after a specific change to one of their fittings is ANL’s own production area, where custom fittings or installations can be specially built.

A well-known customer is the Crown Casino in Melbourne. “Recently we changed a lot of their lighting from using the old halogen lamps to the new LEDs.” ANL is looking at different types of product that they use and “how we can help them reduce the amount of power they consume yet still give them a product with the dynamics that they are looking for.”

One of the products adopted at the Crown Casino is the Microbrite, a cold cathode fluorescent lamp which is attracting a lot of attention these days and offers some distinct advantages. They are more expensive to buy, Eddy acknowledges, but offer good long-term savings. “We did the exercise with Crown; it took about nine months for the payback. That’s an exception because the Crown is using them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the majority of cases the payback may take two or three years, but whatever your outlay, you’ll get your money back and then the savings continue.”

The Microbrites fit into standard sockets and are dimmable. An eight-watt lamp can provide the equivalent of up to 45-50 watts generated by the old incandescents and are popular with many industries – including chicken farmers, says Eddy. “They need to be able to dim them, and these dim very well and work very well for that sort of area. Our clientele is also getting the benefit because they are reducing from a 60 watt lamp to an 8 watt lamp which is a big [energy] reduction.” Another plus for these products is their use in hotels. “They use them in bedside lamps and they almost look like an incandescent lamp.” LEDs are all very well and provide excellent illumination, but some guests tend to pocket them. “Unfortunately the hotels have people who like them so much that they take them home as part of their souvenirs, but with Microbrites, they look similar to a compact fluorescent or an incandescent so they leave them alone.”

For ANL, the future is bright. Eddy says the ambition for the next five years is to increase turnover from the current $20 million by half to $30 million. “It will require more staff, definitely. At the moment we employ 72 people. We’ll get more involved in the production area; we’ll get more involved in specialist areas. Every area counts in our company, from the warehouse guys to the sales team and our purchasing department and so forth. But we’re always looking at ways to improve what we carry at the moment and to make our range and our service even better for our clients.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:29 PM AEDT