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Country Files: international perspectives on lighting

19 May 2017

Paul Davidson, Global Training and Project Services Manager, discusses how working effectively overseas means developing good local partnerships and recognising the importance of understanding international, national and local requirements. 

If as a lighting engineer, designer or manufacturer your primary marketplace is the UK, it stands to reason you might be unaware of the legislative and compliance regulations and associated requirements associated with entry into international markets.

Companies often assume the various international markets will have only slightly different regulations to those of the UK. It can therefore come as something of a surprise when first venturing overseas commercially to discover that lighting requirements can often differ significantly across the various continents.

Just using UK-based lighting techniques or practices and taking little or no account of the specific international, national or local requirements of the country into which the particular application is to be installed can result in significant issues with regard to the lighting specification and the fulfilment of the customer’s specific project brief.

Key challenges associated with venturing into new overseas markets include having access to up-to-date information and knowledge on local legislation, securing the appropriate approvals on product compliance to prevent unnecessary delays at customs, and local safety approval requirements. Understanding the local market dynamics is critical in terms of protecting your brand and customer relationships, not to mention preventing any potential delays and financial losses. If you’re not up to speed, competitors will be waiting locally and globally to step in and take your place.

However, no matter how difficult it becomes to obtain detailed and specific knowledge of new market lighting techniques and practices around the globe, these should be considered carefully and reviewed before any plans are put into place to enter a new target market, even if initial information suggests there are only minor differences. Legislation and compliance are subject to continuous change.

To expand internationally, the ideal business model would be to establish a global sales force that operates within all the target markets. For cost and logistical reasons, however, this is not always a viable option.

Another way for UK-based lighting companies or manufacturers to benefit from international business opportunities is to open global hubs and/or partnerships with locally established support businesses. This can ensure you are locally enabled, supported technically and that you can offer your clients greater, hands-on, local customer service.

Understanding Critical Regional Variations

When researching each market, it is important to recognise that requirements can and do differ significantly – it’s not a one-solution-fits-all scenario, far from it. There are critical dos and don’ts required to provide the best opportunity for new market entry survival, starting with carrying out research and obtaining detailed knowledge of global legislation through to understanding the varying applicable standards for the chosen target markets. After all, designs that don’t meet local technical standards are highly likely to be rejected. The following is, naturally, broad-brush, but it does outline some of the factors you may need to consider when venturing into a range of markets.

Europe

Obviously, our closest neighbour and the UK's biggest trade partner. The key here is that European legislation is often supplemented by nationally-based legislation and standards and so don't assume everything will necessarily be standardised.

USA

The US presents a huge market opportunity for lighting professionals. However, its lighting requirements differ greatly. One of the most apparent differences is that all dimensions still use the imperial feet and inches, making drawings in different scales to those used in Europe. It is worth being aware lighting levels are measured in 'Footcandles' rather than in Lux.

Australia

Within Australasia, lighting is metric and Lux is used as a measurement. However, there are many differences in the standards for illumination levels, and these tend to be at a lower level than the norm for the UK.

View our Australian case study

South Africa

As with Australasia, in South Africa lighting is all metric based. However, considerations of energy consumption are of critical importance on a continent that has limited generating capacity and a massively expanding market. It is worth being aware there is also no Fire Rated fitting requirement, thus changing the layouts for residential applications.

View our South African case study 

Asia

It is easy to assume most lighting comes from the Far East and that all lighting within this market is constructed and manufactured locally. However, this is not the case, as many retail-based companies have a global lighting footprint and, as such, lighting in the stores in the Far East will match those of other global areas and may be supplied out of Europe or the US.

The Middle East

The Middle East can represent an ideal first step into global lighting for some manufacturers, however be aware each country has different requirements. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, emergency lighting levels are significantly higher than those designes for the UK market. Lights are required to provide an initial luminance of no less than 1Fc or 10.8Lux at any point and no less than 0.1Fc or 1.1Lux at any point along the path of egress.

View our Middle Eastern case study

Product compliance is also of critical importance, as countries outside the EU will not accept a Declaration of Conformity signed by the manufacturer. Rather, a process of product testing to international standards needs to be implemented. This can be both a lengthy and costly process in order to achieve compliance. A global lighting manufacturer active on all five continents through a network of local hubs, supported by local representation, allows specific local needs and aspirations to be met.

To conclude, when considering the dos and don’ts of entering a new market, compliance, legislation and service must be a critical local necessity in supporting a wider reach to your global strategic targets. To underestimate the importance of technical, cultural and local dynamics, or market demands, the manufacturer must make this a top priority to ensure future growth. Ignoring these factors will immediately open your opportunity to competitors.