As any facility manager knows, industrial facilities pose very unique lighting challenges. From lumber and metal production to the aerospace industry, the term “industrial” encompasses many different businesses. Industrial buildings are often extremely large spaces with high ceilings and narrow aisles. Areas of high heat need high-temperature lights. Hazardous, explosive areas require explosion-proof lights.

And, in addition to this, they also oftentimes have offices and outdoor spaces to light as well. Having the right lighting in these environments is of the utmost importance.

Not only does it allow employees to go about their daily tasks effectively and efficiently, but it’s also essential for maintaining a safe work environment.

That in itself is complicated enough. With so many needs to meet, it’s understandable that industrial lighting design is such a challenging endeavor. Be sure to check out our Industrial Energy Audit Checklist also.

But, that’s not the only thing required of industrial lighting. In many situations, the lighting also needs to be able to withstand harsh environmental conditions like high temperatures, high humidity, corrosive atmospheres, and dirty, dusty settings all while complying with applicable fire, safety, and material codes.

With so many requirements that need to be met, it only makes sense that taking on an industrial lighting project is a big and expensive task. For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose lighting that operates efficiently, lasts a long time, and is easily maintained. LED lighting checks all of these boxes, and more. But that’s just one aspect of choosing your facility’s lighting. So what about everything else? In the article that follows, we provide you with tips and tricks from the professionals in our Industrial Lighting Design Guide.

300 Watt High Bay Steel Factory

How Do I Know I’m Choosing the Right Lighting?

It’s pretty simple to know whether or not you’re choosing the right lighting. If it meets all your requirements and falls within your budget, then it’s the right lighting for your facility.

But every facility is different, so every business will need a different lighting setup. Below is a general list of things that your industrial lighting should accomplish. Chances are that if your lighting does all of them, you’ve made the right choice.

  • Creates a safe working environment.
  • Prevents workplace accidents and promotes safety.
  • Increases efficiency and productivity.
  • Complements your workplace.
  • Provides the perfect levels of illumination.

What Steps Can I Take to Promote Safety with Lighting?

We’ve already mentioned it several times, but just in case you missed it, your lighting should promote safety. In an industrial facility, you can expect to find workers in a variety of different, potentially dangerous situations.

From driving forklifts and operating heavy machinery to forging metals and performing precision tasks, there are many opportunities for hazards. Even the narrow aisles, often found in these facilities, can be dangerous.

These factors make it extremely important to take extra steps in order to ensure an even light distribution. And an even distribution doesn’t necessarily mean “the same”. In fact, your lighting should change from setting to setting.

By even, we mean no bright spots and no dimly lit corners. The best way to do this is with a free photometric lighting plan but we can provide some general examples of best practices.

Warehouse With Led Lights

Aisle spaces are properly illuminated with a narrow beam angle, while open areas require a wide beam angle. Improperly mounted fixtures will produce areas with too much light that will result in glare issues.

Too much light is irritating to the eyes and can be hazardous if your facility has a high-risk work environment, as many industrial settings are. Be conscious of providing a light that is sufficiently bright for the task at hand, but not so bright that it impedes vision.

LEDs vs the World

Installing LED lighting may seem like an unnecessary expense at first, but you’ll quickly come to realize that not only does it save you money in the long run, but there are also many benefits to using LED lighting over traditional bulbs.

If you want to read more specifically about how and why LEDs are the best choice, you can do so here, but we’ll provide a quick overview for you below as well.

LED lights use up to 75% less power than traditional bulbs, which means that the extra money you spend on the lights themselves and installation will quickly be made back in energy savings.

In some instances, this may be negligible, but in an industrial facility, where you likely have large-scale lighting setups, these savings are enormous.

In addition to saving energy, LEDs can also help you cut costs elsewhere. As far as traditional bulbs go, fluorescent lights have the longest shine time at about 10,000 hours. LEDs, on the other hand, have an average lifespan of about 50,000 hours.

This long lifespan coupled with a more durable bulb and fixture means that switching to LED lighting will also help you cut back on maintenance costs.

As we said, LED lighting is revolutionary, so these are just two of the many, many reasons why LED lights are superior. They also offer greater customization, emit little to no heat, and don’t require special disposal methods.

Outdoor Warehouse

Interior Bay Lighting: High vs Low Ceiling Heights

Even though both high bay and low bay fixtures were designed to illuminate large areas, they are actually quite different lights. High bay lights are designed to provide a bright shine from a high vantage point.

These are most often found in factories and warehouses with high ceilings but can be used in other settings as well. These lights work best when installed at 30 feet or higher. You’ll find both round and linear high bays, each with its own special application.

High Bay lights are typically fixed to the ceiling, or suspended using hooks. This simple mounting allows easy installation and the ability to customize your layout.

It’s especially helpful to use LEDs for high bays due to ceiling height and mounting setups, they can be difficult to change. However, with the long lifespan and virtually maintenance-free shine of LEDs, you’ll have to worry about this a lot less often.

LED High Bay Light
Canopy Low bay

Like high bays, low bay lighting is made to illuminate a large area. But unlike high bays, they are designed for much lower mounting heights.  A low bay is a large space with a ceiling height that generally falls between 10 and 20 feet in height. Typically, LED Lights used in low bay areas are in the 10,000 to 20000-lumen range. This is because they’re mounted closer to the ground than high bays and do not need a super-powerful LED Fixture to adequately illuminate the space. Low bays are available in similar styles, like round / UFO lights and linear fixtures, but they’re also available in surface-mount options. This is an added advantage for especially low ceilings where you likely would not want a low-hanging fixture. It also keeps lights out of the way of any potential hazards.

How Many Lumens Do I Need?

This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. Different facilities require different light levels, as do different occupations and industries. There are even different recommendations for lumens levels depending on where you are in the building.

And, with LED lighting, it’s especially important to consider CRI when you discuss lumens. CRI, or Color Rendering Index, is a measure of the quality of light. So, if one light has fewer lumens than another, but a higher CRI, it might actually seem brighter than the light with more lumens. This can make determining an exact number of lumens, very tricky.

Below, you’ll find recommendations from the IESNA Lighting Handbook, but a photometric lighting plan is really the only way to find out exactly how many lumens your facility needs.

You can also find more IESNA recommendations here: Lighting Application Guidelines for LEDs

Industrial Facility With Led

Manufacturing Plants

Finding the right lumen level for your manufacturing facility depends on what is being made inside the building. Here are standard recommendations for some common manufacturing operations:

  • Leather Production: Cleaning, cutting, stuffing, and stretching (20 fc to 30 fc); Finishing (50 fc to 75 fc).
  • Explosives Production: 20 fc to 30 fc for running generators, boiling tanks, and extractors.
  • Paper Production: Beating and grinding (20 fc to 30 fc); finishing (50 fc to 75 fc); inspections (100 fc to 150 fc).
  • Electrical Equipment Production: 50 fc to 75 fc for insulating and electromagnetic coil winding.
  • Hat Production: Dyeing, cleaning, refining (50 fc to 75 fc); Forming, finishing, ironing (100 fc to 150 fc); sewing (200 fc to 300 fc)
  • Glove Production: Knitting, sorting (100 fc to 200 fc); Pressing, sewing (200 fc to 300 fc)
  • Jewelry and Watch Production: 200 fc to 300 fc

Some other tasks may require better visibility. If necessary, portable lighting systems can be set up to allow this work in certain locations.

Woodworking & Processing

Woodworking buildings have unique lighting needs as well. These lighting levels are measured at a height of 3.3 feet.

Task Lighting Level (fc)
Bench/saw frame assembly 30
Turning, cutting, dressing 50
Polishing 100

Loading Docks and Welding Shops

Loading docks are an important area to light properly since workers need to be able to identify hazards and move goods safely in a high-traffic environment. Most loading docks require 10 fc of lighting, while areas with smaller items and labels can require up to 30 fc.

Welding areas are also important. This is a very detail-oriented trade, and safety is of the utmost concern.

Task Lighting Level (fc)
Worker orientation 20 – 30
General welding 30
Precision arc welding 500 – 750

Assembly Line Work

Work on an assembly line can be generally classified depending on how complex the task is. Here is a basic lighting levels guide for facilities with assembly work.

Type Lighting Level (fc)
Simple 20 – 30
Moderate 50 – 75
Difficult 100 – 150
Very Difficult 200 – 300
Extraction 500 – 750

Paint Booths

Good lighting is essential in professional paint spray booths so that technicians can mix paint, detail vehicles, and paint the correct area (failing to do this means that reworks are required, which can be the largest expense for a paint booth shop.

Requirements vary depending on what tasks are being completed in different rooms.

Task Lighting Level (fc)
Paint processing (Dipping, spraying, hand painting) 20 – 30
Fine hand painting, finishing 100 – 150
Paint mixing 100 – 200
Extra-fine hand painting, finishing 200

Some automotive paint inspection facilities require even higher lighting requirements (up to 10,000 lumens at 3.3 feet). However, these requirements are usually mandated by a certification process that is necessary to open a paint booth lighting or inspection facility.

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About the Author

Cory Peterson is Director of Sales & Marketing at LED Lighting Supply where he focuses on improving customer experience and revenue operations. Cory writes about commercial & industrial lighting, along with topics important to contractors and facility managers. In his free time, Cory enjoys traveling, snorkeling, exercise and cooking.

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