Quick ship programs: Products, benefits, and future

April 17, 2024
With increased access to fast turnarounds across consumer markets, the lighting industry has developed quick ship programs to deliver some of the most popular luminaire and controls offerings. JANA MADSEN reports on the strategies and trends.

Door Dash, Amazon Prime, and online grocery shopping have made it possible to get whatever we want fast. Having grown accustomed to this as consumers, professionals now have similar expectations. “The Amazon effect is absolutely real,” commented Ryan Rodau, director of specification marketing at Cooper Lighting Solutions (Aurora, Colo.). Lighting manufacturers’ quick shipping programs are moving products out the door faster to meet these demands.

Points of differentiation

The time between an order and when it ships varies. Tivoli Lighting had the most aggressive commitment of all the companies we spoke to. “At the moment that the order is clean and approved, within seven days, it’s out the door,” said Stephen Ledesma, marketing manager for Tivoli Lighting (Irvine, Calif.). Cooper Lighting Solutions promises 10 days or less. Axis Lighting also has a 10-day commitment, pushing that out to 15 days for corners and patterns. Acuity Brands promises that products in its Design Select program will be shipped in 15 days or less, and within 24–48 hours with its Contractor Select program.

Quick turnaround isn’t the only goal. though. For Cooper Lighting Solutions, it’s also about easier specification. “We’re really trying to transcend that quick ship program where it’s all about the logistics at the back end of the project. We’re focusing on getting information readily available and easy access to that information on the front end of the project as well,” Rodau said. For Tivoli Lighting, sharing inventory information on the company website makes it easy to check product availability. “[The Quick Ship management system] gives power to the customer and confidence that the product is in stock,” Ledesma shared.

Quick ship fits into every lighting company’s mission differently. For Acuity Brands, the aim is to provide customers with a large enough portfolio of luminaires and controls to meet all project needs. “We want customers to be able to do 100% of the project within Design Select,” explained Justin Moon, vice president for product portfolio in the Commercial Lighting Group at Acuity Brands (Atlanta). Tivoli takes a different approach, seeing quick ship as a way to phase shipments first sending Quick Ship products out while custom fixtures are being made. “When we have large projects, sometimes they can do partial shipments. Hence, the drivers go out first to keep site individuals constantly working,” Ledesma said.

Product selection

Companies are doing a good job of making their most popular products available with quick ship. “[QuickShip+] is really based around core products that Axis does every day of the week — the products that make up probably 60% of our overall business,” said Warren Turner, Axis Lighting sales director (Lasalle, QC). Axis Lighting offers linear pendants, linear recessed, linear vertical, surface, wall, 90˚ corners, and decorative pendants through QuickShip+.

Similarly, Tivoli’s program includes the products most national accounts rely on, such as luminaires from their Pendant and Adapt lines, as well as Vast Cove, Tapelight, TivoLite Vintage, and Linelight.

Cooper Lighting Solutions offers a wide range of specification-grade lighting products at various price points and performance levels. “We provide readily available stocked products and made-to-order options to suit project needs,”  Rodau said. These products encompass indoor, outdoor, and control solutions. While Cooper Lighting Solutions has diverse categories, the Quick Spec Program provides a curated selection of the most popular lighting and control products with 10 days or less lead time. “We currently offer 94 product families within the program, with more to come,” Rodau noted.

Acuity Brands’ program also has a deep offering. “We really focus on having the mainstream categories covered, making sure we’ve got the key families and core options that customers need,” Moon explained. Categories span from indoor, industrial, downlighting, emergency, and outdoor to standalone and networked lighting controls and wiring solutions. “We’ve got years’ worth of data and research and feedback from all the customers and projects that we’ve done to make sure that we’ve got the right solutions,” he concluded.

Gathering this feedback and research is critical to getting the quick ship offering right. When Axis Lighting collected input, the company not only heard about what to include but also what not to. “We’re very lighting designer-, architect-focused. When we were interviewing some of these folks before [launching] the QuickShip+ program, they specifically told us products to stay away from, because their fear was that the site coordination wouldn’t be done correctly and then the net result would be the architect’s vision wouldn’t be realized,” Turner revealed.

The motivation behind (and impact of) quick ship

Before the pandemic, booming commercial building tenant fit-outs fueled quick ship programs. While that business has cooled as a result of an increase in remote working, quick ship remains a solution for any project with a tight timeframe, schedule problem, supply chain issue, or mistake. “You’re always going to have customers that are looking for something quick and last minute. It’s nice to be able to have something that you can offer when that situation arises,” Rodau said.

Quick ship capabilities allow luminaire manufacturers to capture more of that business and demonstrate company agility and vitality. “It helped provide visibility to our customers that Axis, while we might be known for [complex configurations], is nimble, we are efficient, and we are able to produce products in that timeframe,” Turner said.

It’s important to meet these aggressive shipping deadlines. “With a quick ship program, if you say 10 days, it has to be 10 days,” he added. “You can do more damage to long-term relationships by promising a program that falls short.” Quick ship has the potential to build brand affinity when executed well. “The more times we meet that service commitment, we build trust,” Moon concluded.

As lighting quick-ship programs evolve, so have the processes necessary to deliver on these commitments. “I really think it promotes efficiency in how we do business. The efficiencies you learn or deploy when you’re moving products that fast benefits the overall business,” Turner observed. Axis now has dedicated production lines for its QuickShip+ products.

Innovation is another advantage. Tivoli Lighting, once known almost exclusively for custom cut products, now offers finished goods. “Anything that is already assembled, stocked, and prebuilt, that’s where quick ship is really grabbing on and moving for us,” Ledesma said. Acuity Brands has also seen a positive impact on the business. “It’s helped refine how we’re doing product development and design in the future,” Moon added.

The future of quick ship

Every company we spoke to plans to evaluate and evolve its quick ship program in the future. Many are already planning to expand their product offerings. As manufacturers innovate and the market addresses new regulations and requirements, quick ship programs will respond. “I think it will continue to evolve based on what the design community is looking for […] and legislative or code mandates for things like daylight harvesting and other advanced lighting controls,” Turner commented.

Tivoli’s Ledesma sees similar changes on the horizon. “Whether it be a new version of [California] Title 24 or as we introduce turtle-safe product into our line, as the industry changes, so does the program,” he said. “We realize this is always going to be an evolving program, but what benefits the customer ultimately trickles down to benefit us.”

JANA MADSEN is a freelance writer covering the architectural, buildings, and construction industry. Her work has been featured by Architectural Products, Buildings magazine, and Buildings.com.

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