Jim, you've been with Acuity Brands for more than seven years and held a number of leadership positions. In your opinion, what are three unique aspects that set the company apart from others in the industry?
The first is selection. We have the most extensive lighting & controls portfolios in the industry with well over 3 million SKUS marketed under 27 unique, and often specialized brands. This runs across indoor and outdoor, stock items to high-end architectural, commercial to industrial to residential, and both wired and wireless controls as well as building management systems and IoT Solutions.
The second is service & availability. Our daily focus is on operational excellence and continuous improvement, so we keep getting better at getting what customers need, when they need it. Our supply chain operates overall 23 manufacturing and/or distribution centers primarily in the US and Mexico and draws on a worldwide network of suppliers in addition to our own vertical integration of many of our key components. It's all about reacting to and quickly delivering our skus to just about anywhere in North America. As the largest Lighting and Controls Manufacturer in North America, we work closely with our supply chain partners to ensure our customers' needs are consistently met.
The third is market access. We've been in this business a long time and have developed strong ties throughout the industry with ready access to customer groups through multiple sales channels and verticals. Our sales team is backed up by a financially strong company with $3.3B in 2020 sales that will be here today and tomorrow if there are any service issues, warranty needs, or expertise needed on new and existing projects because we understand that type of security is very important to the ESCO community who may own projects for many years.
What are you most proud of during your tenure? What new initiatives have you spearheaded and how have you helped Acuity Brands evolve into the company it is today?
Prior to joining Acuity Brands in 2014, I was employed with a Tier 1 lamp and ballast company for 30 years promoting energy solutions to ESCOs and turnkey lighting contractors. The industry transition to solid-state lighting around this same period shifted the value from a lamp and ballast solution to integrated LED luminaires, light bars, and retrofit kits. I believed the timing to create a new group focused on the needs of the ESCO and turnkey lighting contractor community was ideal for Acuity Brands to invest resources based on this shift in LED technology.
We began engaging with channel partners in late 2015 to gather “Voice of Customer,” and by 2016, we created a new Energy Solutions Group. This team is now connected to key ESCOs and lighting contractors across the U.S. and has developed channel specific national programs.
While most of Acuity's revenue is planned new construction and renovation, our Energy Solutions Retrofit focus complements those efforts and has generated new channel connectivity, grown top line sales, and created new and innovative ROI-driven product solutions.
These solutions include our BLTR Retrofit Doors, LBR Downlight Retrofits, LBK Light Bars, CPHB High Bays and our new ESX and TWX outdoor luminaires. I'm very proud to have been part of a process that started by identifying a market trend and then building new processes to meet our customers' needs and expectations.
Acuity Brands takes pride in its innovation. What are the latest technologies or products developed by the company to keep up with the evolving industry and what makes them cutting-edge?
Our product management teams are the undisputed best in the industry, in my humble opinion, and they introduce a large number of new luminaires and retrofit kits annually. We have a full line of tiered solutions from basic products to full architectural-designed solutions, but sometimes the best innovation is considering how to simplify products and programs for our customers. That's why Acuity recently introduced Contractor Select, which is a curated collection of our most requested products that fit everyday projects and are available for same-day shipment.
In addition to luminaires and kits, we have two levels of controls: First is our nLight® controls platform, which is available as either wired or wireless. nlight AIR is our secure wireless lighting control system that is comprised of devices that all have both Bluetooth® and 900 mhz RF radios embedded in every device. It can be commissioned in zones where each switch controls a room or our BACnet BTL certified controller can be installed so it can be networked for multiple buildings and then seamlessly integrated with a Building Automation System.
The second controls series is from our SensorSwitch™ brand, which recently introduced JOT (Just One Touch). JOT provides a simple, low-cost control solution for a zone application. It enables single-touch pairing of controls and luminaires without using 0-10V dimming wires, mobiles apps or additional software.
Acuity Brands is celebrating 75 years of its Lithonia Lighting brand. Why is this a corporate milestone and what makes it unique compared to other lighting products and brands in the industry?
I think anytime a product or brand reaches 75 years of uninterrupted service, it's a good indication that you must be doing something right. The Lithonia Lighting Products Company started in a 2,000 sq. ft. garage in Lithonia, Georgia back in 1946. All these years later, it is one of the industry's most successful and sought-after lighting brands. And it's largely due to the brand living up to its tagline -- Best Value in Lighting™ -- which is an unbeatable combination of product, customer service and delivery with an eye to the next generation of lighting. I expect the Lithonia Lighting brand will be around for another 75 years.
Acuity Brands offers a Contractor Corner newsletter free of cost to all contractors. How is this tool helping to keep contractors informed on all the latest products, trends, and training opportunities in the industry? Why is it crucial for them to stay up to date on the latest trends and news? What other informative tools do you offer for contractors?
Contractor Corner is our monthly newsletter specifically designed for electrical contractors to provide updates on new products, tools, training opportunities, the latest technologies and much more. Because trends and technologies are constantly evolving, it is important to provide up-to-date information, so we all stay competitive.
We also created a one-stop shop for product guides, tools, installation videos and lighting resources to help contractors grow their business and a rebate tool for searching for available rebates in a contractor's area.
Can you tell us about your educational program, Acuity Academy? What's the purpose and how has the program evolved over time?
Acuity Academy is an education and training program for individuals who want to expand their lighting, controls and building management technical knowledge. It's been operating for 25 years and counting and includes a host of e-learning courses, webinars, videos, and other recorded content at all levels of expertise. And when we are all able to gather again, we will add-in our in-person, instructor-led classes as well.
What makes Acuity Brands a leader in the industry and how are you working to ensure the company continues to emerge as a leader despite recent pandemic-related challenges?
Acuity Brands holds a leadership position in our industry by several measures, whether that is in sales, market share, scope, reputation and so forth. But I think the answer to the second part of your question, about responding to the pandemic, further underscores our leadership.
When the pandemic emerged, Acuity Brands, like all businesses, had to quickly make several fast and crucial decisions. Our highest priority was, and continues to be, the health and wellbeing of Acuity Brands' associates, their families and our stakeholders, but at the same time, we had to determine how we could continue to effectively operate our business to serve customers.
We immediately adapted our policies and procedures in multiple ways. Office associates work remotely, and in-person events or travel were cancelled. In our manufacturing and distribution facilities we took safety measures such as staggering and rotating shifts, providing additional hand sanitation stations and encouraging associates to frequently wash their hands, installing plastic shields between workstations, practicing social distancing, and supplementing our cleaning schedule with additional disinfecting protocols. Our supply chain team, working with our supply chain partners throughout the world, also diligently worked to manage our access to essential items to meet critical needs.
As a result of this quick action, Acuity Brands remained a strong and reliable partner throughout the ongoing pandemic and was able to address customer needs in multiple ways, including:
Development of a portable healthcare light stand in 48 hours, per specifications from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Creation of an indoor positioning and heat mapping technologies integrated with our lighting fixtures for use in grocery stores, pharmacies and elsewhere to assist with contact tracing.
Partnering with Ushio America, UV Angel, and Puro Lighting/Violet Defense to provide a broad spectrum of modern germicidal UV technology solutions.
Introducing two new emergency lighting platforms which generate code compliance reporting through BLE or networked communications.
We've been able to adapt and react to these new and varied circumstances and maintain our high level of service. I think that is a real testament to our leadership.