Ashley Hulme, Director of LED lighting specialists Ligero Design, tells us about the role of lighting in achieving net zero, supply struggles during COVID-19 and plans to mentor young people in Oldham.
Ligero Design is a manufacturer and designer of bespoke, energy saving LED lighting solutions for industrial, commercial and architectural projects. The business prides itself on helping clients to do better by the planet, as well as make significant cost savings and deliver better lighting conditions for building occupants.
Ligero has previously benefitted from the Hub’s Switched On business development programme for providers of green technologies and services, which helped the company to improve its sales and marketing functions.
Ligero has since benefitted from a COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Grant to purchase new machinery that has significantly increased productivity. It has also launched a new service to support carbon reduction initiatives around the world through every project it completes.
LED lighting has become increasingly popular in recent years. What sets you apart from other lighting suppliers?
We’re not just a traditional ‘buy-and-sell’ lighting company. I’m from a design background, so we’re able to offer a more bespoke service to our customers. When visiting a site, we do a full cost savings analysis, taking into account not just the customers’ existing light fittings and power output, but also the lighting levels and colour temperatures that work best for different tasks and areas in the building.
We also make sure we’re right at the forefront of the latest technology. The light engines in our lamps can be individually programmed, so each light is finetuned to its own specific requirements. Once installed we can continue to tweak it through a mobile app, so there is minimal disruption to customers if something needs to change.
Ashley Hulme, Director, Ligero Design
What role does LED lighting play in supporting businesses with their sustainability or net zero aspirations?
LED lighting is one of the most cost-effective methods of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions in a building, as well as being one of the easiest. For most customers it’s as simple as unplugging the old fittings and replacing them with new ones. The impact is immediate – as soon as you turn the lights on you are saving money and reducing carbon.
The net zero agenda completely aligns with what we’re about as a business. When we speak to customers we always make it clear that our passion is about helping the planet, not just reducing energy bills. A portion of every project we complete is now donated to tree planting or other carbon reduction projects across the world through an organisation called Ecologi, so customers know that their lighting doesn’t just help them, but others around the globe.
We’re seeing more and more businesses following this ethos. For example, we recently completed a lighting project for a customer in Rochdale who are aiming for a net zero building. They had LED fittings already, but they were nowhere near as efficient as what is available on the market today. We were able to halve the number of fittings without affecting lighting quality and introduce sensors and zoning, so there is now considerably less energy being used.
What are the other benefits of LED lighting?
It’s not just about energy and carbon savings. Correct lighting conditions are proven to improve people’s performance and satisfaction at work because the circadian rhythm of our bodies reacts to light. That’s why it’s important for businesses to have a proactive lighting maintenance programme in place and think about the amount and type of lighting they need for different activities.
How has the Growth Hub supported you through COVID-19?
Before the pandemic we joined the Growth Hub’s Switched On programme, which helped us take a much more holistic approach to our sales and marketing. That put us in a great position for 2020, which ended up being one of our most successful years to-date despite the impact of the virus.
2021 was much more difficult because of COVID-related supply issues in the market. We are experiencing significant delays on the drivers and processing chips we use in our lamps due to global shortages, while metalwork has increased in cost by about 50 per cent.
We have managed to make a big difference to our production speed and leadtimes in-house by purchasing an automated wire stripping and cutting machine with the support of a COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Grant through the Growth Hub. Previously, all the cutting and stripping in our manufacturing facility was done by hand, which is a really time-consuming process. The new machine can do in one hour what would previously take about half a week, so it’s made a massive difference. The Growth Hub was extremely helpful in helping us get that piece of kit.
What does the future look like for Ligero?
We took on a new unit adjacent to our current site in 2021 because we were starting to get very cramped, so now we’ve got more space for storage and manufacturing and we’re looking to automate more of our manufacturing process. We’re also launching a separate brand for our architectural and interior lighting, so we will soon have two brands running alongside each other.
However, one of the most satisfying things we will be doing more going forward is mentoring. We had a work experience student in for two weeks towards the end of 2021 and we were so impressed with him that we will be having him back in 2022. We’ve also signed up to be mentors for a local youth centre in Oldham.
It’s all about passing on our experience and assisting young people as much as we can. Both me and my business partner were born and bred in Oldham, so we’re passionate about the town and helping the next generation. We want to give back as much as we can.