Studiotech Swot – What is the purpose of an integrator?

integrator

For months I have been saying I’d like to begin writing about Studiotech and our role within the lighting industry. The desire to do this has actually been borne out of frustration; frustration that I don’t feel we have yet achieved anything like what’s possible given our skills and abilities. The feeling of being a well-kept secret is something that has eaten away at me for a number of years and this is just one of a number of measures we’re taking to change that.

Just a note, before you see the start of the next paragraph and immediately close your window (and I would not blame you for this) thinking this is a bored narcissist needing some attention, this blog, is certainly not about me; I just feel better able to explain myself anecdotally rather than from the outside looking in.

I entered Studiotech 8 years ago, straight from university not having a clue what was happening or what I was even doing there (many in the office will be commenting ‘not much has changed’ at this point!). As someone who had done a degree in business management, perhaps this somehow qualified me for the role of attempting to knit together what was (and still is) an immensely talented team.  We had some success and delivered some fantastic award-winning projects but still never seemed to get any great traction in the industry and have many people ‘get’ us.

For years, I felt we fell between two/three or even four stools. We could do elements of most of the aspects in the chain of an architectural lighting project but not enough to say that we actually ‘did’ it. We weren’t (and still aren’t) designers, manufacturers, electrical contractors; we were/are something else and that something else, I never felt, was particularly clear. Somehow, after all these years, I feel we are now in a position where I can happily say that our identity crisis is now a thing of the past.

The issue we are now faced with is ultimately one that is far more pleasant, and feel can be remedied with mostly practical steps. Identity crises are, I feel, less tangible and more requiring of a cultural shift rather than insufficient market penetration that can be remedied through effective marketing and passionate salespeople.

So, anyway, back to the reason for the article; what is the purpose of an integrator? I will copy and paste my typical response to this question which I must have sent over a hundred times now. I’m sure you’ll completely agree, it’s completely sterile and actually offers little clarity.

“we provide all aspects in the chain from taking the client’s/architect’s/lighting designer’s concept then providing the detailed design right through to supply, installation, commissioning and programming”.

The difficulty I’ve had is feeling like there’s so much more to say but not knowing the platform on which to say it.

For me, the role of the integrator has never been more vital than it is now. The flexibility that LED technology has afforded lighting designers means projects have become considerably more complicated. Projects that lighting designers could never have dreamed of 10 years ago are now commonplace and boundaries are continually being pushed in order to differentiate one from another. To have a light source, that can emit basically any colour, that is only a few mm in diameter, means that there is virtually no limit to design now. Alongside this, control systems have become infinitely more complicated, capable of integrating so much different data under one system.

We are excited by the latest innovations and see these as opportunities to increase our offer to the industry. The world of lighting and control is moving at a serious pace furthering design possibilities which will only enhance the desire to uptake architectural lighting as the visibility of these schemes becomes more and more global. The reach and power of lighting is phenomenal; it’s so visual and speaks to something innate within us. Landowners and property owners are becoming increasingly aware of this power and are seeing some staggering results when architectural lighting is implemented effectively. We were recently testing one of our upcoming lighting installs which was filmed by our client who then promptly posted this on LinkedIn. Within a few days this had garnered over 60,000 views; the most of any post this particular property owner had ever received on a single post.

I’m absolutely aware that many people who are reading this don’t need to be told the above; they’re already living and breathing this. But for those who aren’t, it’s important to highlight the growing impact of architectural lighting.

To have the success as detailed above, getting architectural lighting right is imperative. This sounds obvious but if an office is 300 or 400 lux, this won’t make a huge impact to the users as most people won’t even notice. However, with architectural lighting, the success of the project is determined not by light levels but something far more intangible that is more art than science. I’m sure people far smarter than me reading this will be able to explain the psychology behind all this but what I know is that it’s emotive. When you see stunning architecture, I can’t quite put my finger on why I love it and to be honest, I don’t really care; I just do. The same goes for architectural lighting.

In my eyes, the use of an integrator in architectural lighting can ensure, as much as is possible, that the scheme elicits the desired response. To have a company that is responsible for the full delivery ensures each aspect of the project is coordinated and managed together. On countless occasions when we’ve been involved in say the supply but not the install, or the programming but not the supply, we come awfully unstuck and something critical suffers; whether it’s the contractor commercially, the designer aesthetically, or the client from both perspectives.

Integrators are not looking to take away from the role of the designer or installer; on the contrary, they’re looking to allow them to play to their strengths all the while taking away the responsibility of bringing the process together. The integrator’s role is to supplement and support the designer.

The below is based on a very typical project example for us. The below of course does not cover everything a lighting designer does or anything close, but I am trying to be as concise as possible:

  • Lighting designer creates a concept and details together initial thoughts.
  • Lighting designer engages with the integrator to discuss particulars of the project including product selection and practicalities of achieving the scheme. Here tweaks can be made by the two parties to ensure a deliverable solution taking into account budgetary/engineering constraints.
  • Integrator alongside the lighting designer produces technical drawings, engineering drawings, concept renders, control strategies, installation methodology, bespoke fabrication detail, and engages in sampling and mock-ups until approved by lighting designer.
  • Electrical contractor provides first fix following receipt of power/data provision drawing by integrator.
  • Integrator appointed by main/electrical contractor to provide supply and installation of all lighting including both proprietary and bespoke elements.
  • Integrator appointed to undertake all programming and commissioning in line with the lighting designer’s concept.
  • Integrator appointed to conduct routine maintenance and content refresh.

Should all these steps be followed, I sincerely believe this gives the project the best possible chance to be a success. Each stakeholder benefits massively from the inclusion of this integrator:

The Lighting Designer

  • Gets the scheme they envisaged with a fully engineered and workable solution
  • Product supply and control from one source meaning the solution should work with no blurred lines of responsibility. The integrator understands the products, what they’re fixed to, what controls them, and the requirements and the intent of the designer
  • Specialist installation capabilities from integrator ensuring no hand holding of installers who don’t work with this type of product on a daily basis.
  • Relationship with integrator ensures collaboration on the delivery; any issues are ironed out early on, remedied before switch on and no surprises.
  • Control and commissioning to perfect the scheme handled by the same company who supplied and installed the fixtures. No blurred lines and no additional point of contact for the designer to finalise the scheme.

 The Electrical Contractor

  • Focuses on their area of specialism which is the electrical infrastructure. The second fix and control are left to a specialist who works with this equipment day in and day out.
  • Massively reduced risk as design/installation/control/product warranty carried by the integrator
  • Commercially, allows them to put OH&P mark up and management fee; high profit margin with low risk.
  • Reduced coordination required with lighting designer. Integrator handles coordination of the design specifics ensuring it matches their intent. Any issues lighting designer has will be the responsibility of the integrator, not the electrical contractor.

The Main Contractor

  • Assurance that complex area of the project is being handled by a specialist.
  • Reduces risk and ensures client satisfaction.

Client

  • Will receive a fully coordinated, intricately designed, carefully considered, expertly delivered project
  • Receives operational and maintenance information from contractor responsible for all elements (product, installation, control).
  • After sales handled through one contractor whether that be remedial works or content updates.

It makes me incredibly proud to say that I firmly believe that Studiotech now have such a worthwhile position in today’s lighting industry. It’s wonderful to be able to say that I truly am of the opinion that our role is seminal in all aspects of architectural lighting. We possess, what I consider to be, an unparalleled understanding of the combination of light sources, structures, electronics, electrics, and control. Bringing together these elements under one roof allows for the realisation of some of the most renowned lighting projects undertaken in the UK and abroad.

The aspect that I’d say I’m most proud of is the people with whom I’m lucky enough to say I work with. The above may mistakenly appear like I’m taking credit for growth and recent successes we’ve experienced; far from it. If I can credit myself for something is that I’ve managed to surround myself with people infinitely more talented than I am and let them do what they’re good at. In the last 8 years, our team has grown from 6 to 19 and we’ve only had 2 people leave the company in those 8 years. The loyalty the team have is incredible and it’s because of them that we find ourselves now in a position strong enough to attack the marketplace with our offer. We are a backyard away from being where we want to be and have massive room for improvement which we are all more motivated than ever to achieve.

My sincere hope and expectation is that you’ll be seeing a great deal more of Studiotech in the months and years to come.