Efficient Lighting Systems (ELS) is a specialist in the manufacture and distribution of architectural commercial lighting projects. With over 20 years in the industry, the company has evolved to be a strong presence in the Australian and regional South East Asian markets, where they assist professional designers, engineers and architects with a broad range of high quality lighting products for the commercial construction industry.
Rick Dockerty, Managing Director of ELS, is a 41-year veteran of the lighting industry. During the first half of his career, he earned experience at a fluorescent lighting manufacturer. Soon after that business was sold overseas, Dockerty decided to start his own organisation developing fittings exclusively for the more energy-efficient fluorescent lamps. From that decision, Efficient Lighting Systems was born.
From the beginning, ELS has had an edge over their competitors due to the quality of their product. Whereas other manufacturers were still designing incandescent light fittings that had to maintain interchangeability with superior fluorescent lamps, ELS made the choice to go “completely down the fluorescent line, and not compromise the products design by trying to make it suitable for both.”
“Perhaps we weren’t the first to do it,” recalls Dockerty, “but we still produced a wide range of fittings specifically designed for compact fluorescent lamps. They were smaller, cleaner, and all-around more efficient than their bulkier cousins at the time. Not to mention they fit better overall from an architectural standpoint, which we wanted to focus on.”
According to Dockerty, the company has adapted over time to develop lighting systems for just about everything. “We cover a lot of area,” he says. “We cover schools, hospitals, large tier developments, sports complexes, retail, general office, apartments, interior, exterior, and more. The only two areas we don’t work on much is residential and industrial, there are other companies that do that very well and we leave that to them. Other than that, we offer a pretty broad range.”
A proven reputation
ELS has built their reputation on providing solid information, says Dockerty. “That means when customers specify a product, they know what the performance is going to be. We only use the best componentry from major manufacturers around the world. When you use an ELS product, you can know that the quality is absolutely premium, and the performance is absolutely guaranteed. Repeat customers have now returned to us enough that they know we always back it up and will never let them down.”
“We take great pride in our consistency,” he continues, “We’ve never altered our principle of ‘products aren’t simply about price.’ They have to have visual comfort and they have to have performance, and that tends to be based the greatest efficiency of light versus power consumed, which we always work very hard to optimize. We also strive to keep up with standards and modern technology, which have both been radically changing over the last couple of years.”
Of particular concern to Dockerty and his company is the amount of unproven and untested products coming from abroad, especially out of Asia. “A lot of the product coming into the country hasn’t got the necessary approvals,” he says, “and generally the market isn’t aware of the requirements of these approvals.”
To contend with this trend in the industry, Dockerty has been heavily involved in communicating with industry bodies and regulators about what marks should be visible on lighting products to best reflect their quality and compliance. “Customers should know what they’re purchasing, and know when their products are not complying with Australian industry standards.”
“When a customer buys from us,” he finishes, “we consider it absolutely mandatory that they know we carry all the approvals for our product, and that it’s proven and tested in its quality.”
Optimal employee efficiency
ELS employs a staff of 25 people, and Dockerty describes the corporate structure as relatively flat and open. Decisions are made quickly and cleanly after a few brief talks, which is possible due to the small size of the company. “We have a good team atmosphere here,” Dockerty says. “Everyone gets along well. It’s a pretty nice place to work, and we get things done.”
Among their staff, ELS boasts two full-time developers – it’s their job to constantly work on their products and find ways to improve them or create new ones, utilising a series of outside laboratories to conduct their research in. These upgrades ensure that the company’s products continue to compete in the modern market as technological advancements improve existing components, such as new LED chips and power supplies.
“We’re very into product development,” Dockerty says “We’re never sitting around – we’re always developing new things, and we invest a lot of time and money into product engineering. More than ever, it’s one of the critical factors to stay in the market these days. If you’re not prepared to develop a new product or utilize new technologies, you won’t be able to keep up with competitors. We can design new products, and within 12 months, we’re redeveloping them with better performing technology. It’s just that fast.”
The staff is fairly tight knit, having been in business together for quite some time. “Some of the people at ELS have been with me for 12 to 15 years,” says Dockerty, “and that’s not counting two people who’ve retired from the company already.”
“Our suppliers also have a similar relationship to our employees,” he adds. “Most of them have been with us since we started. For example, in the early days, we had quite a lot of injection moulding tools made here in Australia, and we still get all our tooling made here today. The guys that do our painting since day one are still the same, as are the ones that make our electronic control gear. We tend not to change our suppliers. If they’re getting us the right product and looking after us, we stick with them.”
Moving forward, Dockerty says the company looks to the future with an open mind. “We’re in a very dynamic time,” he says. “We must flexible, must be able to adapt quickly. With the rise of LEDs, we’re already looking through our own product range and trying to introduce those wherever possible. But we’ll never stop, because that’s what this industry requires.”
“A lot of new competitors are coming into the field,” he adds, “but they’re struggling to find how the industry works. We already know that. We know where we’re going, what we’ve got to do, and what the industry requires. We’re very confident about the future, we’ve never suffered a decline in business and it’s always growing. Lighting may change, but the basic principles of their development, design, and atmosphere never will, and neither will our dedication to them. That’s what people respect us for.”