GE – at the forefront of innovation and industry transformation

GE – at the forefront of innovation and industry transformation
Interview with Tomoaki Kimura, General Manager of LED – Asia at GE Lighting

As global LED industry is blooming with increasing awareness toward energy efficiency, LEDinside recently interviewed Tomoaki Kimura, General Manager of LED – Asia at GE Lighting to gain insights on his perspectives toward future developments in this industry.

LED lighting market outlook – a mixed segment

In terms of LED lighting applications, Kimura noted that currently there are other comparable light sources on the market, such as Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) bulbs, which do offer high efficiency and long life time. Hence, the lighting market will likely be a mixed segment with a combination of different light sources, including incandescent lighting. Although LED lighting penetration is unlikely to reach 100% in the short-term, Tomoaki expects the market presence of LED lighting to reach 20~40% by 2015.

Tomoaki Kimura, General Manager of LED – Asia at GE Lighting, talks with LEDinside about the company’s energy efficiency initiatives and LED product strategies.

While it is difficult to comment on when the LED lighting industry will reach maturity, Kimura pointed out that the LED lighting in neon light segment is already at its mature stage as it is almost completely dominated by LEDs. As for general illumination, the cost of LED bulbs compared to incandescent bulbs is still high for consumers, making the price factor the first hurdle of its adoption in the general household. Kimura emphasized that in order for rapid adoption of LED lighting, a remarkable technological breakthrough in chip efficiency has to take place.

When discussing changes in the supply and demand of the LED industry in the next few years, he remarked that LED lighting products may be in excess supply. Currently, there are over 3000 LED lighting manufacturers. This indicates that, without adequate support from the market, a shakedown of numbers will likely take place in the future.

The initial consumer perception has to be right

Kimura explained GE’s commitment to providing quality products by illustrating with the lesson which the lighting industry learned on marketing lighting products – the introduction of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

CFLs were first introduced more than 30 years ago, and even though CFL’s lifetime is up to ten times that of traditional incandescent bulbs, while consuming at least 60% less energy, consumers’ association with the product was negative due to its inconsistent performance and early bulb burnouts. Hence, the CFL faced slow market acceptance and its adoption had been stagnant.

The same rationale can be applied in the introduction of LED lighting technology – with wide disparity in the performance and reliability of LED lighting products on the market, Kimura emphasized the importance in establishing positive reputation of LED lighting at the initial introduction. Moreover, as there were no precursors to LED lighting, consumers’ positive association is particularly crucial, or it would be tough to restore their confidence toward the product even when performance has improved. He elaborated that when visiting city officials, feedback from many who installed LED light bulbs was ‘LEDs are bad options for lighting.’ Such comments are particularly alarming, especially given the long list of benefits in using LED lighting.

To avoid misperception about the performance of its LED products, GE conducts extensive testing to ensure superior performance so that consumers can truly appreciate the energy saving benefits of a long-lasting LED light bulb. GE offers a five year warranty on the life time of its product, and in practice, its LED light bulbs lasts up to ten years or more.

Establishment of a uniform lighting standard

New specifications and safety standards of lighting products have gradually been implemented around the world, and Kimura expressed that each region has its own lighting standards and certifications. He further emphasized that a uniform standard needs to be in place in order for mass production of LED lighting products to be achieved. Furthermore, once a uniform performance specification is established, Kimura urges LED lighting manufacturers to join forces to raise industry standards of LED lighting products.

Ecomagination

In addition to offering products with superior performance, GE is devoted to building greener, and more eco-friendly systems to ensure a more sustainable future. GE’s ecomagination initiatives have made rapid progress both globally and in China. Ecomagination illustrates GE’s business initiative to help customers tackle environmental and financial challenges and to drive reliable growth for GE. Ecomagination also reflects GE’s commitment to invest in a future that creates innovative solutions to environmental challenges and delivers valuable products and services to customers while generating profitable growth for the company. (Visit http://www.ecomagination.com/ for more information about ecomagination.)

Integration in LED lighting supply chain in China

Addressing changes in the business landscape of the LED lighting supply chain in China, Kimura remarked that it is only a natural progression that there is vertical integration in the industry from chipmaker, assembler, integrator, to downstream manufacturers. However, as the chip making process is highly capital-intensive, GE will continue to stay in the downstream, specializing in providing eco-friendly solutions to consumers.

Commercial transformation - a paradigm shift

In the past, the marketing process had always started from manufacturing to distribution. Nowadays, however, GE is undergoing commercial transformation by reshaping the selling model, beginning with understanding consumers’ lighting needs, developing the product, and the manufacturing it. This involves a paradigm shift in the mentality of all of GE’s staff, from marketing to applications engineering and lighting design. GE’s marketing strategy resonates with the consumer-oriented marketing approach by providing a total solution, rather than just a product.

GE’s future roadmap

As for GE’s long-term goals, Kimura expects that there will be a shakedown in numbers in the future, and GE has to stay ahead of the industry in technological innovations such as its new omni-directional LED light bulb, a breakthrough design which allows light distribution in all directions. He added, ‘GE has been in the lighting business for over 100 years, and we look forward to the next century of being on the front end of innovations.’

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