Ellis Yan is back to finish telling the story of his career, starting back in 1979 as the Chinese government begins to emphasize quality of life for its citizens Ellis was in school to become an accountant and working in a computer lab (this was in the punch-card era of computing, just in case you thought Ellis was ever behind the cutting edge). He tells the story of how he met his wife, made friends with a man called Big Buddha and how he and his brother started a company in 1986, making MR16s when they were still 4 dollars per unit. He explains how he managed to make the right moves in the right places and the right times - selling unpatented, manually-blown spiral CFLs from a factory that took up every piece of land he could buy in Shanghai to Home Depot in the months after California suffered historic blackouts.
Once we caught up to the present we talked about the future of lighting - purpose-built luminaires, becoming more than just a source of light, and more.
He also shares his thoughts about working with family, offers anecdotes about his father’s odd way of offering advice, and some insight into Chinese politics.
Last week Michael tested positive for COVID-19, Spencer Miles has had employees come up positive, and Greg’s been lucky so far. We’ve spoken about doing business during the lockdown, but now we can speak to more immediate damage control experiences.
Spencer and Michael share how they resumed business, worked around downed employees, and their experiences running the order desk again.
Procedures and policy are extremely varied region-to-region, hopefully you don’t have to deal with anything like this, or are at least lucky to have a public health authority as professional as Michael has dealt with.
Please, listen to the episode, then find some time to reflect on everything afterward.
This week, we reversed roles and let our guest ask us questions.
New lighting and energy consultant, Ryan Krueger, has a list of questions for us. Listen in to find out:
● What makes distribution unique
● How we learned all this before starting the podcast
● What catalogues and courses looked like in the pre-LED era
● Approaches to fieldwork when we started out
● Greg’s easy choice to get his LC certification
● How to deal with bad audits
● What those plastic seals do
● How tapped is the market, really?
● Strangest requests, odyssey emails, and how Michael became an accessory to marijuana distribution
● Our largest orders
● Longest contact-to-close times
● And a round of ‘how to retrofit this hypothetical’ building.
We also discuss the four phases of a career in the industry, and a few our personal favourite aspects and events in our careers.
“The current pandemic has created a tipping point for networked controls in lighting.”
That’s what Peter Brown sent us in an email earlier this month, rather than reply we got him on the line to talk this out for the show. Our assumptions about lighting have been inverted; the cost rule of 3 dollars for utilities, 30 for rent, and 300 for personnel is out the window and we need to spend more on new utilities just to get that 300 back into the building. Beyond that we get into recovery planning, UV disinfection, and hygiene theater.
There is a question none of us can answer that emerges from the end of our chat: will there be code requirements for any IoT for public health applications? We’ll see where things go from here.
Ellis Yan returns to continue his life story for us. Picking back up on the farm in the mountains, he shares how the experience built up his resilience and made him more open to new experiences, but the plot takes a small turn when his family living in the US try to arrange for a visa for him - something that wouldn’t pay off until he was attending University in Shanghai and his application got reviewed under new rules for students. After a few misadventures with the local bureaucracy he had to cut his story short for another appointment as he landed in the strange world of Cleveland.
Stay subscribed for part 3.
Bernie Erickson of Facilities Solutions Group is in the middle of expanding his company's offerings in UV disinfection options, so we had to ask him on the show to share what he’s been working on.
He breaks down the differences between surface and air disinfection as he sells it, as well pointing out secondary gains from adding air purification. What he has noticed is that his customers seem to have their own phases for adoption of UV purification moving from portable units to more permanent installations. He also offers some advice on how to sort junk products from good ones in this sudden boom in the market.
Beyond that we offer a diversion on controls, ‘hygiene theater’, and tips for introducing the technology to new clients.
Al Uszynski returns as a podcast guest to speak about his perspective on and his personal history in the lighting industry.
Launching Inside.Lighting to keep track of rep agencies, but ended up writing news to keep the site relevant. Once agents are up for discussion we have to dig into the friction points between distributors and rep agents, and how our modes and models of business are changing in response to changes in the manufacturing business.
Now that the classic big three have left the lamp business, we’re not sure who's really leading the industry or how to help the smaller guys build reputation with our clients. Beyond those questions we have to work past the DLC and and utility programs and build an industry that does more than save energy.
The LRC has put together a very cool web-based tool for designing a space for healthier living (https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/healthyliving/), after playing around with it ourselves, we asked the minds behind it for an interview.
Allison Thayer and Dr. Mariana Figueiro joined us to share how they created this site and how they plan to expand it.
We discussed how hard it is to improve productivity in humans and that we should just stick to lighting occupants can work in enjoyably. Some that means balancing individual needs against bigger trends, some of that means understanding how light relates to different age groups.
We’re not a nocturnal species, and maybe we need to back away from Edison’s triumph over unproductive evenings.
We’ve always known that Ellis Yan has a story to tell. We take a break from lighting technology and delve into history, as Ellis explains his life under The Cultural Revolution under Mao. It starts with the day he was sent to school without lessons, moves through years of bullying teachers, and attacks on capitalists and intellectuals before being shipped out to the mountains.
He lived with nine other teenagers in a two-room building in a remote farming village where he had to learn to farm, cook, slaughter pigs and roll his own cigarettes. As he was getting the hang of life planting rice, his mother sent a stack of textbooks so he could study for university qualifications.
Stay tuned for more in part 2, coming soon.
Henrik Clausen has thirty years of experience as an electrical engineer, educator, and a consultant. And when he wrote for LED Professional calling for brighter, more personalized light at work (read it here: https://www.led-professional.com/resources-1/articles/personal-lighting-profiles-might-be-the-key-to-creating-a-natural-work-light-balance), we knew we had to ask him about it. While it’s true that an aging workforce will need more light, we ended up debating how to implement these ideas.
What we didn’t expect was for the discussion to go as broad as it did once we got through that debate. We discussed our relationship to light, from the anthropological and evolutionary implications of firelight, to how human-centric lighting research is rooted in the location the test was done, how culture changes how you light your home and how that will emigrate with you, to the nature of God.
We did circle around to more grounded topics, like finding more funding for research, the need for multi-disciplinary teams, and why education is so boring.