Productivity Through Innovation: Bravo Lighting
Bravo Lighting Ltd is a wholesale lighting specialist supplying small and medium-sized retail stores. The Nottingham-based business was established six years ago by Billy Zhang and Yunan Zheng.
Starting with light bulbs, Bravo Lighting has grown to provide a full range of lighting products to 100+ clients across the UK, including independent lighting shops and department stores. The lighting sector is unique as people want to see what they’re buying, especially when it comes to high end products.
As a small business, Bravo Lighting prides itself on supporting SMEs and independents with high quality products, excellent service, and fair pricing.
A changing landscape
It’s been a turbulent couple of years for retail, given the pandemic and Brexit, to the rapid rise of digital services such as click and collect. Via NTU’s Productivity through Innovation project, Bravo Lighting has been working with supply chain specialists to review and strengthen their supply chain strategy, as a way to build resilience and grow.
As part of the project, the company has been supported to develop a supply chain and procurement strategy covering spend profile diagnostics, a self-assessment and maturity benchmark, a purchasing policy proposal, a high-level supplier scorecard KPI for performance development around quality, pricing and delivery, a high-level commodity strategy and a high-level risk assessment matrix with mitigation actions.
Bravo Lighting has also developed a new B2B e-commerce platform to increase productivity and improve the customer journey, from initial enquires to ordering and returns.
We spoke to Yunan in December 2021 to find out how Bravo Lighting has benefited from the support on offer.
"Before the pandemic, we hadn’t even realised that our supply chain was an area we needed to manage. We just placed our orders and had them delivered from our suppliers in southern China. That all changed with Covid-19.
"Like many businesses, we’ve faced a perfect storm of challenges as our costs have sky-rocketed and product shipments have been delayed. Pandemic restrictions in Chinese factories mean that production times have been longer than normal, and at times, ports have also been closed. Brexit has caused delays this end too, with the shortage of haulage drivers and lorries holding up our containers in the UK.
"Since the start of the pandemic, 90% of our shipments have been delayed. We were waiting for one container for three months, but on average it’s a couple of weeks. Our sea freight costs are almost 10 times what they were pre-pandemic, which eats up a lot of profit. Plus, it’s much harder to predict stock levels and manage logistics and warehouse space. Last Christmas we were scheduled to receive eight containers, but they were all delayed until January. When they eventually arrived, along with our scheduled January shipment, our warehouse was full to bursting.
"We knew that something needed to be done. Not only to weather the challenges, but to optimise our supply chain for the future of the business. There are around 600 independent lighting shops in the UK, so we have our sights set on increasing our market share and double the turnover in the next three years.”
As part of their growth strategy, Bravo Lighting is constantly introducing new complementary products into their range, alongside new export markets. The company is already a pioneer when it comes to smart lighting, including smart light fittings and smart light bulbs.
"The expert help we’ve had from NTU came along at the perfect time. It’s given us a better understanding of what supply chain management is, including how to identify good suppliers (and not so good suppliers) and communicate with them to improve relationships. For us, it’s not only about cost; quality and service are just as important, as that’s what we provide to our clients.
"Everything we do in our buildings has to be agreed with the landlords we rent them from. We’re working in partnership with them to share the financial benefits of investing in longer- term energy efficiency measures.
"Electrifying our fleet of distribution vehicles is the big one for us and the consultancy has given us a clear business case to move forward as soon as we have the financial ability to invest. We’re also keen to implement a cycle-to-work scheme as part of our staff benefits package, which will happen soon, with links to NTU’s Bike Hire Scheme for students.
"On a people front, we’re putting the foundations in place to introduce a sustainability champion role into the business. We’ve also applied for NTU grant funding to help us recruit a recent graduate to help support sustainability at White Rose. Along with cost, lack of resources can be a key barrier for SMEs like us when it comes to sustainability, so both of these steps will make a big difference. We’re also moving towards becoming fully paperless central functions in the finance and people teams."
“NTU equipped us with practical tools and methods to score, rank and evaluate our suppliers. As a result, we’re already making changes to how we manage our supply chain. We’ve divided our range into two distinct supplier categories (light fittings and LED light bulbs) and have added a third category – freight suppliers. This means we can choose the best suppliers for each category, based on the specific outcomes and KPIs we want to achieve around cost, quality, and service.
“We’ve already realised that one of our major manufacturing suppliers is good for light bulbs, but not so good for light fittings. Before, we would have just kept ordering from them. Another supplier has really stood out during the process and we’re moving towards making them a key supplier.
“Evaluating freight suppliers as a vital part of our supply chain could help us reduce our costs significantly and we’re currently looking at all possible options. Shipping containers have become more difficult and expensive to procure, going from around $2,000 pre-pandemic, to as high as $18,000. Planning ahead more effectively will also help us when it comes to managing stock levels, logistics and warehouse space.
“The biggest takeaway from the support we’ve had from NTU is the awareness of supply chain management it’s given us. A lot of SMEs are split into separate teams with a focus on specific areas like sales, purchasing and logistics, so they may not realise the value of supply chain management as a strategic, end-to-end process.
“Managing our supply chain is an ongoing process but now we have the skills, knowledge and tools in place to do it. We already work collaboratively with our suppliers when it comes to designing new products and ranges. By partnering with the right supplier for each category and strengthening our relationships, we can also collaborate on quality, service and cost and navigate the rapidly changing world together.”
Bravo Lighting was supported by NTU’s Robert Johnson, who was Global Purchasing Director at Jaguar Land Rover and held senior procurement and quality management roles at both Rolls-Royce and Toyota Europe.
Robert says “The objective of our engagement with Bravo Lighting was to help them consider the benefits and opportunities they might achieve from adopting a more strategic Supply Chain approach. We discussed quite openly and confidentially the challenges and potential risks in their supply chain today. We then shared several best practice and yet simple tools and techniques that helped address the costs, quality, and delivery performance as well as supplier ideas and innovation. As an output together Bravo and the NTU team were able to carry out their first
Spend Diagnostics, Supplier Performance Evaluation, Supplier Risk assessment and Key Commodity Strategy (designed to consider the Supplier marketplace and possible new competitors for instance). Overall, we really hope Bravo ‘learnt by doing’ these practical steps to improve, and are now continuing to adopt the approach and deal with their supplier better informed and more confidently to gain better results.”
Get in touch
Bravo Lighting has benefited from support through the Productivity through Innovation project, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
If you have a ‘productivity’ challenge and would like support, email the PTI Team PTIAdmin@ntu.ac.uk