Class Case Study Could Result in the "Next Big Thing" for GE Lighting

The century-old incandescent light bulb as we know it today has been in decline as consumers have demanded more efficient and longer-life options. U.S. regulations for higher efficiency lighting products will phase out traditional 40-100 watt bulbs completely in 2014. GE Lighting (GE) has been in the lighting business since the advent of the incandescent technology and has sustained a strong business model over the years. It continues to transform its business model to meet new market needs and consumer demands for energy-efficient technologies.

Along with continuing to evolve the latest energy-saving lighting technologies, GE sees an advantage in using new smart technology to develop and market an intelligent light bulb. And GE Lighting is working with BGSU’s College of Business Administration to offer students an opportunity to learn how a successful company develops concepts for the capabilities of these intelligent light bulbs as well as marketing them to consumers.

The unique Applied Business Experience (BizX) 4000 course is a hands-on, experiential course for seniors in the business college. What makes BGSU different from other colleges of business is that this is a culminating experience of a series of real world, active learning business experience lab courses which started during the students’ freshman year. The course is providing seniors with a unique opportunity to learn from a Fortune 500 company as part of a significant real-world project…the company’s development of "the next big thing" in light bulbs.

Manufacturers have developed energy-efficient, longer lasting lighting alternatives to traditional incandescent bulbs, such as halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL), and light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Among GE Lighting’s latest energy-saving solutions is an intelligent light bulb GE Lighting developed in connection with its relationships with Lutron Electronics, a controls company, and Sam’s Club. This new light bulb houses a receiver, which receives communications and is operated by a wireless controller. This "intelligent" LED technology could allow for such things as dimming remotely, alarm based motion detection, color preferencing, and daylight/nighttime sensing.

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Three executives from GE Lighting - Steve Briggs, GM, Global Product Management; Mike McVeigh, ERP Process Leader; and John Villanueva, GM, Digital Marketing – came to BGSU during Week 4 to kick off this project with the BizX 4000 students. During the two-hour presentation and discussion of this real-time case study, the executives charged the students with being creative and thinking "outside the box" in suggesting what an intelligent bulb should do to meet the needs of future households and fulfill current unmet needs. The company understands that Millennials, young people born between 1980 and 2000, will soon be creating households and buying light bulbs.

McVeigh says that a number of their employees are BGSU alumni, including their President and CEO, Maryrose Sylvester, which motivated the company to connect with BGSU.

Briggs, who along with McVeigh, earned degrees from BGSU’s College of Business Administration, added that the students will need to keep the manufacturing and retail costs in mind as they develop their innovations. According to Villanueva, consumers will only pay a higher price for light bulbs if the value proposition is perceived to meet their needs, such as a light bulb that doubles as a security system. "The higher cost needs to be offset by use." The executives also challenged students to suggest distribution channels in their marketing plans.

Frank Kozak, an instructor in BGSU’s Department of Management, is teaching the BizX course. His two classes are divided into 12 teams for the case study. Each team is to submit their marketing plan toward the end of the semester for GE Lighting personnel to review. From those 12 teams, GE Lighting will select the top four plans, with these teams presenting their marketing plans to company executives during finals week. "Engaging with a leading company facing a tremendous industry transformation is an invaluable experience for these students. The case study enables them to apply the business skills they have gained during their education in the College of Business in this real-world situation," says Frank.

Based on the four presentations of the marketing plans for the intelligent light bulb products, GE Lighting will award the top team a $1,500 scholarship, the second place team a $1,000 scholarship, and the third team a $500 scholarship.

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Students are excited about this unique academic – industry collaboration. Business student Dana Herr says this class project helps her to see how all of the BizX courses since freshman year have culminated into this final capstone, a total integration of business concepts. Student Nam Vo says this project gives students an opportunity to shine in front of a major corporation.

"Out with the old and in with the new" is a saying that fits this significant real-world business project that allows students to test the knowledge from their business classes even before graduation.