Watts Water Expands Plant with Aluminum Piping
Throughout its history, Watts Water Technologies has prided itself on providing plumbing, heating, and water quality solutions that are in full compliance with federal and state mandates. With the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act that took effect on January 4, 2014, Watts Water continued its commitment to compliance when it set to work planning a multi-million dollar lead-free foundry in Franklin, NH.
Sixteen Plant Expansions Since 1959
The Franklin facility originally opened in 1959, and has undergone 16 expansions since then, more than tripling its square footage. This latest 30,000-square-foot expansion produces sand castings for many Watts Water brands. With thousands of suppliers worldwide, 80,000+ unique items offered in its catalogs, and customers in the residential, commercial, industrial and municipal markets, it was “vital for Watts Water to meet the new lead-free standard,” says Cary Rosenberg, Watts Water’s Global Supplier Quality and Development Manager. The law establishes new limits on the lead content in every pipe, fixture, and fitting used to convey water for human consumption. The new foundry expansion produces lead-free products exclusively.
“There are hundreds of thousands of component level parts that go into making our products,” Rosenberg says. “In fact, the average household actually has about 40 of our products in it. With that kind of footprint, meeting the lead-free standard wasn’t a question. What it came down to was how we could do it in the most cost-effective manner without sacrificing quality.”
The 30,000-square-foot plant expansion needed to meet the strict federal and state mandates of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. Transair’s quick-connect interlocking system eliminated any need for using certain soldering materials, which may contain lead.
Compressed Air Supports Multiple Processes
Compressed air is a critical element in the operations of the Franklin plant, which uses compressed air to power such equipment as cut-off saws, molding equipment, a sand mixing system, a conveyor system, a pneumatic turntable, and various hand tools. The addition needed to work seamlessly with the current facility, which already had a steel compressed air piping system in place. Due to the nature of the business, Watts Water was also facing an aggressive timeline to complete the expansion, so it needed a compressed air piping system that could be moved around easily and expanded as the new building was constructed.
Because steel is a familiar piping material to Watts Water, and its current system had a 6-inch header size, the company originally planned to install a steel compressed air piping system in the addition. However, steel systems are historically susceptible to corrosion and air leaks, which can lead to costly downtime and potential equipment damage down the road.
Costs associated with installation labor and man-hours were also a concern. The plans for the system included the installation of some 2,200 feet of pipe at varying diameters, so the installation process of a steel system would require bringing on experienced fitters who could use the bulky and heavy tools to do the job.
Using Transair allowed Watts to reduce its projected man-hours by 50% and complete the project in six weeks, well ahead of schedule.
Considering an Aluminum Piping System
In an effort to give Watts Water a value-added solution and reduce labor costs, the project’s contractor, Granite State Plumbing & Heating of Weare, N.H., recommended an aluminum compressed air piping solution. Aluminum is lighter and easier to manage during the installation process, and doesn’t require any soldering or welding, thus eliminating the need for the installation team to have those skills. After considering several companies, Granite State chose Parker Hannifin’s Transair product. The project’s distributor was F.W. Webb Co. of Bedford, MA.
“We had many discussions about flexibility and cost, and that’s what it really came down to for us,” Rosenberg says. “[Aluminum] is something very new for us. As a 140-year-old company, we have some current systems in place and we were not thinking of something like this. But in the end, we were able to complete the project and make it compliant with the government regulation in half the anticipated time.”
During the planning process, the technology and concept of Transair appealed to Watts Water, “particularly in our brand new building,” Rosenberg says. Ultimately, it was Transair’s flexibility and durability that sold Watts on the product. Known throughout the industry for its high performance and used in a wide range of industries, the fast, flexible, and easy to modify Transair system proved to be an ideal fit for the project.
Watts installed 2,200 feet of compressed air piping of varying diameters at its lead-free facility in Franklin, NH.”
Reduced Installation Costs and Time
With no need to solder, thread, or weld the pipe, man-hours for the installation were reduced by 50% from what they would have been with a steel installation. Transair’s quick-connect interlocking components allowed for easy and immediate layout modifications throughout the project, and the system was able to integrate seamlessly with the existing steel network. The easy installation proved to be a real cost benefit for Watts Water, as Transair systems typically account for just 20% of installation costs, compared to the 50-80% of such costs associated with traditional steel or black iron piping. By decreasing the budgeted man-hours by half, Granite State balanced the higher material cost and finished the installation in six weeks, well ahead of schedule.
Because of the fast installation time, Watts Water requested an additional 200 feet of 168mm header to the system in the existing building. Watts Water cut the ribbon to the plant on June 21, 2013. As an added value, Transair eliminated the risk of lead being used during the installation, as certain soldering materials may contain lead.
The only concern was the facility’s ambient temperature. During the casting process in the plant, the temperature typically reaches up to 160°F, and Watts Water was concerned that the aluminum piping wouldn’t be able to cope with the heat as well as steel. Because of Transair’s ability to maintain its integrity in high heat or below-zero temperatures, Granite State determined the atmosphere wouldn’t be a detriment to the system.
“We’ve not had any issues with this system,” Rosenberg says. “I don’t know of any downtime for that system at all.”
Aluminum piping is designed to be a durable, lightweight alternative to traditional piping, making installation fast, easy, and flexible. Unlike traditional steel systems, it does not require experienced fitters or bulky, heavy tools to do the job.
To read similar articles on Compressed Air Piping System Assessments visit www.airbestpractices.com/system-assessments/piping-storage.