Industrial Utility Efficiency    


Manufacturers familiar with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR® Energy Treasure Hunts initiative know it’s a great way to save energy and natural resources – as long as it’s done right – which is why some are turning to perhaps their best asset to achieve success: their unionized workforce.
A steel distribution and processing company has upgraded and consolidated the compressed air systems in two of their distribution and processing facilities for big energy savings. The previous compressed air systems were running in modes of operation with very low efficiency. A complete replacement of the two systems with new air compressors and dryers has reduced the energy consumption significantly.
The facility uses a large amount of electricity to manufacture laminated glass in the autoclave process. This process is the largest consumer of compressed air in the facility which made compressed air a major target in reducing energy costs for the facility. As the volume of compressed air in the autoclave is significant, the system is constantly pressurized with large 150 HP air compressors to reduce production times and fill times of the autoclave.
The company specializes in fabrication of precision assembled customized parts for OEM’s and system integrators. Since 1997 the company has steadily grown in size and capacity as the demand for its high quality fabrications has increased.  Through the years, many new CNC machines, laser cutters and powder coat painting operations have been added, but with all the expansion the facility has amazingly kept the plant compressed air consumption low. This has been achieved by following excellent “best practice” compressed air efficiency principles and by keeping watch on system waste.
Paying close attention to compressed air use is paramount for identifying potential energy-saving projects. The engineering team at Ball Corporation has been well aware of this fact for years. An active member in the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program, Ball Corporation scrutinizes manufacturing processes to maximize the energy efficiency of compressed air systems in each of its plants.
Metaldyne Performance Group (called MPG in this article) Plant 1 in Columbus, Indiana (formerly known as Impact Forge) has made significant efficiency improvements to their compressed air system.  With the help of their service provider, IAC Air Compression, MPG has implemented some innovative control on their existing air compressors, added new air compressors with variable capacity control, and tied everything together with a modern central controller.  This installation has been recognized for its wise use of power by their power utility Duke Energy.
Ahresty Wilmington Corporation (AWC) was founded in 1988 and is located in Wilmington, Ohio. Currently AWC employs over 900 people with sales totaling $192 million. They have grown steadily, all while continuously improving and staying on the leading edge of technology. AWC is a tier-1 automotive supplier servicing their entire customer base in the United States. AWC has established an efficient and integrated production system that incorporates die-casting, finishing, machining, and assembly operation using just-in-time production methods to provide its customers with quality products at a competitive price.
In recent years, we have seen an upward trend of higher production manufacturers wanting to integrate their air gauging quality checks from a stand-alone, outside-of-machine device where the operator is performing a manual check to an automated in-process gauge. There are several reasons for this trend, including higher quality standards, tighter tolerances, as well as running a leaner operation. The benefits are 100 percent inspection of the required geometric callout, as well as handshaking between measuring device and machine to make each piece better than the prior one. It also removes any bad parts.
When a company is considering making an investment of more than a million dollars in system upgrades, it is crucial for them to review all options to get the best return. By exploring energy efficiency impacts throughout the entire compressed air system, vendors can propose projects resulting in both a larger sale for them and increased financial benefits for their customers, while still meeting capital expenditure guidelines. This “best of both worlds” scenario was evident when a foundry in the Midwest was evaluating options for replacing its steam system used to drive the plant’s forging hammers.
A major Midwestern aluminum plant was experiencing dwindling compressed air capacity, primarily due to air leaks. If those capacity issues went unresolved, the facility would have needed rental compressors to keep up with demand. Instead, they turned to flow metering to identify and fix the leaks. In this article, they share their solutions with others who may be having similar difficulties.
Nissan North America operates on a massive scale. The company’s powertrain assembly plant in Decherd, Tennessee, alone encompasses 1.1 million square feet, and manufactures engines for 14 different vehicles. The facility also handles crankshaft forgings, cylinder block castings, and other machining applications. Over the course of one year, the powertrain plant churns out approximately 1.4 million engines, an equal number of crankshaft forgings, and 456,000 cylinder block castings.