The Rodon Group is lucky to have so many talented and dedicated professionals on staff. We recently asked one of these individuals to provide some insight for our blog.
Jack McPherson is the Technical Manager for The Rodon Group. He joined the organization in 2006 after serving as an Engineering Manager in the automotive industry. Today he is responsible for providing technical assistance on everything from quality assurance to regulatory compliance. We asked Jack to share some insights into the energy saving initiatives at Rodon. Here is Jack’s story.
“Rodon has a long history of energy consciousness. In the mid 80’s, we were located in Southampton and our electric was served to us expensively by Pennsylvania’s PECO utility. The neighboring electric utility, PPL, just to our west, charged considerably less for electric. So Rodon began plans to move into the PPL area. Not an easy task with a building full of injection molding machines, support equipment, continuous production obligations and relocating employees.
Their 1986 strategy was quite clever. They incorporated a search for the furthest industrial point east on PPL’s electric grid. Doing so procured electric at reduced rates but minimized the impact to our employee and customer base. They constructed and moved into Rodon’s Hatfield, Pa building in 1987. It assured our continued survival before deregulation became law in Pennsylvania.
The Rodon and K’NEX buildings operate entirely on electric. There are no other sources of energy in either facility. Management designed a few energy and convenience items into this building too. For instance, capacitors sized and placed throughout our distribution side, level out load irregularities and cancel harmful harmonics as all our machinery randomly cycles. Capacitance also protects sensitive electronics and lengthens the life of electrical devices. While PPL is not currently penalizing customers for poor power factor (improved by capacitance) I discovered our potential electric suppliers looked into our power factor during our sourcing quotes. Since ours was quite good (near unity) it reduced our KWH by a tenth or two of a penny.
When molding machines are idled, fixed costs are carried by the remaining jobs running. So as U.S. business volumes began to unwind at the end of 2006, we got serious about energy savings. Our first project was the replacement of every light fixture in our production and warehouse areas. The 2007 project had another ominous purpose though. To eliminate a surprise risk of our existing Metal Halide bulbs bursting and raining down 1800 degree molten metal onto our cardboard stored products. This disastrous news arrived via our insurance safety representative. Mind you we had been using Metal Halide fixtures for twenty years without incident. But who in their right mind would push their luck, especially since there are potential savings to be gained.
Within a short period, the lighting project grew substantially in size and ultimately included the K’NEX building. I absorbed everything I could regarding T5 lights, who manufactured the best instant-start electronic ballasts, occupancy sensor pros and cons, and procured a light meter to map our existing lumen requirements throughout both buildings.
The Rodon installation was accomplished by simply using our maintenance department personnel. This was due to the fact our building was designed with plug-n-play receptacles at each ceiling fixture (one of the nice designed-in features from 1987). I had the T5 light fixtures designed to plug-and-play with our ceiling receptacles. K’NEX, however, required a third party electrician to hardwire theirs.
Each T5 uses 175 watts; a savings of 225 watts over the original 400 watt Metal Halides and they produce the same light output. We replaced a total of 625 fixtures. Additionally every fixture has its own occupancy sensor (motion and heat) that shuts the light off after 10 minutes of inactivity below it. So in inactive areas the lights just go out. If a fork truck goes down the aisle the T5’s come on ahead of its travel, neat. You can’t save much more than turned-off can you! Dollar-wise, not including the off periods, we avoid about $12/hr shared between both plants. Doesn’t sound like much until you multiply it out over a year…every year. By the way, T5’s run cool to the touch as well. So no more 1800 degree metal rain in our forecast!
In a few years, once LED manufacturing reaches “saturation levels” and their prices drop substantially, I’ll consider them. Until then, our T5’s remain the best value for high bay area’s, by my standards.”
In today’s competitive marketplace, organizations need to keep focused on managing costs and liabilities if they want to survive. Part of a strong survival strategy includes reassessing costs and looking for efficiencies.
What programs or strategies has your company put in place to help reduce energy costs? Tell us how they have been effective.