Archive | Lean Manufacturing


6:29 pm
April 11, 2016
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Final Thought: Whatever Happened to TPM?

Cklaus01By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability & Maintainability Center

In his 1988 book Introduction to TPM, Seiichi Nakajima defined Total Productive Maintenance as “productive maintenance carried out by all employees through small group activities” and “equipment maintenance performed on a company-wide basis.” Performed properly, TPM can generate significant benefits across an organization, i.e., productivity, safety, delivery, quality, culture, and cost. The process was developed to be supportive of a lean-production system and enable the improvement of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).

Although many operations, large and small, in all industry sectors, have documented savings with TPM, the process amounts to little more than an extended kaizen event if it’s not sustained. Most companies I visit still say they’re “working on” TPM—which has been in North America for more than 25 years.

TPM can fail or be difficult to implement for several reasons. The most frequently cited include:

  • not instilling the owner/operator concept
  • not focusing on people and culture first and technologies later
  • not having leadership support
  • not understanding the role differences between reliability (MTBF/mean time between failures) and maintainability (MTTR/mean time to repair) and how together they provide availability
  • not supporting TPM as a continuous improvement program
  • not basing purchasing decisions on life-cycle costs.

John Moubray’s RCM2 book contains a chart depicting three past generations of maintenance/reliability. They were:

  • 1930 to 1950 (first generation), which was to “fix it when it’s broke”
  • 1951 to 1980 (second generation), which started large maintenance projects, some computer usage, and systems to plan and control work
  • 1981 to 2000 (third generation), which uses RCM, computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and expert systems, multi-skilling, teams, condition monitoring, and predictive technologies.

The fourth generation (2001 to present) is what we all play a part in (and are helping define). It’s about big data, the Internet of everything, learning systems, and ongoing integration of new technologies, best practices, and processes. This generation will also be challenged with increasing complexity, higher expectations, growing competition for internal resources, and a changing understanding of reliability and maintenance. TPM can help with those challenges.

As an example of its effectiveness, Nakajima pointed to TPM moving one company from generating 36.8 suggestions/employee/year to 83.6 suggestions/employee/year. My own 2015 study found the average number in North America was 3.2, with a mode of 1.0—and many companies still struggling to get near 1.0. To be fair, it should be noted that TPM counts the numerous small improvements (and larger ones) that many plant-floor cultures aren’t able to establish. Without a robust, continuous-improvement process/culture in place, TPM quickly becomes the most difficult step in lean implementation, with minimized expected results.

In another study of 200 companies, I found RCM/FMEA (reliability centered maintenance/failure modes and effects analysis) was credited for achieving savings four times more often than TPM. Other techniques, i.e., root-cause analysis, 5 Whys, visual aids, and kaizen events, were also credited more than TPM. The same study revealed that more operator involvement resulted in better financial performance. Substantial benefit had already been achieved as a result of operators becoming involved with visual aids (versus also picking up tools).

Around 1953, 20 companies began a research group that became the Tokyo-based Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM). Yet, after TPM began there in the 1970s, it still took nine years for about 23% of Japan’s companies (based on 124 factories belonging to the JIPM) to reach the full phase of the process. To be successful, TPM must be planned and implemented with change management in mind, and consistently applied with a continuous-improvement focus.

For two decades following its introduction, Japanese researchers and practitioners participated in numerous global TPM-related conferences and study trips. (In the early 1990s, I hosted the JIPM on a visit to see a large-scale manufacturing reliability and maintenance implementation and discuss TPM.)

But where in the world is TPM today?

If your North American operation has fully implemented TPM—and it has worked well for more than 10 years—please contact me. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


2:46 am
April 11, 2016
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Look System-Wide For Cost Savings

A systems approach to equipment-optimization prevents individual changes from negatively affecting downstream processes, and often yields other, possibly unnoticed saving opportunities.

A systems approach to equipment-optimization prevents individual changes from negatively affecting downstream processes, and often yields other, possibly unnoticed saving opportunities.

Evaluating equipment systems and associated processes throughout your plant can yield substantial low-hanging, waste-reduction fruit.

For a variety of obvious and not so obvious reasons, it is more important than ever for manufacturing operations to explore system-wide cost-reduction strategies. While there are numerous areas in plants where costs can be reduced, the one that provides substantial savings opportunities for any enterprise is energy consumption.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Washington, the average cost of electricity per kilowatt dropped for the industrial sector of the economy from December 2014 to December 2015. This should not, however, reduce focus on this area as a potential gold mine of cost-reduction opportunities.

As most involved in manufacturing are aware, each time energy is converted from one form to another, energy loss occurs. This, combined with loss associated with supply and distribution, accounts for a high percentage of the annual energy usage in manufacturing.

Ultrasonic leak-detection equipment can dramatically reduce the time needed to pinpoint leaks in compressed air systems, making repairs easier and more cost-effective.

Ultrasonic leak-detection equipment can dramatically reduce the time needed to pinpoint leaks in compressed air systems, making repairs easier and more cost-effective.

Identifying the need

Consider the manufacturing of forest-products: Only about half of the energy consumed by those types of operations is used directly in processes that lead to finished goods. As much as 45% of the purchased energy is wasted through generation (18%), distribution (12%), and conversion or mechanical inefficiencies (15%). Despite conventional wisdom, however, generation is not the best place to start when it comes to reducing energy waste.

Typically, cutting generation energy waste requires large capital investments that take years, sometimes decades, to recoup. Distribution and conversion, though, are ripe with low-hanging fruit. If a proper system-wide analysis is performed, these areas can yield high savings with a relatively short ROI (return on investment).

It is important to look at a system in its entirety, i.e., take a systems approach, when reviewing cost-reduction opportunities. This not only prevents a change from having a negative impact on a downstream process, it can yield indirect savings that would otherwise go unnoticed.

For example, repairing leaks in a compressed-air system may allow a redundant compressor to be idled. This cost reduction is fairly straightforward to quantify and capture. The downstream effect of repairing the leaks, however, will also yield a higher and more consistent air supply at the point of use. This could make it possible to use smaller, lighter-weight tools, resulting in more-economical replacements. Moreover, it could reduce user fatigue, resulting in increased productivity and less likelihood of repetitive-stress injuries.

Mechanical inefficiencies present a wealth of opportunities to significantly reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs with a short ROI. Many manufacturers over the past decade have taken a hard look at redesigning legacy systems with energy-efficient drop-in replacements. Often these redesigns will yield a substantial reduction in energy consumption, relative to that system, and typically will extend or eliminate maintenance intervals, further reducing costs. Belt-driven live-roller conveyors are a case in point.

Energy efficiency can be achieved and noise levels reduced by replacing conventional components with parts designed to take advantage of newer technology, as with this modular plastic chain conveyor.

Energy efficiency can be achieved and noise levels reduced by replacing conventional components with parts designed to take advantage of newer technology, as with this modular plastic chain conveyor.

Applying the approach

Many sites still use old-technology, belt-driven live-roller conveyors to move finished product to be packaged or shipped. This manufacturing standby consists of sections of horizontal cylindrical rolling elements, arranged close together in series, driven by a prime mover (typically an electric motor/gearbox combination) and a belt that causes the rollers to spin. Unfortunately, there are some downsides to this relatively simple solution.

Specifically, these types of conveyors have several points at which energy is converted from one form to another, increasing the intrinsic energy loss and reducing system efficiency. This inefficiency increases power consumption by the prime mover, driving up electricity usage and cost.

Additionally, if one section goes down due to a broken belt or failed prime mover, the preceding section is then required to push the product through the dead roller section to the next live section. This can create an overload scenario for the preceding section or, depending on what is being conveyed, a loss of product due to breakage or jamming.

An often-overlooked factor with belt-driven live-roller conveyor systems is noise. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that a worker be exposed to no more than a weighted average of 8 hr. of 90 dBa of workplace noise per day. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a maximum of 85 dBa exposure for any eight-hour workday. While this should not be viewed negatively, companies are required to incur the additional expense of providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees. This includes earplugs, if a hazardous noise environment is deemed to exist.

Retrofitting or upgrading these legacy conveyor systems offers considerable savings potential for sites. One such solution is a plastic modular chain conveyor. This system uses a series of flattened, interconnected plastic links to create a conveying surface that can handle existing turns and elevation changes found in many current live-roller conveying systems. Using a plastic modular chain immediately reduces the points of energy conversion, improving system efficiency and lowering the electrical waste, and thereby cost. Also, since the system is no longer comprised of multiple interdependent sections, the points of failure are reduced, likely improving system up-time while concurrently reducing time spent on routine maintenance.

Modular belting has the added benefit of being significantly quieter in operation when compared with a live-roller system. This one change likely will not eliminate the need for personnel to use PPE in the manufacturing environment. They will, however, experience an improved work environment that could contribute to higher worker satisfaction and retention, which is a lasting cost savings.

Reaping the benefits

Identifying cost-savings opportunities is all too frequently left up to a maintenance technician or a maintenance planner, with limited insight on the overall system. Taking a system-wide approach and engaging facility engineers, consultants, or a technically oriented distributor partner can aid any maintenance team in the discovery of innovative solutions. By evaluating savings opportunities beyond their immediate impact to the budget, a beneficial breakdown of the information silos between finance, maintenance, and purchasing often occurs.

Note that cost-saving strategies will be quantified differently, depending on a site’s motivation, i.e., taking advantage of energy savings, keeping product reliably moving down the line, or reducing incidents of workplace injury related to repetitive stress. Still, while organizations committed to system-wide optimization can rarely fully quantify their captured savings, the impact of such strategies can never be underestimated. MT

Information for this article was provided by Greg Mink, a corporate account manager in Contract Management, at Motion Industries Inc., Birmingham, AL. He has more than eight years assisting industrial customers identify, track, and quantify cost savings. For more information, visit or Motion’s Knowledge Hub.


4:46 pm
July 10, 2015
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Carbon-Neutral Lifestyle Drives Molding Company

 Early-morning sun on the Harbec plant is a sign of things to come. Soon-to-be-installed solar panels will allow the company to generate even more power.

Early-morning sun on the Harbec plant is a sign of things to come. Soon-to-be-installed solar panels will allow the company to generate even more power.

Injection-molder Harbec Inc. is a leader among manufacturers, boldly showing how one company can successfully integrate sustainability in all aspects of its operation.

By Rick Carter, Executive Editor

Two wind turbines at work over the Harbec facility in Ontario, NY, help the operation provide 80% of its power needs.

Two wind turbines at work over the Harbec facility in Ontario, NY, help the operation provide 80% of its power needs.

Two giant wind turbines spin above Harbec Inc., supplying power for the injection-molding/CNC-machining operation in Ontario, NY, some 12 miles east of Rochester. As big as the turbines are—their size makes it impossible to miss the otherwise modest-looking facility on State Route 104—they are but one piece of the sustainability picture at this forward-thinking company.

Thanks to the wind turbines, the site’s 18 microturbines, and the company’s large and growing number of sustainable initiatives, Harbec now buys only 20% of its power needs from outside sources. For a three-shift, 200-employee plant that turns out multiple millions of parts annually for customers in the aerospace, medical-device, consumer-product, telecom, and other fields, the fact tends to amaze anyone unfamiliar with this dynamic operation.

Founded in 1977 by toolmaker, inventor, army veteran, college professor, risk-taker, manufacturer and, now, sustainability leader, Bob Bechtold, Harbec is among the most advanced companies anywhere with regard to its success in sustainability. Before its green phase, the company (named for Bechtold and a former partner) built a strong reputation as a progressive innovator in its core business—prototyping, mold-making, custom injection-molding and CNC machining—by having no fear of trying new materials and technologies. Thanks to a willingness to experiment with high-tech resins and metals, and its early use of 3D printing (the company acquired its first 3D printer in the 1990s), Harbec came to be known as the company that can make it happen.

Harbec customers generated about $20 million in sales for the privately held company in 2014, turning to it for complex, intricate designs made with tough-to-mold materials, including metal. When Bechtold acted on his lifelong passion for energy efficiency, and added it to his portfolio of operational strategies, he created what has become an innovative “two-for-one” for his customers. The fact that Harbec is carbon-neutral, nearly water-neutral, and produces 80% of its own power needs means its customers automatically receive similar bragging rights simply by using Harbec-made parts in their products.

“What we do carries on in our parts,” said Bechtold. “If you’re making radios and you need plastic dials and have us build them, you just reduced the carbon footprint of your radio at no additional cost to you. We try to make people understand that there is no premium for this. If anything, it has helped us be more competitive.”

Harbec president and founder Bob Bechtold shows some of the many CNC-machined parts his company produces.

Harbec president and founder Bob Bechtold shows some of the many CNC-machined parts his company produces.

According to Bechtold and his staff, Harbec’s advanced level of sustainability distinguishes it from others that make similar claims because Harbec treats sustainability issues like a continuous-improvement project—a journey without end. “A lot of companies talk about sustainability and its virtues,” said Mark Coleman, business development manager, “but the hard part is actually putting things in place, implementing it, taking action, and making it happen. That’s where the rubber hits the road, where you see cost savings and reductions in greenhouse gases. That’s where you see productivity improvement. All those things can only be tweaked when you continuously maintain the equipment and infrastructure, and when you’re looking for those opportunities on a daily basis.”

Bechtold emphasized that sustainability is not, “one thing locked in cement. It is a living thing,” he stated. “And all of these elements have evolved amazingly well for us.”

Harbec has pursued virtually every sustainable opportunity possible at its location with more—namely solar—to come. This has often placed the company at the leading edge of energy-saving technologies, such as its microturbine-driven combined heat-and-power (CHP) system and its use of wind turbines to generate renewable energy. While these elements are still unique in manufacturing, Harbec’s first wind turbine, by contrast, went up in 2002, the second in 2012. But Bechtold said it took him time to learn how to discuss sustainability in a way that customers and lenders could understand.

“We moved here in 1987 and started doing things related to energy about 10 years later,” he said. “But I eventually learned to not say I was doing it for the environment. That was the kiss of death. I wasted so many months trying to convince people that it was good for the environment because that’s why I did it at home. But I was branding myself as a burned-out hippy or something! After beating my head against the wall, I stopped talking about the environment, and only talked about the dollars. Then along comes this phrase ‘eco-economics,’ so we latched onto that because it was exactly what we were doing. We could talk about the economics, and just kind of tickle the idea of the ecological implications. When we got this, we were able to go forward.”

Mark Coleman, business development manager, and Jeff Eisenhauer, energy systems engineer, are shown with some of the company’s additive-manufacturing machines. Each left lucrative careers in nearby Rochester to join Bechtold.

Mark Coleman, business development manager, and Jeff Eisenhauer, energy systems engineer, are shown with some of the company’s additive-manufacturing machines. Each left lucrative careers in nearby Rochester to join Bechtold.

Strategies on tap

Information about Harbec’s sustainable initiatives and successes occupies nearly as much space on its website ( as information about its design and manufacturing capabilities. As a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE, Washington) Better Plant Partner, Harbec also posts some of this information with the DOE (at betterbuildingssolutioncenter/partners/harbec). A visitor to either site can have no doubt about the company’s high level of commitment to sustainability, which is built on the following key strategies:

Carbon-neutrality. This is one of Harbec’s core sustainability claims, touted on its website, promotional material, and on its shipping cartons (with a self-designed logo). Achieving this desirable state took several large investments—the microturbines, wind turbines, and others—as well as a plan to cover the lesser amount of carbon these efforts could not erase. To obtain an audit that would certify the company’s carbon-neutrality, Bechtold pursued the ISO 50001 energy-management system standard.

“ISO 50001 requires us to account for any energy usage no matter what type, whether it’s wind or natural gas or the diesel in our trucks,” said Bechtold. With Harbec’s sustainable initiatives providing 80% of the company’s energy needs, the remaining 20%—“the power produced by our natural-gas fired microturbines in our CHP plant and the carbon our vehicles produce,” said Bechtold—is offset through the purchase of carbon credits.

The company does this through a firm called Native Energy Inc., Burlington, VT (, which uses the money for Native-American-run projects in Colorado where methane that once leached from abandoned coal mines is collected and put into pipelines for distribution. “So we’re paying someone else to take care of that carbon we can’t find a way to get rid of ourselves,” said Bechtold. He added that, when/if the company does need to purchase electricity from the grid, he has stipulated that it come from green-power sources.

Energy systems engineer Jeff Eisenhauer adjusts settings for the company’s CHP microturbines.

Energy systems engineer Jeff Eisenhauer adjusts settings for the company’s CHP microturbines.

Water neutrality (by the end of 2015). “There is no formal definition of this that I know of,” said Bechtold, “but to us this means we only use city water for handwashing and drinking. Everything else comes from harvested water or managed water.” To reach that point, the company harvests rainwater from its parking lot and rooftops, and diverts it into an on-site 900,000-gal. pond. The pond supplies the water Harbec needs for its manufacturing operations and its heating and cooling. It also holds enough water for the plant’s fire-sprinkler system, the need for which is what started the plant on its path to water neutrality.

“After 9/11, a lot of businesses in New York state had to comply with new insurance rules,” explained Bechtold. Among them was a requirement for sprinkler systems, which the company did not have. Facing a substantial premium hike without one, Bechtold looked into using city water for a system, but learned that the city had neither the water supply nor the pressure to support one. He solved the problem by digging a retention pond on site.

“So we learned how to collect water,” said Bechtold. And with the help of consulting engineers, they also learned how to take advantage of water’s thermal advantages. “We sank several old heat exchangers to the bottom of the pond and dumped some of our thermal there,” added Bechtold. “This reduced the load on our cooling towers, which was a big revelation. The engineers determined that we save 900,000 gallons of water per year by not using the evaporative cooling towers as much.”

The pond also provides a portion of the 3.6-million gal./yr. of water that Harbec needs for production, most of which goes to cooling the molding machines. The rest meets the plant’s HVAC needs. “The equipment-cooling loop and the HVAC loop are thermal opportunities, not water opportunities,” stressed Bechtold. “I think most entities continue to look at their facility’s water consumption only as a production utility. But that utility is driven by the thermal side, which is the cooling requirement. It’s that shift in thinking in how you can attack the thermal opportunity that really presents the water-savings and energy-savings sustainable opportunity.”

An additive-machine operator checks the status of a part being made using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

An additive-machine operator checks the status of a part being made using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Facility-level management system. Until Harbec installed an energy-management system and a series of calibrated gauges that tie into it, precise energy savings were difficult to obtain. The process remains a challenge, “because we make so many different types of parts and we have so many different disciplines under the same roof,” said Jeff Eisenhauer, Harbec’s energy systems engineer. “We’re not like a regular injection molder that runs one type of polymer. We’re constantly trying to dial in and get more detail to get a better indication of how efficient we are from an energy standpoint by department.”

According to Bechtold, the goal is to “keep track of the company’s every electrical event, 24/7. We want to do that because it adds more positives to your bottom line. When this system is fully in place and running maturely, there will be a norm for everything. So the system will basically just watch the norm, and let me know if anything goes over or under. Everything is driven by the consumption of energy.”

Energy-efficient equipment. “A long time ago, we decreed that, at the very least, every motor more than 10 horsepower would have a soft-start on it,” said Bechtold. The company’s pursuit of energy-reduction intensified when he learned that his hydraulic-powered injection-molding machines were energy hogs. “The norm in the world is hydraulic,” he said, “but we found that electric units can use 50% less energy to do the exact same job.”

This level of savings would be important to any injection molder, but is particularly so to Harbec because of the high number of changeovers it performs to accommodate low-volume customers. Though it has many high-volume parts customers, most “are into lower volume,” said Bechtold, adding that when the company used hydraulic machines exclusively, changeovers were measured “in garbage-cans full of non-conforming parts, just from the process of dialing in the machine. When we went to the electrics, our average dial-in time became six to 12 parts.”

More efficient because of their variable-frequency control, electrics contrast with hydraulics that “operate at a constant 100% potential,” said Bechtold. “If you drove a car like this machine works, you would turn it on, put your foot all the way to the floor, never let up, and use your other foot on the brake or clutch to go forward or stop.”

He added that an operating hydraulic injection-molding machine also produces a high level of heat, which is often assumed to derive from melting plastic. “Wrong!” said Bechtold. “Most of the ambient room heat comes from waste heat in the hydraulic system.”

Bechtold said he didn’t mind that when the company decided to replace its hydraulic units with electrics, the cost of the electrics was half again as much. “Because we had this eco-economic decision-making process, we knew there would be a big savings anyway. We knew that over three years, the amount of money we would save on energy would easily pay back that 50% price differential. The upside potential of decisions like this,” he added, “just keeps going.”

Harbec’s clean room is used to injection-mold parts for medical customers.

Harbec’s clean room is used to injection-mold parts for medical customers.

Energy-efficient lighting. Lighting updates have been regular occurrences at Harbec. The first large-scale change took place in 2007 when the company replaced sodium lights with T8 fluorescent bulbs and high-efficiency ballasts. This halved the operation’s annual electric-lighting bill, putting $38,000 annually to the bottom line.

But the T8s were only a stop along the way. In 2014, they were replaced by LED units, which saved the company another $18,000 on its annual electric tab. This savings, helped along by a 50% rebate from the local utility, paid for the LED project in one year. “And today,” said Bechtold, “our savings are even higher because the price of electricity has gone up.”

Sustainable building design. The plant’s 50,000-sq.-ft. footprint includes a new 17,000-sq.-ft. addition that features “everything we could learn and apply from LEED [the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design guidelines created by the U.S. Green Building Council] without being LEED certified,” said Bechtold. A highlight is the area’s radiant in-floor heating, which is accomplished by piping water through the floor that has drawn heat from the microturbines’ exhaust. The process provides all the heat needed in the new space.

The entire plant also uses skylights, which conserve its use of electric light, and uses insulated wall panels that make a complete thermal barrier from the concrete floor to the roof without pinch-points or leaks. All seams are silicone-sealed and tongue-and-grooved, which provides twice the insulation benefits of the local code requirement, according to Bechtold. The ceiling is similarly insulated to twice code requirement. A second addition in the planning stage will “copy the other one exactly,” said Bechtold.

Recycling. “We constantly strive to minimize our waste, and have done that for years,” said Bechtold. Though he believes zero waste is an unreachable goal for his company, or anyone’s, Bechtold said that the material Harbec sends to landfill is confined to office and break-room waste, and includes nothing from production. The company’s production waste stream—a complicated mix of standard molding plastics, high-tech engineering resins, and metals—is treated separately.

“‘Plastic’ is a huge word for us,” said Bechtold. “So we manage every type of material we use, and take the extra time to keep track of it.” He stated that the need for this type of process was made clear during the company’s pursuit of the ISO 14000 environmental-management standard. “We had formerly produced hundreds of tons of polymer waste a year that we never thought about until we committed to 14000 and had to quantify it. Once we did, we learned how to manage it better, first by learning how to not contaminate it.”

In typical Harbec fashion, the waste is not simply passed along. It was important to Bechtold to find other uses for it. The company now gives much of this material, including its hard-to-recycle mixed resins, to two makers of plastic lumber and a company that manufactures freeway sound barriers. “We also use this waste to make our own product,” said Bechtold, referring to the plastic digester balls Harbec manufactures for use in wastewater treatment. Placed in stainless-steel cages and submerged in wastewater, the rough-surfaced balls attract micro-organisms that naturally accelerate sewage breakdown without added chemicals or additional structures.

Green transportation fleet. “Because we pay carbon credits, we have to use the most efficient vehicles we can,” said Bechtold. As a result, the plant’s five-vehicle fleet comprises two Prius hybrids, one electric Chevrolet Volt, a fuel-efficient Mercedes BlueTEC diesel van, and a diesel hybrid truck. Noting that most of the company’s driving involves trips to Rochester and back, Bechtold ticks off some of the fleet’s impressive mpg stats: “The Volt gets 131 mpg, the Priuses about 45 each, and the large, 12-passenger diesel van gets 28.”

Sun and honey

Next on Harbec’s sustainability horizon is a solar project that will be implemented to reduce the company’s 20% energy purchase from the grid. Bechtold has already dismissed naysayers who’ve told him upstate New York is too far north to make solar viable. “I say, wake up! That’s a 20-year-old idea. Everybody knows it works even farther north than us.”

While two plans were originally considered, the idea to build a series of solar-panel-topped carports has likely beat out a plan to build a ground-based solar array beneath one of the wind turbines. “The effort required is about the same,” said Bechtold, “so it looks like we’ll go that way. And our people would then have sheltered parking spaces”—a nice perk in an area that typically receives more than four feet of snow annually.

But the field beneath the wind turbine will not sit idle. Bechtold has arranged for a local horticulturist to develop a bee population there. Noting that the company’s current xeriscaping approach to grounds maintenance—only the grass adjacent to plant buildings is trimmed—is conducive to bee colonies, Bechtold hopes to turn the entire five-acre plot under the wind turbine into a productive green space.

“It will be a combination of flowering trees by the parking lot, with the rest planted in clover and four other ground crops that bees like,” says Bechtold. “The hives will be at the far end. So we are moving toward a pleasant space,” he said, “where bees are given top priority and we get to enjoy the honey.”

There may be no better example of the value this enterprise places on—and receives from—its policy to run the most sustainable operation imaginable. MT


6:12 am
April 1, 2015
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Building In Sustainability

The new Endress+Hauser Customer Center, one of three recently completed buildings on the Greenwood campus.

The new Endress+Hauser Customer Center, one of three recently completed buildings on the Greenwood campus.

A large construction project at Endress+Hauser’s U.S. headquarters operation significantly advances the site’s sustainability factors.

By Rick Carter, Executive Editor

Because European companies have traveled the sustainability road longer than most of their U.S. counterparts, key green practices like energy efficiency, recycling and others are often the rule for these entities, not the exception. Thus, it’s no surprise that Endress+Hauser, a Switzerland-based instrumentation and process-automation company with operations around the world, has infused its Greenwood, IN-based U.S. headquarters with impeccable sustainability credentials. But it has only been within the past half-decade or so that the 70-acre campus, 10 miles south of Indianapolis, has come to resemble the parent company’s high level of sustainability in nearly every way. Thanks to a recent construction boom, the site features two new LEED-certified* manufacturing buildings and a new high-tech Customer Center that awaits LEED certification, which added nearly 300,000 sq. ft. of space to the campus. The project also added a long list of impressive sustainable features, not the least of which is a $1.2 million geothermal heating and cooling system that serves the new manufacturing facilities.

The large, concurrent building project was OK’d not just for its environmental returns, but as part of the company’s long-term strategy to gain U.S. market share. It also reflects the company’s worldwide (and sustainable) policy to manufacture as close as possible to its customers rather than sourcing product from overseas operations. The U.S. team is extremely proud of its recent site improvements, most of which came together over a short period of time.

Key E+H construction and management team members, from left: Bill Poland, VP of Construction, Genesis Property Development; Mike Moore, Industrial Engineering Manager, Automation; Todd Hubbell, VP Operations,  Sales; Steve Demaree, Technical Services Manager, Flowtec;  and Gary Abbott, Facilities, Process Improvement Leader, Automation.

Key E+H construction and management team members, from left: Bill Poland, VP of Construction, Genesis Property Development; Mike Moore, Industrial Engineering Manager, Automation; Todd Hubbell, VP Operations, Sales; Steve Demaree, Technical Services Manager, Flowtec; and Gary Abbott, Facilities, Process Improvement Leader, Automation.

“For over five years, this campus has been a construction zone,” says Todd Hubbell, Vice President of Operations. First, he says, Endress+Hauser Flowtec AG (USA), the company’s U.S. flow-meter-manufacturing operation, built a new facility in 2008 and expanded it in 2012. That same year, Endress+Hauser Automation Instrumentation, Inc. (USA), where the company manufactures level and pressure instrumentation devices, built a new building, which finished 30 days apart from the other one. “And immediately after those two buildings were done,” says Hubbell, “we tore down Automation’s old building, and built an energy-efficient and sustainable Customer Center in its place.”

Manufacturing Coriolis flow meters.

Manufacturing Coriolis flow meters.

Despite the enormous inconvenience caused by simultaneous, large-scale construction projects taking place next to each other, Endress+Hauser’s North American customers had no idea things weren’t humming along normally in Indiana. “No production was ever down here in Greenwood,” says Mike Moore, Industrial Engineering Manager, and 36-year Endress+Hauser veteran. “We promise that customers will get their products on time, and none of our delivery dates were compromised or missed,” he says. “We didn’t want any customer to notice anything that was happening here.”

Considering the unusual business hierarchy used at Greenwood—the site actually encompasses five independent Endress+Hauser companies—and that all company products are made-to-order, the feat is exceptional. It’s also indicative of this operation’s ability to work together toward common goals. “Our organization is different, but unbelievably successful because it forces us at a campus level for the general managers and the management structure to work together,” says Hubbell.

Greenwood’s team strength developed in response to the company’s plan for the site to not just be a distribution/sales outpost, but a functioning manufacturing arm, each part of which (within the five companies) has its own challenges to resolve. In the 40 years Endress+Hauser has been in Greenwood, the staff has proven its resourcefulness in this regard, and positioned itself as a good steward of the company’s sustainability policies.

“The whole culture of producing close to the customer is part of sustainability,” explains Steve Demaree, Technical Services Manager and 37-year Endress+Hauser veteran. “Compared to a lot of our competitors who produce offshore, no matter what they do, they are less flexible. When you try to produce far from your customer, your options are long-distance deliveries or some type of regional stocking program of completed instruments. To have the broad flexibility to reach your customer throughout the world is using sustainability as a competitive advantage. And it has been an effective business model for us.”

Demaree adds that the privately held Endress+Hauser has always been more focused on long-term improvement projects. “They have to be good investments,” he adds, “but if it has good long-term return, it’s likely to be accepted, which is also part of sustainability, to not be so tightly controlled.”

When it came time to expand Greenwood, it was assumed any new design under discussion would reflect advanced green elements. “The Endress family has always been a big proponent of the environment,” says Hubbell, adding that the campus has been developed with that in mind. “With our recent LEED initiatives, our environmental efforts just came naturally; there was no ‘program’ in place. It has always been assumed that we will approach all projects from an environmental perspective.”

Making it work
The company’s partner in its recent projects was Genesis Property Development, based in nearby Shelbyville, IN. Bill Poland, VP of Construction for Genesis, says the Endress+Hauser projects were different from others he’s worked on because of the company’s “passion for their facilities. We were here every day,” he says, “and we interacted with them regularly, which I’ve never dealt with before. Usually, once the design is done, the owner goes about their business and doesn’t want to know what goes into the project on a daily basis. These folks did, and it was fantastic.”


The result, says Poland, is that the new facilities “do exactly what they need them to and, from a sustainability standpoint, nothing was wasted.” He adds that with the elevated level of on-site building activity and with regular company operations continuing unabated, their interest and involvement was especially appreciated. The pursuit of LEED certification for manufacturing operations is difficult enough, he says, but the large geothermal project at Endress+Hauser proved a particular challenge.

The main external feature of the geothermal project—a narrow channel more than a quarter mile long (1370 ft.), 90 ft. wide and 14 ft. deep—is situated along the property’s western boundary, at a distance from on-site vehicle and foot traffic, and largely out of view. Had they gone with a more traditional oval-shaped pond, a much wider swath of land would have been needed, which would have disrupted the flow of on-site traffic. And while outdoor ponds are not part of every geothermal project, it was chosen for this one as a two-part solution to also address an existing water runoff problem. Hubbell says that with more paved surfaces being added to the site, they knew the flooding issue would have to be resolved, so they chose a solution that would do that and become a resource for reducing energy costs. “It was a case of making lemonade out of lemons,” says Poland.

Following a construction-plan analysis of the site’s water issue, the company purchased enough adjoining land to accommodate both the new manufacturing operations and the planned retention pond. Poland explains that the pond design allows for a desired “normal” level of water to be maintained year-round. “But it can accept a tremendous amount of water,” he says, which is allowed by the pond’s length, depth and vertical walls. The current design allows the pond level to rise by as much as 12 ft. in heavy rain, “which can happen quickly,” says Poland. “The water is then released slowly through a weir system, which controls flooding downstream.”

Aerial view of the Greenwood campus shows the three newest buildings (largest at top, middle and bottom) and the long, narrow geothermal/drainage retention pond at the bottom.

Aerial view of the Greenwood campus shows the three newest buildings (largest at top, middle and bottom) and the long, narrow geothermal/drainage retention pond at the bottom.

An additional four feet of depth over and above what was needed to improve drainage helps maintain water at the desired level longer. This feature also allows for possible later expansion of the geothermal system for building HVAC purposes or for use in industrial processes.

The completed geothermal system is now the only heating and cooling system in place for the two new manufacturing buildings. “It never shuts off,” says Demaree. “When the pond is frozen, we extract heat from it. When it’s in its warmest condition, we put heat into it.” He adds that it has already passed the heating-and-cooling comfort test many times over, starting on the day the Flowtec building was inaugurated. “It was 90 degrees outside, and we had what will probably be the most number of people we’ll ever have in it, and it was totally comfortable.” The system is also saving money, beating the heating and cooling costs in the buildings that were replaced by more than 40%.

Other LEED issues
Substantial as the geothermal project was, it added only six points to the company’s LEED tally for its two new manufacturing buildings. And while many fundamental LEED requirements were included in the buildings’ designs (see sidebar), it was important that the design team also include one or two larger ones. The new Customer Center, for example, which awaits its LEED certification, features a high-tech boiler/chiller system for its heating and cooling. Though located too far from the pond to be on the geothermal system, this building’s HVAC system “does the same things mechanically the pond does,” says Poland, and it built LEED points. The company also opted for white roofs on all new buildings—an unusual feature for structures in central Indiana, but necessary for LEED.

Other significant LEED add-ons included energy-efficient lighting and building automation systems and construction procedures that called for controlled debris removal. “We were required to divert at least 75% of the site’s construction material away from landfills,” says Poland. His crews were able to top that, diverting about 87% from the three-building project. Detailed docuamentation was also required, both for disposed/recycled material and material used in construction, which had to include certain levels of recycled content, and be sourced locally. “This meant that everything we used—steel, drywall, concrete—had to be produced within 500 miles of this area,” says Poland. “We could not bring in material from outside that radius.”

Mike Moore above Endress + Hauser's Automation manufacturing floor.

Mike Moore above Endress + Hauser’s Automation manufacturing floor.

While there was never an argument against pursuing LEED certifications for the new Greenwood buildings, it was decided early on to seek only the LEED level that proved most practical from a business perspective, which was “Certified.” The Greenwood team reasoned that the added cost needed to obtain the higher point requirements of Silver, Gold and Platinum levels would not produce significantly greater environmental paybacks. “We were not going to ‘buy into’ levels,” says Demaree. “It didn’t make sense to us. But where there was good ROI in terms of energy savings, we would go for that. We wanted to take a very practical approach.”

Their decision means that a high-point/high-cost upgrade like a solar photovoltaic system was not considered for the Greenwood project. But the sun was not left out of their plans. “All the new buildings have light-harvesting components,” says Poland. “These include skylight systems and a tremendous amount of sidewall lighting. These features add to their energy-efficiency as well, because on sunny days, the buildings are all well-lighted.” The company’s LEED investment added an estimated 10% to the total construction cost, along with a little extra time. “But the benefits were so substantial,” says Poland, “they were worth it. With this company, getting it right was more important than the cost. There was a premium placed on having things done the way they needed to be done.”

What’s next

The Customer Center foyer includes a wall made with recycled leftover wood from a nearby operation that manufactures steering wheels.

The Customer Center foyer includes a wall made with recycled leftover wood from a nearby operation that manufactures steering wheels.

“When we did these projects, it was based on a five-year plan, taking us up to 2017 or 2018, at least on the Automation side,” says Moore. With the new buildings in place, he says, “We’re now aggressive in projects to build more products on site. We also built the Automation building in such a way that we could build a mirror image of it and expand on the south side of the property.”

Hubbell believes expansion is likely. “We’ve had fast growth in the marketplace over the past few years and believe we must continue investing in our infrastructure,” he says, noting that the company has spent more than $150 million on such projects at its U.S. operations in the past five years.

Endress+Hauser is also working to improve production efficiencies at Greenwood. Efforts include increased parts-sharing across the company’s supply chain, making better use of remote-monitoring to implement higher levels of predictive maintenance, and building up recently enacted 5S and TPM programs. They also plan to more closely monitor energy consumption using their new building automation systems. “We are just now starting to work with this,” says Demaree, “but it should play a much bigger role in our future ability to conserve energy. We’ll use this data to support other projects and further reduce energy throughout our facilities.”

They’re also looking beyond elements over which they have direct control in order to push Greenwood’s sustainability boundaries. “We’ve been working with the city to get an interchange off of the local interstate,” says Hubbell. “This would save eight traffic lights for the trucks that come here, not to mention help our employees on their commutes.” Hubbell adds, though, that since business for Endress+Hauser through Greenwood has lately been “so fluid and our growth so dynamic,” it’s hard to say exactly what paths they might choose over the next several months or years. “But I do know,” he says, “that we’ll meet whatever challenge comes at us.” MT

* LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental design. It is a world-recognized green-building certification program created by the U.S. Green Building Council (