“Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”
While that old saying might be a maxim for household budgeting, it also could describe Intertape Polymer Group Inc.’s (IPG) approach to developing an award-winning energy management program. Its essence: turn an accumulation of low-value opportunities into a gold mine of high-value savings.
The Manufacturing Leadership Council hosted a tour in February at IPG’s Danville, Va., facility, the company’s flagship plant out of 22 in North America. IPG also operates four plants in Asia and one in Europe and houses its corporate headquarters in Montreal, QC and Executive headquarters in Sarasota, FL. Their products include a variety of paper and film-based pressure sensitive and water-activated tapes, polyethylene and specialized polyolefin films, protective packaging, engineered coated products, and packaging machinery. IPG, with $1.2 billion in revenue in 2019, is the second-largest tape manufacturer in North America.
The company considers the Danville manufacturing facility to be “two plants under one roof” with one part of the facility focused on carton sealing tape manufacturing and the other part focused on stretch film manufacturing. Each has its own compressor room and monitors its energy usage separately. There are more than 300 employees at the 600,000-square foot manufacturing facility and adjoining distribution center.
IPG’s achievements in energy savings have earned the company many accolades, such as being recognized as an Energy Star partner since 2009 and being named a Sustained Excellence Partner of the Year every year since 2016. The IPG Danville facility was named a NASCAR Green E3 Challenge Award winner in 2016 and won Industry Week’s Best Plants award that same year. The IPG Danville facility has realized $5 million in energy benefits through a variety of continuous improvement activities including favorable contractual services.
For these achievements the company has utilized both internal initiatives and outside expertise. Externally, the company worked with Leidos for a turnkey energy management system (EMS) that offers visibility into energy usage at a machine and line level with the ability to track trends over time. The findings discovered from that system led to adoption of new practices for staggered equipment startup procedures to minimize energy demand, as well as improvements in equipment scheduling. Real-time energy usage data is displayed on an LED board within the plant (one for the tape operations side and one for the stretch film operations side). The EMS led to approximately $339,000 in savings in its first year after installation.
Internally, IPG has found great success through its employee-led energy treasure hunts. This is a two-to-three-day Kaizen event where 15-20 participants from different divisions of the company go into the facility equipped with an air leak gun, a FLIR (thermographic) gun to detect temperatures, and a thermometer on the hunt for low-cost and no-cost energy savings opportunities. Each team is given a directional focus, such as facility utilities, chillers/boilers/HVAC, or machine and process operations. Their findings are reported to management, and there is recognition for the team afterward and follow-up for how their findings were addressed.
While it might seem that all problems would be solved after holding just a few of these treasure hunts, IPG says that they did their first treasure hunt in 2013 and still identified $100,000 in potential savings opportunities for future years from treasure hunts conducted in 2019, brought on by continuous changes in people, equipment, and plant configuration.
The company has also realized notable savings through its efforts in curtailing air leaks and improving air flow from its compressors. While IPG added new compressors to its facilities, it initially did so without updating the piping or other infrastructure that supported airflow. An airflow survey found turbulence created by piping bends and kinks, inefficiencies in the compressor system, and many air leaks. Improvements included installation of a demand expander, and eventually isolating two separate compressor rooms to minimize disruptions in the event of an outage. As a result, the plant can now run its compressed air system at lower horsepower with increases in the amount of air in the system. Similar to its energy treasure hunts, the company also deploys a three-person air strike team to regularly detect and correct air leaks throughout its facilities.
Up next, IPG has its eye on further improvements in sustainability, including reductions in its carbon footprint and landfill waste. It is also in the nascent stages of creating safety treasure hunts that mimic its energy savings program.
For companies looking to create their own energy management programs, IPG suggests using the many free tools available online through Energy Star; comprehensive information is available regarding how to organize and execute energy treasure hunts. They also suggest staying informed on the state average price of electricity to ensure utility rates are at or below average, data that is published online by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If rates don’t fall within that range, the company suggests contacting the local utility provider to determine if lower rate class options are available.