Thinking small to drive sustainability

Posted on 2 May 2016 by The Manufacturer

General Manager, Padhraic Mcginn explains how making several ‘small’ changes have had a huge effect on sustainability at Nypro Healthcare, a Jabil Company.

The European Union’s 2020 climate and energy regulations and its more recent Circular Economy Package are placing manufacturers in EU member states under increasing pressure to make their operations more sustainable.

Simultaneously, there is a growing expectation from customers that their manufacturing partners adopt a green culture.

When seeking to meet these demands, manufacturing organisations often seek a drastic, comprehensive answer that solves their sustainability issues – a silver bullet.

However, a recent sustainability drive at Jabil’s Nypro plant in Bray, Ireland proves that sometimes in order to achieve big results, it’s best to think small.

Nypro is a Jabil company that provides an array of solutions in ideation; product design; moulding, tooling; intelligent supply chain management; device assembly, and manufacturing for the healthcare and packaging industries.

In June 2014, a team at Nypro’s Bray plant undertook a comprehensive review of the energy efficiency of the site in order to realise a number of energy efficient solutions, which today deliver significant savings.

The review was driven both by a need to reduce the plant’s energy expenditure by 5% in 2015 (as set forth in the Irish Government’s Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme) and an expectation from Nypro’s customers that it improve the sustainability of its operations.

In order to identify the areas where the greatest energy efficiency gains could be made, electrical pulse meters were installed throughout the plant to collect data on energy consumption.

The data was then fed into an energy management server and the top consumers of energy were identified. These pieces of equipment were then benchmarked against those in similar plants to assess if they were consuming excessive amounts of energy.

This process identified four key areas where improvements could be made:

– Utilities

It was discovered that the plant’s six air compressors accounted for 6% of the site’s total energy usage. In order to address this, the team developed a demand driven air compressor site strategy.

This facilitated the air compressors to go into standby mode when not required, a new configuration that enabled the site to reduce compressor numbers from six to four, and to reduce energy consumption in supplying compressed air to the site operations by 33%.

Furthermore, the team installed heat recovery systems on the two primary air compressors, to extract the heat generated by the normal operation of the compressors and divert it into the plant hot water circuit. As a result, the plant has been able to turn off the gas boilers and meet the site heat and hot water requirements using the recovered heat. The site is now a gas free facility.

– Lighting

The team determined that a lack of LED lighting across the plant was contributing to approximately 4% of the site’s energy usage. LED technology was introduced across 80% of the production and office areas, delivering a 50% reduction (on average) across each light fitting, reducing the overall site energy costs by 3 – 4%.

– Building Controls

Variable speed drives (VSD) were installed on the plant’s water chiller and cooling tower pumps as well as in the cleanroom air return fans, in order to optimise run speeds. The running speeds were reduced to match demand load, rather than running at a permanent fixed speed. This delivered a reduction of 8% in site energy costs.

– Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC)  

Fan filter units, as well as fitting energy efficient high-efficiency particulate air filters, were adopted to replace older HVAC technology as part of cleanroom upgrade programmes. These technologies have enabled the team to reduce the energy consumption in the cleanroom areas by 30%.

Many ‘small’ changes have had a huge effect. Nypro achieved an annual reduction in energy consumption of 15% and reduced carbon emissions by more than 1,500 tons.

By employing a strategic, data-driven approach to their plant’s energy efficiency, the team was able to identify the areas where the biggest impact could be made.

Rather than undertake a single large project or search for a silver bullet to sustainability, multiple gains in different areas were made using data and insights, which together helped realise significant overall savings.