Energy efficiency for MGB manufacturer

Schneider Electric
Monday, 13 May, 2013

SULO Australia is known for the manufacture of mobile garbage bins (MGBs) and operates one of the largest plastic injection moulding plants in Australia. Its facility is one of the most highly automated large tonnage injection moulding plants in the country. It produces 900,000 wheelie bins a year and has delivered in excess of 10 million units into the Australian market.

With a significant portion of the manufacturing costs of a wheelie bin attributed to power consumption, SULO has become a very energy-aware organisation. The manufacturing market is becoming even more competitive and there are continued increases in energy and raw material prices. With SULO’s energy bills exceeding $1 million per annum, it was vital that the organisation began to consider ways in which operational costs could be reduced in order to remain competitive.

With recent funding being used to improve water use across the plant, SULO has made a long-term commitment to running an efficient operation. The company is determined to find ways in which the plant could run even more effectively. As such, SULO made the decision to undertake a NSW Government-funded Energy Saver audit.

The energy audit, subsidised by the Office of Environment & Heritage, was conducted by Schneider Electric to identify where and how energy was being used across the MGB manufacturing plant. An energy audit is the first phase of the energy-efficiency life cycle and is key in determining the energy-saving opportunities for businesses and recommended actions that can be implemented moving forward.

After a 15-week in-depth audit, which was conducted in early 2012, there were a number of key findings that were reported back to the SULO team, highlighting where energy was being used across the plant. Interestingly, across the facility just four machines in the plant were consuming 80% of the site’s power. These four machines were all critical to the production of the products and ongoing operation.

On completion of the audit, there were 16 energy-saving opportunities presented back to SULO, highlighting ways in which the organisation could improve efficiencies in multiple areas across the plant. These 16 opportunities had the potential for SULO to reduce annual electricity costs by 15% across the entire plant, equating to over $200,000 per annum. Additionally, over 1300 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved, reducing SULO’s carbon footprint.

The energy-saving opportunities included additions to plant machinery, lighting upgrades, power factor correction and variable speed drives for pumps and other equipment. These included basic fixes such as insulation blankets over hot parts of the machines through to larger jobs such as automation of the regrind room.

Additionally, the analysis from the audit has helped identify and supply key energy figures which can easily be presented in monthly management meetings, allowing energy usage to be continuously tracked and monitored for changes.

“Energy management and efficiency has risen to the top of the agenda for many organisations and it is a critical business consideration for SULO. As well as ensuring we produce and supply high quality products to all our customers, we strive to ensure we remain efficient in the way we operate,” said Thorsten Voss, Director Manufacturing, SULO Australia.

“The energy audit conducted by Schneider Electric provided us with the necessary insight and advice on our energy usage, highlighting where energy was being used and how potential savings could be made. Following the audit, we were provided with a comprehensive list of 16 potential energy-saving projects that could be implemented across the plant, some of which we have already implemented. This is just the beginning of our continued efforts to become more energy efficient, and we are reassured with the knowledge that we have the help and advice from the Schneider Electric team at hand.”

When organisations, plants or facilities have poor power quality, it means there is more pressure being put on the utilities network. Improving power quality has now become more important than ever; therefore, SULO installed and commissioned two Schneider Electric power factor correction units in October 2012. These units have improved the power factor from 0.80 to 0.96 and will result in ongoing energy cost savings.

Insulation blankets have been installed on the injection moulding machines and the Office of Environment & Heritage has selected this project for a measurement and verification trial to ensure that estimated savings are achieved.

A number of other energy-saving projects have been budgeted for in the future and are pending further design refinements.

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