ACHIEVING energy efficiency improvement in the compressed air system through process optimisation and waste elimination has got Wieland Metals Singapore Pte Ltd Honourable Mention for Best Practices at this year's EENP Awards.
The company specialises in the production of high performance alloys of copper strips used mainly in the electronic and automobile sectors. As copper manufacturing is energy intensive, electricity use forms a big part of the company's expenses.
Says Winsley Hitie, senior manager, plant engineering, at the company: "With the implementation of focus improvement, an essential pillar of our Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) programme, our employees are continually considering improvement projects and waste reduction. Generating compressed air is one of the top users of electricity in the plant. We did many audits to identify ways to reduce the compressed air consumption and this led us to re-engineer our rolling mill shutter control motor and insert air regulators for a much more controlled usage of compressed air."
"We are delighted to have been selected for this award. It is very encouraging for the team in Wieland Singapore and energises us to do even more in the future. We are proud to be part of the great journey towards making our planet much more sustainable," he adds.
Global warming is real and is happening as we speak, says Mr Hitie. As a result, the world faces more frequent hurricanes, drought, heat waves, rising sea levels, and harsh winters. "We often hear that we are lucky to be in Singapore as we are shielded from those natural disasters. With globalisation, today's world is intertwined, and in some way or other, we are all affected," he adds.
"For our sake and of our future generations, we all need to realise that we cannot continue living our lives ignoring the fact that our planet has finite resources. Everyone has a role to play. Very often when we discuss improvement in efficiency, the first thing that comes to mind is millions of dollars of investment. We talk about grand ideas that often fail and take a long time to implement. I believe the most beneficial actions are the ones we take every day and which do not cost much. Small and simple actions and changes in our way of doing things in life can take us a long way. They are easy to implement and cost close to nothing most of the time," says Mr Hitie.
He says that there are many benefits of being energy efficient and companies like his can take a wide range of best practices approach to promote energy efficiency in their own operating systems.
Energy means cost for the manufacturing environment. It is important for businesses to stay in control and have the ability to reduce the volatile effect of electricity cost on their business.
"In 2008 the price of oil peaked at US$147 a barrel versus today's price of US$69. If this happens tomorrow, it would mean an increase of 100 per cent, equivalent to a10 per cent rise in production cost. The impact will be a rise in the production costs, an increase in price for our products thus impacting the whole supply chain, affecting many other related businesses as well as customers. Continuously looking for opportunities to reduce energy usage helps us and the supply chain to remain resilient to such threats and be sustainable," says Mr Hitie.
For its part, Wieland Metals Singapore in recent years has looked at its building energy usage and replaced all the shop floor lights with LED (lower energy ratings), installed real time sensors to control the air conditioning and set all office air-cons at 25 degree Celsius (non-adjustable).
Furthermore, during the day only 50 per cent of the lights installed on the shop floor are turned on as it was evaluated to be enough for the daily activities. The pumps in the cooling towers and wastewater treatment have been optimised to supply just what is required to run the processes versus the full designed capacity. Blowers and compressed air regulators have been installed in the annealing line to reduce wastage. Operators and engineers are trained to identify waste part of the TPM initiatives. The furnace uses specific time campaigns for heating and cooling to minimise the energy usage. As different materials use different temperatures, the lots comprise a sequence of materials that start from low temperatures to high and then back to low.
Mr Hitie says that going forward the company has decided that real time energy monitoring devices will be installed in all key parts of the plants. The company will then improve on the visualisation of its energy usage across the plant, thus building the required data to improve efficiency as well as eliminate waste.
"We have set up our energy committee which meets bi-weekly with key stakeholders in the company. Ideas, policies, and investments are discussed to improve our energy efficiency continuously. Once fully implemented the target is to save another 5 per cent in energy cost by 2020," says Mr Hitie.
"The target is to inculcate and create a culture that is friendly to our environment, reduce over-consumption and wastage in all corners of the plant. Awareness has to be created so that our employees understand that they all have a role to play in this area. It is not only the job of the energy manager and his committee, but we are looking forward to the development of a community that contributes to our energy target at all levels."
Philipp Jakob Wieland laid the foundation of the company in 1820 when he took over his uncle's art and bell foundry in Ulm, Germany. Today, Wieland-Werke AG employs 6,700 employees from over 40 countries, making it one of the world's leading manufacturers of semi-finished and special products in copper and copper alloys. Wieland Metals Singapore (Pte) Ltd is a fully owned subsidiary of the group and was established in 1989.