Intek Reduces Energy Consumption

February 1, 2011
Noteworthy

Intek Plastics Inc. reports it has reduced its energy consumption by 17 percent in the first year of its Joint Energy Efficiency Plan, a four-year effort developed in cooperation with Xcel Energy. Intek’s goal is a 25 percent reduction, or 1.5 million kilowatt hours, by 2014.

With its efforts in 2010 alone, the extruder of custom plastic products, including window and door components, has achieved about two-thirds of its overall goal or a decrease of over 1 million kwh, officials report.

Intek’s 125,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Hastings houses more than 20 production lines and nearly 200 employees. In late 2008, Intek consolidated its two Hastings facilities into its current location. With all of the production in one facility, Intek management saw the need to reduce the company’s electrical consumption to create greater capacity to accommodate the projected growth of the company.

“We’ve very intentionally and aggressively modified processes and equipment to substantially reduce our energy use,” says Mike Kinning, Intek president. “Our energy steering committee has done a phenomenal job identifying the areas and equipment where the biggest reductions were possible and tackled those projects first. We’re seeing big payoffs already.”

Working with Xcel Energy, the company developed an energy reduction plan and formalized its commitment to reduce energy use and costs by signing the JEEP agreement in December 2009. The project summary includes energy efficient upgrades to Intek’s compressed air system, lighting, manufacturing equipment and HVAC systems, providing estimated energy savings and completion dates for each.

“We’ve made significant progress on the projects detailed in the JEEP summary,” says Pete Barboni, Intek's continuous improvement manager and chairperson of the company’s energy steering committee. “Some of the projects were relatively easy to implement, others have required sizeable investments of time and financial resources. Our senior management, the steering committee and other dedicated associates have made this initiative a top priority.”

Most of the first year’s initiatives focused on improving the efficiency of the facility’s compressed air system. After indentifying and eliminating air leaks, modifications were made to manufacturing equipment as well as reconfiguring existing air compressors to be able to reduce air pressure from 100 psi to 80 psi. As a result, the company has saved an estimated 628,430 kwh.

Further changes in manufacturing equipment and processes included the following: upgrading to more efficient vacuum pumps, improving the chilled water controls and shutdown process, reconfiguring the cleaning oven cooling system, and switching to more efficient air nozzles and rings. These changes have resulted in a reduction of nearly 180,000 kwh, Intek reports.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning modifications, such as installing additional air intake and exhaust fans, removing existing rooftop air conditioning units and eliminating localized space heaters have netted the company a reduction of approximately 189,000 kwh.

Office associates participated in the changes during 2010 by adding occupancy lighting sensors, adjusting thermostats, replacing inefficient vending machines and other miscellaneous projects, generating additional savings of 17,200 kwh.

Intek’s environmental efforts go well beyond reducing its energy consumption, officials also point out. Late in 2009, the company introduced a scrap reduction program to improve material utilization and promote reclaiming and recycling of materials. Since the program was implemented, the company reports a 24 percent drop in material scrap and 30 percent decrease in waste sent to the landfill. The program rewards employees’ support and contributions by sharing 50 percent of the savings. In 2010, Intek’s employees each received more than $1,000 worth of scrap-reduction incentives.

Because Intek actively promotes the use of recycled material in applications where virgin material may not be required, the company recycled nearly 1 million pounds of plastic material internally in 2010 and purchased an additional 1 million pounds of recycled material from outside sources. Roughly 15 percent to 20 percent of the total pounds Intek extruded was from recycled material, officials note.