Georgia Tech Helps Midway Manufacturer Cut Energy Costs

Saving energy is important to Terry McCormick. As executive vice president of Elan Technology, Inc., a technical glass and ceramics manufacturer in Midway, Ga., he has seen energy costs rise dramatically, with no end in sight. The 62-year-old company, which employs 51 people, makes ceramic components for electrical and thermal insulation and glass components for hermetic seals.

“We were benefiting from a 10-year energy contract with really good rates, but last year our rates went up 33 percent, and we expect the rates to go up again this year,” he noted. “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in electrical costs, and we also consume a lot of natural gas. Over the years, those prices have trended upwards.”

To address the situation, McCormick consulted with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and was directed to Georgia Tech’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, this Center at Georgia Tech can provide energy management, waste minimization and productivity assessment at no charge to small- and mid-sized manufacturers.

Mike Brown, a Georgia Tech energy specialist, visited the Elan plant to evaluate the company’s challenges, problems and solutions. He studied the facility’s energy consumption history and measured the major energy-consuming equipment. Along with several Georgia Tech co-op students, he produced a report that included a number of recommendations, including repairing compressed air leaks, turning off the sintering ovens on the weekend, installing outdoor lighting, replacing standard V-belts used in the pressing machine, and changing the timer on entry doors to prevent infiltration of outside air into the air-conditioned building.

“Immediately, we implemented changing the timing on some of the doors so they didn’t stay open as long,” McCormick said. “We also located and repaired all of the compressed air leaks. It was a real eye-opener to us to see the impact of compressed air leaks on our energy usage.”

Elan Technology purchased an ultrasonic leak detector and then developed and implemented a maintenance plan for future detection and repair of compressed air leaks. The company also switched out machine V-belts to increase energy efficiency.

McCormick says that the company, which did not have a formal energy management system prior to the Georgia Tech energy assessment, has decreased costs and increased productivity as a result. So far, he estimates that the company has saved more than 11 percent of its annual energy usage, as measured in BTUs.

“Being able to reduce our energy consumption makes Elan more competitive and has a positive impact on the environment,” he noted. “The Georgia Tech engineers did an extremely thorough job in analyzing potential opportunities for energy reduction and presented their findings in a comprehensive manner. Their assistance and training programs provide Georgia companies access to specific knowledge that is often difficult or expensive to find elsewhere.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

About Industrial Assessment Centers:
Industrial Assessment Centers – like the one based at Georgia Tech – provide energy, waste and productivity assessment at no charge to small and mid-sized manufacturers. Assessments help manufacturers maximize energy efficiency, reduce waste and improve productivity. The assessments are performed by teams of engineering faculty and students from 26 participating universities across the country. On average, recommended actions from assessments conducted by the Georgia Tech IAC in 2007 have resulted in reported annual cost savings in excess of five percent of the plants’ net utility cost. Work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright