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Ropak Packaging

Project

Replacing the existing lighting system to reduce electricity consumption by more than 670,000 kilowatts a year and electricity costs by $56,000.

Line of Business

Plastic Containers Manufacturer

Background

Ropak Packaging's facility (plant, warehouse and offices) in Oakville produces millions of tons of plastic containers annually for the food, beverage and a variety of other industries. The containers, which are up to six gallons in size, are made by injection moulding and are used for products ranging from kitty litter to dish detergent and motor oil. The 160,000-square-foot facility operates 24/7, says Ropak's project manager, Don DiFlorio. "We are making containers continuously for our customers."

The cost of making the containers can be better controlled by installing more energy-efficient technology since the facility was built at a time when energy costs were much lower and many conserving technologies were not available.
Ropak, like many companies, has increasingly realized that controlling electricity use has a high dollar value. "In the past, energy was seen as a necessary evil; it was just another commodity. But now studies are clearly showing there are things you can do to save money." Mr. DiFlorio says.

"Businesses today have to be leaner," he says "Whenever there is an opportunity to conserve energy that is where we will go."

At the Oakville plant, "lighting has been a focus for some time," Mr. DiFlorio says. Most of the facility was lit by inefficient and high-cost 1,000-watt and 480-watt metal halide lights. "When these fixtures went off - if only for a second - it took forever for the lighting to come back up. You're basically waiting in the dark for them to start back up again and get back to work."

The vastly improved lighting from fluorescent lamps (more natural light that is distributed more effectively) combined with the significant cost savings led to Ropak replacing its entire lighting system in late 2007 and early 2008.

"It was good first step to better control our energy costs," Mr. DiFlorio says.

Implementation

Ropak attended an ERIP customer information seminar conducted by Stew Lawson, Sr. Energy Technologist at Oakville Hydro.

As an outcome of the information learned at the seminar, Ropak contracted an independent energy conservation company - Lightworks Inc. of Aurora, Ontario - to do a detailed analysis of the Oakville facility's lighting needs and prepare before and after scenarios in terms of energy usage and savings with the new lamps. This analysis formed part of Ropak's $100,000 capital project, which was approved in the fall of 2007.

In December 2007, new T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps were installed in a few target areas of the facility to test the impact of the lighting change. "With those positive results obvious, we began scheduling to complete the work for the entire facility," Mr. DiFlorio says.

The replacement of the remaining metal halide fixtures began in late February 2008 and was completed in early March. In the plant and warehouse, the existing 1,000-watt and 480-watt metal halide fixtures were replaced with eight-lamp T5 high-intensity fluorescent and six-lamp T8 high-intensity fluorescent fixtures. In the office, T12 fluorescent fixtures were retrofitted to T8 lamps with high-efficiency ballasts. More than 500 fixtures in total were replaced.

"I have to give full credit to our vendor in getting the project completed without interruption," Mr. DiFlorio says. "We went through the conversion without missing a beat as far as our production schedule was concerned."

Lightworks completely retrofitted the warehouse over a single weekend when the warehouse was closed.

In the injection moulding plant, where equipment cannot be shut down without significant cost, Mr. DiFlorio and Lightworks' Jon LeFave worked out a schedule that would shut down banks of lights in stages to avoid any interruption of production. "What could have been a major barrier to completing the work was avoided. It was absolutely painless," Mr. DiFlorio says.

Financing

The total cost of the lighting replacement project at Ropak Oakville was $100,000. The Ontario Power Authority's Electricity Retrofit Incentive Program (ERIP) (www.everykilowattcounts.ca) provided $14,000 towards the lighting. Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) also provided funding.

Oakville Hydro staff were diligent in the validation of the applications for financial incentives. The financial incentives reduced the payback period to one year from two years, Mr. DiFlorio says. "The incentives made a significant difference in moving ahead with the project."

Results
The annual savings from reduced electricity use (down to 670,000 kilowatts from 1.2 million kilowatts) is $56,000 based on current 2009 electricity rates. "Results in terms of reduced electricity costs have been as expected," Mr. DiFlorio says.

Lessons learned

A good lighting vendor is extremely important in successfully completing a project such as this, Mr. DiFlorio says.

"It is especially important for effective co-ordination and execution of the project, as well as preparing the required documentation for the incentives that are available. Lightworks was really instrumental in making sure that all that happened," he says.

"You have the assurance that the vendor is guaranteeing that all calculations are what you are getting back from ERIP and NRCAN," Mr. DiFlorio adds. "Their calculations were an essential component in the capital spending project we submitted to management for approval."

Oakville Hydro provided the background information needed to move the project ahead. It also verified the calculations to provide an additional level of confidence, as well as physically examining the work.
When a business needs information about energy-efficiency measures, Mr. DiFlorio recommends that the first step be contacting the local electricity distribution company. "Oakville Hydro was very receptive to providing more information to us."

The $56,000 cost savings that Ropak has seen by installing the new lighting system has underscored the high financial value of energy efficiency.

"We have formed an Energy Reduction Team that is focussed on reductions in all forms of energy from all sources," he says.

"The next steps for us are monitoring, metering and sub-metering to find out what components are taking up what part of the electricity bill. We need to get a handle on how much it is costing to run individual machines and identify which machines can be modified to reduce costs," Mr. DiFlorio says. Currently, Ropak's energy reduction team is working with Oakville Hydro to get a better understanding of the various electricity technologies and opportunities, including the OPA's Demand Response programs.

Ropak also is focusing on increasing employee awareness of energy efficiency. This includes making employees aware of energy-savings opportunities in the facility, ranging from shutting off lights to shutting down equipment when it is not needed. "There is a lot of saving that can come from zero to minimal capital investment," Mr. DiFlorio says.

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