A. O. Smith Water Heater Plant Earns Sustainability Award

Aug. 12, 2013
A multiple-year initiative to reduce natural gas, electricity and water consumption culminated today with the employees of the A. O. Smith plant in McBee, SC, receiving the 2012 Chairman’s Green Star Award.

After a multiple-year initiative to reduce natural gas, electricity and water consumption, the employees of the A. O. Smith plant in McBee, SC, were presented with the 2012 Chairman’s Green Star Award. Executive Chairman Paul W. Jones presented the award to the 400 employees of the plant during a special ceremony.

The Chairman’s Green Star Award was created in 2009 by A. O. Smith to encourage natural resource conservation efforts throughout the company.  The award is presented to the plant that achieves the most year-over-year reductions in natural gas consumption, electricity usage and water consumption.  A total of 15 facilities worldwide competed to receive this year’s award.

The McBee plant reduced electricity consumption by more than 10%, cut natural gas consumption by more than five percent, and saved more than two million gallons of water--nearly seven percent-- in 2012.  While still managing to increase commercial water heater production by approximately seven percent during the same year.

While presenting the award Jones said, "Given A. O. Smith’s position as a leading global water technology company, I’m pleased to see that a significant number of your projects have been focused on water conservation," He continued.  "Your efforts don’t just have positive cost implications for the plant, they have a positive impact on the environment as well."

The McBee plant upgraded the parts washers, used in commercial water heater tank production, helping to reduce water consumption by two million gallons last year

Sam Carver, vice president-North American operations, observed that energy efficiency and water conservation have been critical factors in nearly every equipment upgrade in the plant over the last several years.

"We have been emphasizing efficiency and sound cost management throughout the operation," Carver said.  "While a number of these are small projects, combined they have helped us substantially decrease our water and utility requirements."

Placing focus on the parts washers that pre-treat water heater components prior to fabrication, the engineering team in McBee has replaced a number of older washers with new equipment that is better insulated, helping reduce natural gas consumption. By monitoring fluid levels in the tanks more effectively, the new washers minimize overflows and help the plant reduce the amount of chemicals needed in the cleaning process by more than 25%, according to Manufacturing Engineer David Hoover.

The A.O. Smith McBee plant replaced the original lighting throughout the facility, helping reducing electricity consumption. Motion sensors, such as the one programmed by Engineer James Shaw, further reduce electric consumption by shutting down the lights in areas of the plant not being used. McBee received the A. O. Smith Chairman’s Green Star Award for resource conservation.

The original 30-year-old light fixtures were also replaced with high efficiency lamps that not only are brighter—improving light levels and enhancing worker safety—but also require less energy.  According to Manufacturing Engineer James Shaw by giving off less heat the high efficiency lamps help maintain more comfortable temperatures throughout the plant. The engineering team also modified the curing furnaces to recirculate heated air to improve drying parts, while saving additional energy.

In addition, the engineers installed motion sensors in a number of areas throughout the plant.  Which allows the plant to shut off the lights when portions of the plant are unoccupied, further reducing electricity usage.

Henry Dority of the McBee plant evaluates a water sample from a parts washer.

The plant’s cooling tower installing was also upgraded with a two-cell system that utilizes high efficiency variable speed drives.  Which provides better control of the amount of water being pumped through the system to increase overall efficiency.

Another area of focus has been the plant’s recycling program, since McBee has recycled steel and other metals for a number of years, but in 2011 the plant began separating cardboard, plastic, and glass.  Employees also installed equipment to compact and bail the waste; resulting in disposal costs have being reduced 65% and amount of solid waste being sent to landfills being reduced by 60% between 2010 and 2012. 

The improvements don’t stop there, because later this year the team plans to upgrade the air compressor equipment throughout the plant with variable speed controls and continue to upgrade furnaces and parts washers in the facility.