Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Sustainability Pillars at Intertape Polymer Group Inc.

In February 2021, Compressed Air Best Practices Magazine interviewed members of the Intertape Polymer Group Inc. (IPG) Sustainability Pillars team to gain an understanding of the work being done to improve energy efficiency. The team members interviewed were Michael Jones (Director of Corporate Energy), Michael Deitering (Senior Project Engineer), Jarrod Knapp (Maintenance Manager) and Mark Secord (Engineering Group Leader).

IPG Carbondale, IL Plant.

IPG Carbondale, IL Plant.

Good morning, can you briefly describe IPG?

Good morning. IPG is a leader in the development, manufacture and sale of a variety of paper and film-based pressure-sensitive and water-activated tapes, polyethylene and specialized polyolefin films, protective packaging, engineered coated products and packaging machinery for industrial and retail use. For more information visit https://www.itape.com.

The Company employs approximately 3,600 employees with operations in 31 locations, including 21 manufacturing facilities in North America, four in Asia and one in Europe.

How does IPG approach sustainability and please describe your “Sustainability Pillars”.

For IPG, embracing sustainability is a key strategy of doing business to drive operational excellence and realize our company vision of global leadership in packaging and protective solutions while also doing what is right for our employees and communities.

Optimizing our operational footprint is one of the four pillars of our sustainability strategy. This means we are managing environmental impacts like energy, greenhouse gases (GHG), water, waste, and other emissions.

Within our Intertape Performance System, there are many steering teams with different objectives. We have Sustainability Pillar Teams, in each plant, focused on energy/GHG, water and waste reduction. Sustainability Pillar Teams meet every other week, in each plant, and include members of plant management, engineering and plant maintenance. 

How are projects identified and goals established?

Each plant has a 1 and 5-year Energy Action Plan (EAP). We use the A3 methodology (developed by Toyota) for our corporate energy action plan. This is a “plan-do-check-act” methodology which all fits on one A3 size page. You can pin it up on a cork board and has been popular in Lean Manufacturing techniques. In addition, we use the A3 methodology for solving problems and for planning. You state current condition, set a goal, do root cause analysis, state the action plan, and then track progress by keeping score.

Each plant prepares a deployment plan for the year, which identifies projects designed to help them achieve their EAP goal. We conduct a monthly Corporate Sustainability Pillar call with the leaders of all the plants. Leaders of each plant share best practices and progress towards our Sustainability and EAP goals. Sharing Best Practices rapidly is key and this call is how we share successes quickly. It might be something as seemingly simple as discovering a new compressed air ultrasonic leak detector. We put all our documents on our Microsoft Teams shared site and our team can access all the documents there with the details of the Best Practice.

What are some key tactics IPG uses to raise the profile of energy conservation projects?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies’ ENERGY STAR® program has made a big impact. In 2020 we were recognized as ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year-Sustained Excellence for the 5th -year in a row.  Across our plants, we achieved a 3.7% reduction in energy intensity in 2019 vs 2018.

We achieved the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry at IPG’s Carbondale, IL manufacturing facility for the 4th time.  In order to be recognized, a plant has to measure and reduce their energy intensity by 10% over a 5-year period.  Since 2009, our individual plants have received this recognition 14 different times. Carbondale has been a leader in pursuing this recognition. Our plants tell us the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry program creates some healthy internal competition and satisfaction for being recognized for accomplishments in cost reduction and doing what’s right for sustainability.

We have also held an annual IPG Energy Summit since 2007.  All plants come and benefit from team building and educational opportunities.  In 2020 we gave out awards juried by an awards committee consisting of the Director of Corporate Energy (Michael Jones), a VP of Operations, an SVP of Operations and a Continuous Improvement Leader. Specific criteria for each of the following awards were developed. The awards were:
a.    Sustainability manager of the year
b.    Best plant sustainability program
c.    Best plant sustainability project
d.    Lifetime achievement award 
e.    Sustainability impact award for the new acquisition plants (one which really knocked it out of the park)!

Please describe your “Air Strike Teams” and their focus on eliminating compressed air leaks.

Some of our plants have created Air Strike Teams to focus on compressed air, particularly compressed air leaks. The teams have purchased ultrasonic leak detectors, and we expect these will help us with our Energy Treasure Hunts. We have a newer acquisition (PolyAir), with 7 plants, and all have formed teams and bought leak detectors.

We have a deployment plan that we use which schedules a quarterly strike team to go look for leaks. Leak surveys are usually scheduled during plant down-time when it’s quiet in the plant, and easier to hear the leaks. Additionally, some leaks can only be repaired when the production equipment is not operating.

A typical three to four-person Air Strike Team is made up by plant and production line supervisors, production equipment operators, and maintenance mechanics. During a leak survey, normally production personnel (equipment operators) will identify leaks. A second person logs the leak using the application provided by the ultrasonic leak detector vendor. The application (which is very useful and downloaded on iPhones) automatically tabulates data and gives you a spreadsheet containing information (size, location, dollar value, etc.…) on each leak. The third person involved is normally from maintenance to fix the leak on the spot if possible. An extra fourth person may be there for training to learn how to use the equipment. COVID-19 has forced us to use smaller teams with only one person using the meter. 

Most of the time, repairing compressed air leaks is simple and the majority of the leaks are generally repaired during the leak survey. Maintenance is using wrenches, channel locks, screw drivers, and tightening up hoses.  The team will carry some extra hose to replace pneumatic tubing and hoses we don’t patch. Having a parts strategy really helps with repairing leaks. Several of our IPG maintenance shops have a Fastenal vending machines carrying most of the air fittings we need. We also try to standardize certain brands of hoses, tubes and push-to-connect fittings. Some brands work significantly better than others and the premium is well worth the cost in compressed air leaks. 

We have a red-tag system for the unrepaired leaks (after a leak survey) so we don’t lose sight of them. We try to use same person who was originally there to follow up and fix the leak. When maintenance technicians are doing preventative maintenance, on production equipment, and see a red tag, they can quickly look up the leak value in terms of dollars. We hold fun competitions, within the maintenance staff, on the dollar value of leaks fixed in a given month.

IR rotary screw compressor

The rotary screw air compressor installed at the Carbondale, Illinois plant.

Your Carbondale, Illinois plant has achieved the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry recognition for the 4th time. Can you share some of the projects driving this?

Sure, let’s ask Jarrod Knapp (Carbondale Maintenance Manager) to comment on that. In 2019, the Carbondale Facility was awarded the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry by reducing its energy intensity 11.8 percent within two years vs. the baseline. – A minimum of a 10 percent reduction was required for recognition. We have established baselines which we keep rolling forward and working on.  Here are some of the projects.

  1. We did a complete plant lighting retrofit in 2016 in both the plant and our office space. This involved replacing  our existing T12’s with LED retrofit kits.
  2. As mentioned, we do regular compressed air leak studies, which always give good results. We noticed, as the plant grew, we were running our 100 hp rotary screw air compressor always at full capacity and a 75 hp rotary screw unit (both were older fixed-speed) units, at part-load to trim. We also had some shut-downs with these air-cooled units due to high ambient temperatures. We asked John Henry Foster, out of St. Louis, to do a complete compressed air system assessment to analyze things. Their analysis confirmed the dollar costs to run the 75 hp fixed speed unit inefficiently at part-load. Based upon the assessment, we installed two twin water-cooled 150 hp variable speed drive units - the second unit is for redundancy and we alternate them daily. John Henry Foster also recommended a receiver tank to smooth out our compressed air demand and a cycling refrigerated dryer. 
  3. We optimized our turn-off/shut-down procedure for our gas-fired regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO). Our RTO unit has a 250 hp motor which was running at 40 Hz when idle due to individual dampeners being left open. We modified it to run off of duct pressure and now it runs at 20 Hz when closed and in idle. This has really helped us to reduce natural gas consumption. 

Winter cooler

The free-cooling winter cooler installed at the Marysville, Michigan plant.

Congratulations. Do you have any chiller/cooling water projects to comment on?

Yes, there have been many, we had a successful centrifugal chiller project using free-cooling, at our Turo, Nova Scotia plant. We’ve asked Michael Deitering (Senior Project Engineer), to quickly review a successful winter cooler project done at our Marysville, Michigan plant.

At our Marysville plant, we’d been running a 200-ton chiller year-round to provide glycol cooling for the extruders in our adhesives production department. The system was reliable but we thought we could take advantage of the low temperatures in southeast Michigan, seven to eight months per year, with free-cooling concepts. Our original chiller layout had glycol going through the plant.

We installed two roof-mounted “dry-cooler” coils with staged banks of 10 fans each to cool glycol. We separated the system to cool glycol to 50°F (10°C) which then cools plant water to 55°F (13°C). We had to add a pump tank and a heat exchanger to separate the system.  This system has 30 hp of fans and a 20 hp pump running fluid to the roof.

The system went on-line in January 2020. We now turn off the 200-ton rated refrigerated chiller, whenever we see temperatures below 57 – 60°F (14 - 16°C). The chiller is replaced by coils and fans to produce same amount of tonnage using only 20 hp in pumps and 30 hp in fans. We run this 7-8 months out of the year. The 200-ton chiller runs during the warmer months. Today we are at 6°F (-6°C)  ambient and we can turn off the fans, just run the fluid pump – and we are providing 41°F (5°C)  water temperatures. The project was fairly straight forward. We feel it’s underutilized technology - most plants aren’t doing this sort of thing. 

Thank you for sharing Best Practices and congratulations on your progress with energy efficiency.

For more information about Intertape Polymer Group Inc. visit https://www.itape.com.

To read similar Plastics Industry articles visit https://airbestpractices.com/industries/plastics.

To read similar Corporate Sustainability articles visit https://www.airbestpractices.com/energy-manager/corporate-sustainability-programs.