KCS International, Inc. a major employer in Oconto County, builds yachts from 30 to 56 feet under the brand names of Cruisers Yachts and Rampage. When Bruce Allen, director of operations for KCS, heard about the Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI) pilot program from Steve Straub, WMEP senior manufacturing specialist, he was very interested in getting involved.
The Wisconsin Profitable Sustainability Initiative
PSI is a state-funded program to accelerate the adoption of sustainability strategies by small and midsize manufacturers. The goal is to help participants reduce costs, gain competitive advantage and minimize environmental impacts. PSI brings together a team of energy, environmental, logistics and lean experts to work with manufacturers to identify and implement improvements. Projects are prioritized based on business needs, fast payback and high ROI.
“In 2008, KCS spent $1,000,000 for heat and electricity to maintain production in our four plants—a combined 450,000 square feet. Though our production levels aren’t as high as they were in 2008, we still have to heat these buildings,” said Allen. The high cost of heat and electricity puts KCS at a cost disadvantage to competitors located in warmer climates, and Allen was very interested in reducing this expenditure.
Focus on Savings
KCS was accepted as a PSI participant, and the initial diagnostic revealed several projects that could reduce cost and environmental impact. The company chose to implement a zoned-heating project, as it was relatively easy to complete and the impact was expected to be immediate and significant.
“KCS focused on the assembly building, because it was the largest facility at 125,000 square feet,” said Straub. The building had 23 separate heaters, each with a different thermostat. “No one would go through every day and turn down 23 heaters,” said Allen, “So very often they would remain on 24/7, even though we had a four-day work week. That’s a lot of wasted heat.”
Convenience and Savings
The PSI grant paid for the computerized zoned heating application and hardware, KCS did most of the work in-house to expedite the project. “The installation took about 3 months to complete,” said Allen.
Today, the entire assembly facility operates with zoned heating that can be monitored or changed through a web interface. “I can control the facility’s heat from home,” said Allen. The temperature is set higher during working hours, lower at night, and even lower on the weekends when the building is unoccupied.
“We’re saving 5-10% on the cost of heating the building,” said Allen. Including the PSI grant, KCS’s return on investment is about one year, and Allen expects to install zoned heating in the company’s other buildings over the next few years to further reduce energy expenditures. “Zoned heating was on our radar,” said Allen, “but the PSI program really helped us make it happen. We’re very pleased with the outcome and plan to move forward with another project identified by the PSI process. It’s really helping us become more competitive.”
- Heating costs reduced by 5-10% in first building
- Cost reduction is helping the company become more competitive
- Expansion to other facilities is planned
- Payback for zoned heating: Less than one year