Bright ideas


Tribune Chronicle

The Lordstown General Motors complex will be on summer shutdown for the next two weeks, but that doesn’t mean things won’t happen inside the sprawling plant.

Having already converted about 1,600 Halide fixtures to more efficient LED lights, Steve Rhoades, GM Lordstown’s engineering director, said workers will be ready to continue the process with about 4,000 more fixtures when the plant empties out for the summer break beginning Monday.

“This will be part of the 4,000 we will go after in July,” Rhoades said, as he recently walked through the complex’s west plant where workers stamp out GM auto body parts. “The importance of July is that we are down for two weeks.”

The $1.5 million lighting upgrades are just part of the investment GM has been making in its Lordstown complex, where the Chevy Cruze is assembled and body parts for the Cruze, Buick Verano and Chevy Volt are made.

In addition to the lighting upgrades, other work going on during the shutdown includes routine maintenance and continued retooling in preparation for future launch of the next generation Chevy Cruze. That work has been under way for several months since the $200 million project was announced last summer. Contractors have said they expect to take advantage of the two-week shutdown to work on the project.

More lighting upgrades planned in weekly meetings by GM’s energy team eventually will move on to other areas of the complex, including the assembly plant and even outdoor lighting.

“This is one of GM’s largest facilities. We have 6 million square feet. We have just taken a small portion so far,” Rhoades said.

The United Auto Workers has also played a role in the effort to reduce impact on the environment.

“By giving our members the proper energy management training, we can ensure that the facilities where they work will be up-to-speed on industry best practices for cutting carbon emissions,” said UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who directs the union’s GM department.

Companywide, GM is participating in a U.S. Department of Energy program to reduce energy costs at 25 of its U.S. facilities, resulting in an anticipated 25-percent or greater combined reduction in energy use at the plants by 2018. The Lordstown complex is among those 25 plants.

“General Motors’ efforts are helping the nation benefit from energy efficiency,” said Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, U.S. Department of Energy.

GM Lordstown spokesman Tom Mock said because of the energy savings and reduction on Kilowatt loads, First Energy provided GM with a 50 percent rebate on the company’s $1.5 million investment.

“We continue to prove the business case for better energy management,” said Al Hildreth, General Motors corporate energy manager.

Nationwide, GM plants have identified 218 energy-saving opportunities which have led to more than $7 million in savings. The new LED lighting system in Lordstown is estimated to help save $780,000 a year in energy costs, according to lighting supplier ALLED Light Systems, Inc.

“There’s a huge cost savings. Look at what we are saving, hundreds of thousands of dollars in stamping alone. The life span adds to it too. I don’t have to get up there for years and years to do any maintenance,” Rhoades said. “We started doing the math, and the savings are huge.”

Wireless controls on the lights allow the plant to easily dim or brighten lighting levels in different areas of the plant, said Chuck Simpson, GM Lordstown’s site utilities manager.

In Lordstown, more specialized LED lighting also has been installed in an “audit bay,” where just-built Chevy Cruzes are inspected for imperfections in the assembly plant. That project was designed by a group of Youngstown State University engineering students as part of their class work.

According to information provided by ALLED, once the stamping plant lighting conversion is complete, it will be the first GM facility to be fully converted, and one of the world’s largest conversions to LED lighting.

Calling GM a “leader in green energy solutions,” ALLED Lighting Systems President David McAnally said, “To our knowledge, this is the world’s largest indoor LED installation with this type of built-in, fully integrated wireless control system.”