Being energy efficient results in ‘greener’ pastures at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY: Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence has implemented multiple initiatives to limit impacts on energy and resources. From left, Thomas Conway, assembly technician, and David Auclair, global department lead, work on a machine at the North Kingstown facility. / PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY: Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence has implemented multiple initiatives to limit impacts on energy and resources. From left, Thomas Conway, assembly technician, and David Auclair, global department lead, work on a machine at the North Kingstown facility. / PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

PBN MANUFACTURING AWARDS 2020 | Green Manufacturing: Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence


GREEN MANUFACTURING is not just trendy or practical given that there is only one Earth at our disposal. It’s also good business, as Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence leadership will tell you.

Green manufacturing aims for efficiently using sustainable materials and energy. It tends to keep costs down.

“Being green is good business. It makes businesses more efficient,” said Jennifer Andersen, facilities and environmental, health and safety manager at Hexagon’s North American headquarters in North Kingstown.

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That focus on efficiency has been a company hallmark since the 1950s, when the company, then Brown & Sharpe Inc., was headquartered in East Greenwich. Brown & Sharpe Inc. and Wilcox Inc. integrated into Hexagon in 2002, and relocated to Quonset Business Park a year later.

Hexagon’s 126,000-square-foot building, its worldwide manufacturing center for fabrication of air bearings, opened in September 2006. The environmentally controlled structure has more than 12,000 square feet devoted to product showrooms, a state-of-the-art training center and a calibration laboratory.

Hexagon also has 250 employees at the facility. The company’s Manufacturing Intelligence division has 22 facilities on four continents supported by sales and support locations worldwide. Hexagon name-brand Manufacturing Intelligence solutions are widely used by aerospace, defense, medical, automotive, shipbuilding, antenna, and space hardware industries.

Currently, more than half of the building is now converted to a Johnson Controls Metasys heating, ventilation and air conditioning control system. The system helps the facilities team determine problem chains, and access temperature controls and mapping/documentation. The portable platform provides decision-making information needed for superior operations and maintenance.

Two years ago, Hexagon used a grant and rebate program offered by National Grid and Consumers Energy Efficiency consultants to completely re-lamp the facility with LED lighting and convert to LED compatible ballasts. The new lighting has more candlepower in work areas that require detailed visual inspection and has a five-fold working life as compared to high-efficiency fluorescents. Additionally, the LED lighting sheds virtually no exothermic heat loss, so rooms can be temperature regulated without having to compensate for lamp heat “dump.”

Hexagon also makes sure all aspects of the manufacturing process have as minimal an impact on resources and energy as possible.

“We’re trying to manage our products from cradle to grave,” said Stephen Ilmrud, Hexagon’s vice president of operations.

Ilmrud said Hexagon works with equipment vendors to recycle the granite slabs that make up the bases of factory machines. A lot of steel and aluminum is similarly recycled. In some cases, Ilmrud said, vendors sell the materials back to the company that initially sold them the machines.

Hexagon’s dedication to efficiency and green processes is also having a global impact, particularly in its influence over which vendors they work with. Hexagon wants all the elements affecting its supply chain to be efficient.

A portion of wooden pallets used at the facility, about 100 per year, are also reused to create and repair raised bed gardens for Hexagon’s annual Employee Team Gardening program, now in its fifth year. The topsoil in the garden beds is sourced from a local composting vendor, suitable for consumable plants. The challenge encourages employee team building, design, creativity and time outdoors to nurture their vegetable or flower gardens. Teams are also recognized with awards and incentives.

Finally, the facility recycles all batteries, including lead acid, lithium cells, and NiCad under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Universal Waste Regulations, and runs a voluntary recapture of recyclables program.

The facility is even home to an early-adoption version of at-work charging stations for employee electric vehicles. There’s space for about 12 vehicles to charge on-site.

“The facility was ahead of the curve on that one,” Andersen said.


COVID-19 UPDATE

WHEN THE COVID-19 pandemic shut down most industries in Rhode Island in March, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence was not hobbled; it adjusted.

Vice President of Operations Stephen ­Ilmrud said Hexagon asked about 70% of the 250 employees at its North Kingstown factory to work from home. Their work has continued smoothly, he said.

Hexagon was the first to sign the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association’s COVID-19 Response and Pledge, vowing to implement structural change and health and safety policies to limit virus spread.

Hexagon is pledging to control site traffic, enhanced hygiene, social distancing and reduced density, emergency response and quarantine procedures, and robust communication. Hexagon has also donated 15,000 N95 masks to the state to aid its efforts to protect medical workers and first responders.

Ilmrud said the company has developed a reopening plan. He said Hexagon can operate under the current conditions.

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