A.O. Smith Franklin plant wins green award for resource conservation

FRANKLIN, TENN. — APCOM Inc., a State Industries subsidiary that manufactures water heating components including heating elements, thermostats, gas burners and dip tubes, has won the A.O. Smith 2011 Chairman’s Green Star Award. The plant won because of its daily focus on conserving natural resources along with improving process efficiency and reducing costs.

"It is my pleasure to be here today to present the Franklin team with the 2011 Chairman's Green Star Award," said Paul Jones, A. O. Smith Corp. chairman and chief executive officer. "This award is presented to the facility that demonstrates year-over-year improvement in energy consumption and water usage."

"We created this award to highlight the strategic importance of conserving critical resources — most notably natural gas, electricity and water — and reducing waste in our global operations. It underscores our commitment to being a good corporate citizen as well as a good steward of the environment," Jones continued.

In addition to saving nearly 400,000 gallons of water to date, the plant reduced its electricity usage by more than 18% in 2010 and its natural gas consumption by nearly 16%.

"This is an award program that, once again, reflects the values of our company, most notably our desire to be a good corporate citizen," said Ajita Rajendra, president of A. O. Smith Water Products Co. "The work you have done to conserve scarce resources and operate in a more efficient manner is remarkable, and the results are noteworthy. Achieving double-digit reductions in electricity usage, gas consumption, and water use is truly an accomplishment you can be proud of."

"Water is an important resource in Franklin as we use large quantities of water to clean parts in our zinc plating process," said Larry Lillard, APCOM vice president of manufacturing. This process is the biggest user of water in the plant. Lillard explained that parts are washed and rinsed three times and soaked in a sulfated acid solution twice before plating. "The plant estimated that four million gallons of water was therefore going down the drain annually," continued Lillard.

The water from the rinses is subsequently treated with "Hydroxide Precipitation" in the wastewater treatment system. This removes impurities and metals from the rinse water before sending it to the sewer. Since the water is fairly clean and pH balanced when it leaves the wastewater treatment system, another suggestion was made to recycle the treated water.

Franklin assessed the recycle approach and installed a rinse water reclaim tank in the fourth quarter of 2010 that captures the water that the treatment system discharges. This water is now used in the noncritical rinse stages of the plating process. The plant expects to save approximately 860,000 gallons a year.

The plant has installed a meter to measure their savings and so far in 2011 has saved 360,000 gallons of water by using reclaimed water.

Additional water saving measures were implemented during 2010. Franklin installed spring return fill valves on the cleaner tanks. Water evaporates during the cleaning process and the tanks need to be bought back up to the fill lines. The spring return valves prevent an individual from filling the tanks to overflowing, thereby preventing an overflow and wasting water.

Also hoses have been added to the reclaimed water tanks. Instead of using city water for general clean up, reclaimed water is used for mopping and other cleaning. This saves approximately 3,000 gallons a month.

"In the area of saving electricity," said Lillard, "Franklin has replaced two old air compressors with compressors using the latest technology of variable speed motors. These new compressors adjust for demand and only use the air that is needed. The compressors will throttle back during off shifts and use less power."

In addition, the Franklin plant has installed high efficiency T-8 bulbs in both the plant and warehouse. The bulbs will last longer and use less electricity.

The plant also addressed natural gas usage by replacing an inefficient 20-year-old steam boiler, the biggest user of gas at the plant. The new steam boiler is significantly more efficient with burners that have been much improved over those made years ago.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Franklin employees were John Brock, James McCarthy, Jodie Griggs and Tommy Hargrove.

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