Uponor celebrates continued sustainability in facility expansion

Jan. 7, 2014
Should you visit the Apple Valley headquarters, which is highly recommended, the water and energy efficient measures, through products and technology, will be on display. Some of the Water-conserving plumbing fixtures: Speakman 2.2GPM lavatory faucets with water conserving flow control Sloan 1.6 GPM low consumption sensor toilet flushometers Sloan 1.0 GPM low consumption sensor urinal flushometers Bradley Corp. infrared activated hand-wash basin with flow rate control at 0.5 GPM Amtrol StorageMate S-80 hot water heater

APPLE VALLEY, MINN. — On November 25, Uponor North America celebrated the 230,000-sq.ft. expansion to its headquarters and manufacturing facility with a ribbon-cutting — or in this case, a PEX tubing-cutting — ceremony. The expansion, which included 17,500-sq.ft. of manufacturing space and 3,000-sq.ft. for an employee services area, in part helped the company increase its workforce in the past year by 25%, growing from 400 to more than 500 employees in North America.

Apple Valley Chamber President Ed Kearney and Uponor North America President Bill Gray proudly cut a section of crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) tubing with support from United States Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman John Kline, Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland and other community and political leaders.

Distinguished political and community leaders, including United States Senator Amy Klobuchar; Congressman John Kline; Deputy State Director for Senator Al Franken — Sara Silvernail; Minnesota State Representatives Anna Wills and Tara Mack; Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland; Apple Valley Chamber President Ed Kearney and several members of the Apple Valley City Council and Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce, assisted Uponor North America President Bill Gray with the honors.

“This expansion affirms our brand ideals of connecting, building and inspiring,” said Uponor North America president Bill Gray. “We’re not just trying to turn a profit here; we have a longer-term sustainability commitment to our company and the community.”

It is this continued dedication to sustainability in which Uponor should receive the highest of accolades.

“Uponor has based its philosophy of sustainability on the triple-bottom-line approach — creating a balance between people, planet and profits,” said Ingrid Mattsson, director, advertising/brand management.

According to Mattsson, Uponor’s core purpose of partnering with professionals to create better human environments means providing products and systems that help make homes more water and energy efficient, while providing greater comfort and peace of mind.

“We extend our core purpose into all that we do — how our PEX tubing is manufactured, how our building operates, how our employees are nurtured and developed,” said Mattsson. “It’s a holistic approach to our entire company philosophy.”

Should you visit the Apple Valley headquarters, which is highly recommended, the water and energy efficient measures, through products and technology, will be on display.

“The new expansion will be included in future factory/training tours, and will highlight sustainability efforts of keeping the facility water and energy efficient,” said Steve Swanson, customer trainer, Uponor Academy.

Many of the new features added to the expansion, such as the air exchangers, are upgradeable to accommodate new technology and stay as efficient as possible in the future. For example, the air exchangers recycle some of the captured heat to add to the fresh air intake. That technology helps save about 85% of our reheating costs. In addition, the air exchangers are designed to be removable in the future.

“So as new technology increases their efficiency, we can change out the older, less-efficient products with newer, more-efficient products,” added Swanson.

Environmental stewardship

In 2006, the company formed a multifunctional Sustainability Team, which guides and oversees all sustainable efforts. With an eye towards efficiency, the company cut energy expenditure on the manufacturing floor by 40% per machine by switching its primary energy source from oil to electricity. Other sustainable efforts included PEX scrap recycling, high-efficiency lighting, a commingled office waste recycling program, and even personal battery and household chemical and electronic waste disposal. 

Sustainability also is very important with regard to Uponor’s employees. Recently, Uponor received a Minnesota Job Skills Partnership grant that focuses on lean manufacturing training and environmental management/quality management system implementation. By heavily leveraging the principles of lean and continual training for every employee — in the office and on the manufacturing floor — Uponor is set for greater throughput efficiency and better productivity in all areas of the company.

In 2012, Uponor received the Efficiency Partner Award by Xcel Energy for its outstanding efforts in curbing electric consumption in manufacturing operations. 

And most recently, the company’s lean operations received recognition by the Manufacturers Alliance as the 2013 Manufacturer of the Year. Some of the lean manufacturing efforts produced impressive operational efficiencies, including improving Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) by 7.8%, decreasing non-value Added (NVA) by 19%, decreasing Variable Production Cost (VPC) by 6.3%, improving lacquer lines changeover from three and a half hours to 10 minutes, improving pipe recoil changeover from 45 minutes to two minutes.

Uponor is a strong supporter of community involvement. The company is an active member of the local Twin Cities business environment, including the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce. In fact, in 2007, Uponor received the Chamber’s Business of the Year award in recognition of the company’s growth, development potential and commitment to sustainable corporate practices.

Uponor sponsors and donates product to environmentally conscious groups, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Solar Decathlon, to help make homes more sustainable, affordable and healthy. Uponor also encourages its employees to get involved by offering volunteer time off and a matching gifts program that matches donations to employees’ favorite charities. In addition, Uponor’s Volunteer Committee typically coordinates monthly events to ensure local charities receive a solid representation of employees from the company.

In 2012, Uponor became an anchor partner for the Habitat for Humanity Eco Village project in River Falls, Wis. — the first master-planned, net-zero energy project in the U.S. It began with a roundtable discussion held at Uponor with various experts in the field of land development, housing, HVAC, plumbing, fire sprinklers and radiant floor heating. This roundtable event helped the Eco Village network with various experts in the field to ensure the products and systems going into their homes would help them achieve their net-zero energy goals.

Sustainable expansion

Water-conserving plumbing fixtures installed on the project are Speakman 2.2 GPM lavatory faucets with water conserving flow control; Sloan 1.6 GPM low consumption sensor toilet flushometers; Sloan 1.0 GPM low consumption sensor urinal flushometers; Bradley Corp. infrared activated hand-wash basin with flow rate control at 0.5 GPM; and Amtrol StorageMate S-80 hot water heater.

Five Prestige Solo 250MBH condensing boilers by Triangle Tube, 95% AFUE, were also installed, along with three Carrier rooftop units, Models HCFD with R410A refrigerant, ASHRAE 90.1; and four Indirect Fired Makeup Air Units, Reznor Models RDCB with R410A refrigerant, ASHRAE 90.1.

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