Some of South Carolina’s manufacturers are lowering their energy bills by tens of thousands of dollars and reducing their carbon footprint with the help of a free Clemson University program that is entering its second year with plans to more than double its client list.

The Industrial Assessment Center at Clemson University provided voluntary assessments to six manufacturers in its inaugural year, recommending $600,000 in savings. The work is helping fuel a boom in manufacturing, which now represents 11 percent of employment in the state.

A team from Clemson University's Industrial Assessment Center poses for a picture at KION North America.

A team from Clemson University’s Industrial Assessment Center poses for a picture at KION North America.

Michael Carbajales-Dale, the director, said the center expects to audit 15 companies this year and 20 in 2019.

“We would like to see an energy-efficiency initiative driven through the South Carolina manufacturing ecosystem,” he said. “This Industrial Assessment Center could become a hub for this kind of activity.”

Clemson launched the center in October 2016 after receiving nearly $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

It is among 28 Industrial Assessments Centers nationwide that provide no-cost assessments to small- and medium-sized companies. To be eligible, companies must have fewer than 500 employees at the plant site, gross annual sales below $100 million and annual energy bills between $100,000 and $2.5 million.

The Clemson center can offer assessments from eligible manufacturers across the state.

Among the clients of the Clemson center was KION North America, a global material handling and solutions company with North American headquarters located in  Summerville, South Carolina.  Activities at the headquarters include the manufacturing of powered industrial trucks and spare parts warehousing and distribution.

The company took recommendations to install LED lights, repair air leaks and power down cranes at night. KION North America expects to save as much as $20,000 a year and recoup its upfront investment in a little over a year, said Max Vome,  the company’s health, safety, environmental and security manager.

“It was absolutely worth it,” Vome said. “The savings Clemson’s IAC Team recommended were definitely there, and to have outside resources identify energy savings projects and conduct  cost analysis was excellent. These projects and their associated cost savings add up over time.”

Michael Carbajales-Dale

Michael Carbajales-Dale

Manufacturing employment in the state has grown 16 percent since 2011, with 47,000 new manufacturing jobs announced in five years, according to the state Department of Commerce.

The industry has diversified beyond its textile roots and has established itself as a magnet for international companies, making cars, airplanes, home appliances, tires and more.

To start, the center asks each company to fill out a questionnaire about its energy use. Vome said it took him about an hour.

Later, a team of faculty members and students from the center visits the site for one full work day. A company representative, usually the plant manager, gives an initial tour of the facility, Carbajales-Dale said.

After making a preliminary evaluation of potential areas for savings, the team then gathers the necessary data across a variety of systems, including lighting, boilers, chillers, compressors, pumps and motors.

Within 60 days, the center summarizes its findings in a report provided to the Department of Energy and then the company. The center usually identifies savings of 15-20 percent, although it sometimes ranges higher, Carbajales-Dale said.

In a follow-up six months later, the center asks which recommendations the company implemented and why, he said.

The center is comprised of faculty members, graduate students and undergraduates with backgrounds in various disciplines, including electrical, environmental, industrial and mechanical engineering. The idea behind including students is to train the next generation of energy-savvy engineers by providing them with hands-on experience, giving them an edge in the job market.

Carbajales-Dale is an assistant professor of environmental engineering and earth sciences. The center’s associate director, Jay Devkota, is a civil engineering research associate. Other faculty members involved in the project have backgrounds in environmental engineering, industrial engineering and electrical and computer engineering.

For KION North America, the assessment was part of a broader global sustainability initiative  aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using less energy, Vome said. The manufacturer is also coming out with energy-saving, lithium-ion trucks and considering the use of solar panels to generate electricity for its Summerville headquarters, he said.

“This company is doing a lot of great things to reduce its impact on the environment, and Clemson was able to come in here and help us contribute to our overall global sustainability initiatives,” Vome said. “I’d recommend this assessment   to any company  interested in lowering their energy bills and reducing the impact they are having on the environment.”

To schedule an assessment, visit https://iac.university/center/CL#apply, or you can contact the center by emailing IACClemson@lists.clemson.edu or calling 864-656-3519.

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KION North America Corporation

Headquartered in Summerville, S.C., KION North America Corporation is a member of the KION GROUP AG, one of the world’s two leading manufacturers of industrial trucks. Their brand companies, Linde, Baoli and STILL serve the specific requirements of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican markets with a comprehensive and complementary product portfolio. Their products are known for their innovative technologies, low energy consumption and low operating costs.