Published in Manufacturing

Steelcase turns to building automation systems to improve energy efficiency

BY Sunday, March 18, 2018 11:15am

By using a wireless lighting control system to receive data and information from its operations, office furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc. is improving its overall energy performance on its factory floors.

It’s one way the company has embraced automation in a manner not directly tied to production. 

Limelight, a cloud-based system from Zeeland-based TwistHDM LLC, dims down lights during slower hours of operation. The system “allows us to remotely schedule, monitor and control lighting, dimming fixtures when appropriate and turning off entire sections when they are not needed,” Katie Woodruff, a spokesperson for Steelcase, wrote in an email to MiBiz

The company uses the system to optimize lighting in its wood plant in Caledonia and its distribution center in Kentwood. 

According to TwistHDM’s website, the Limelight system is “controlled and managed remotely by a universal radio module embedded in the fixed LED assembly, which can be installed in the factory or the field.”

Each system is paired with new, energy-efficient LED fixtures, Woodruff said. 

“In the wood plant, we replaced over 1,300 energy-intensive light fixtures,” she added. “These two facilities are some of our largest, so were great early targets for energy efficiency improvements.”

Since installing Limelight’s lighting control system, the company has reduced electricity consumption by 9 percent in its Caledonia location and 22 percent in its distribution center, said Sean Fahey, a sustainability analyst for Steelcase.

“The wireless control system is one strategy to further reduce our electricity consumption to meet our energy goals,” Fahey said. “It allows us to control lighting in much smaller areas of the facility independently and to schedule lighting level reductions during non-operational hours. We also benefited from an incentive program offered by Consumers Energy which helped to justify the additional upfront cost of adding advanced controls.” 

Woodruff said Steelcase is targeting a 25-percent reduction in electricity use by 2020. 

Since electricity prices fluctuate and have increased for Steelcase over the last couple of years, Woodruff said the company hasn’t experienced a significant cost savings, despite offsetting substantial electricity usage.

“We actively track the energy use of all our locations, which include over 150 offices, showrooms and manufacturing facilities worldwide,” she said. “We are able to collect, analyze and report our energy data more quickly and accurately than ever before, allowing us to gauge progress toward our goals and save a considerable amount of money. 

“So far, we’ve reduced our energy use globally by 20 percent since 2010.” 

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