A legacy of getting the job done

Waupaca Foundry backs up its competitiveness with energy

Posted on Sep 28, 2018 :: Guest Insights.
Focus on Energy
Posted by of Insight Publications

What began modestly along the shores of the Waupaca River in 1871 has grown to become North America’s leading supplier of iron castings.

Today, Waupaca Foundry employs approximately 4,500 people and operates seven iron foundries in Waupaca and Marinette, as well as Tell City, Ind., Etowah, Tenn., and Lawrenceville, Pa. It also operates a machining and assembly plant in Effingham, Ill.

The company has grown from a regional foundry to a global supplier to heavy industry with durable products designed for the agriculture and construction, transportation and industrial sectors. Recognized as a supplier of quality iron castings, Waupaca Foundry has remained competitive in part for its commitment to relentless improvement throughout its operations and forward-thinking sustainability initiatives, all with the goal of providing a reliable experience to the millions who use products with castings every day.

The Waupaca-based business holds the honor of being the world’s largest iron foundry and a national leader in energy management. And while the first is a testament to its manufacturing expertise, the latter goes hand-in-hand with how the company operates to remain competitive by being committed to energy conservation.

According to Waupaca Foundry President, COO and CEO Michael Nikolai, energy is one of the largest costs of manufacturing, with an annual price tag of about $180 million across all Waupaca Foundry locations.

“We are setting the pace in our industry by committing to continuous improvement in environmental sustainability by reducing our energy use,” Nikolai said. “Our efforts not only reduce our impact on the environment but make us a more competitive iron castings supplier in the global marketplace.”

In 2016, Waupaca Foundry achieved certification to the ISO 50001 International Standard for Energy Management Systems. It was the only U.S.-based foundry, and just the second Wisconsin facility, to receive the certification.

In 2017, this commitment to energy efficiency placed it among 15 elite recipients that received the “Excellence in Energy Efficiency Award” from Focus on Energy and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. With support and guidance from Focus on Energy and Wisconsin Public Service, Waupaca Foundry completed a series of equipment upgrades that saved more than 4.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 250,000 therms of natural gas.

“By continually improving our environmental sustainability, we are not only reducing our impact on the environment, we’re remaining competitive in a global marketplace,” said Bryant Esch, environmental coordinator for Waupaca Foundry.

The Wisconsin-based Focus on Energy program identified projects at the gray iron foundry that were designed to conserve energy plantwide. Some of the more significant initiatives included:

• Converting to LED lighting throughout manufacturing, office, and employee areas. The retrofit effort replaced inefficient lighting with LED technology, with over 800 energy efficient LED fixtures installed within the past two years.

• Replacing outdated compressors with new, more efficient models. At the same time, ductwork and additional equipment was installed to capture the waste heat and use it to heat buildings during the colder months.

• Expanding and networking electric and natural gas metering to a new energy management system. To measure the effectiveness of projects and programs, the system allows for monitoring of real-time energy use at departmental levels and archives historic data to allow analysis and comparison of current versus past data.

Ongoing energy conservation initiatives are part of Waupaca Foundry’s vision for sustainability. By 2020, the company goal is to:

• Reduce energy intensity by 25 percent.

• Promote state-of-the-art pollution control technologies.

• Reduce spent foundry sand generation by 30 percent and reuse/recycle spent sand used in the metal casting process to achieve zero landfill disposal.

• Reduce water consumption by 80 percent.

Waupaca Foundry remains competitive because of its steadfast commitment to building on a legacy of getting the job done, which includes being fully pledged to environmental sustainability.