Energy efficiency programs rev up manufacturer's growth | Crain's Connecticut

Energy efficiency programs rev up manufacturer's growth

Energy efficiency programs are a major reason behind the expansion of a Connecticut manufacturer whose client list includes some of the most recognizable names in the gun and military hardware industries.

Farmington-based Connecticut Spring & Stamping, also known as CSS, says it has added a second manufacturing facility and boosted its workforce by 200 workers during the past four years thanks in part to savings obtained through energy efficiency programs. The latest move is expected to save $8,171 a year on natural gas expenses in a state that has some of the nation’s highest energy prices, according to a press release.

The $8,171 savings represents 7,428 cubic feet, or 23 percent, of CSS’ annual natural gas usage, according to Fred Schiavi, a Connecticut Natural Gas energy engineer connected with the project.

“We have offset some of our operation costs while improving the efficiency of our facilities,” said Robert Allen, vice president of operations for CSS, which is 76 years old and sports a 750-client roster. Major names include Connecticut business giants like jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, gun producers Colt Defense and Smith & Wesson, and tool manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker. 

“Cost savings measures like this have helped fuel our growth from 300 employees to almost 500, allowing us to meet increasing customer requirements," Allen said.

While current programs have been helpful to CSS and others, changes are on the horizon. The advent of "manufacturing 4.0"—a wave of new technology in the industry, including an increasing reliance on data and analytics—will reshape energy efficiency programs as better monitoring and control gain widespread acceptance, said Jerry Clupper, executive director of the Woodbridge-based New Haven Manufacturers Association.

“These will provide a whole new set of efficiency changes; even bigger than the ones already implemented,” Clupper said.

Despite impressive strides, technology and government policy can still go further, he said. 

“The challenge now is to expand the areas where they can increase efficiency,” Clupper said. “Programs that allow interruptible gas are an example. Others would be compressors and other energy-intensive operations."

Part of the funding for CSS's energy efficiency improvements comes from Energize Connecticut, which is financed through charges on consumer electricity bills. Its programs include rebates, financing and services aimed at boosting energy efficiency and so-called “clean energy” improvements. Avangrid’s Connecticut Natural Gas and its subsidiaries are among the partners in Energize Connecticut, along with Eversource Energy Inc., Connecticut’s largest electricity distributor, as well as the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and the Connecticut Green Bank.          

As part of Energize Connecticut, Connecticut Natural Gas paid CSS an incentive of about $26,000 to upgrade the system it uses to collect metal dust and particles generated in manufacturing, according to Edward Crowder, an Avangrid spokesman. The project is due to be completed this month, and Crowder reports that the upgraded system is "much more energy efficient, providing significant energy savings."

Energize Connecticut spent $13.2 million statewide on commercial and industrial natural gas efficiencies and $90.5 million on commercial and industrial electricity efficiencies last year, according to the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board’s annual report to the General Assembly. The program’s total budget was $45.3 million for natural gas, which is projected to rise to $47.3 million this year, and $202.2 million for electricity, which is projected to fall to $196.3 million in 2017, the report says.

Growing steadily over the past 10 years in a manufacturing sector that has struggled to recover from the Great Recession, CSS bought a 52,000-square-foot building in 2013 and retrofitted it with energy upgrades. It subsequently made energy upgrades to its main 135,000-square-foot facility.

Both plants are in the Farmington Industrial Park. CSS is considering purchasing a third nearby building as a storage site, said Robby Piazzaroli, a company spokesman. The company started as Connecticut Spring Corp., a six-person operation working in a 3,500-square-foot, second floor loft at 618 Capitol Ave. in Hartford in 1939. It began operating the main facility it occupies today at 48 Spring Lane in Farmington in 1961.

Adding in other energy-saving moves including upgrades to LED lighting at both plants and HVAC improvements brings annual total savings to $157,266, according to CSS Facilities Manager Joe Tourville. The moves also have made the shop floors more pleasant places to work.

“Due to better suction control, there is less heat removed from the facility, a reduction in noise level, and less dust escaping into the air, improving air quality,” Tourville said.

Total employment in Connecticut’s manufacturing sector as of March was 156,500, which is 15.8 percent, or 29,300 jobs, below the sector’s employment peak of 185,800 reached in March 2008, according to state Department of Labor statistics. Manufacturing employment rose by 200 jobs, or 0.1 percent, between March 2016 and March 2017.

CSS is among the 176,000 customers in the Hartford/New Britain and Greenwich regions served by Connecticut Natural Gas.

“Connecticut Spring and Stamping is a great example that manufacturing is alive and growing here in Connecticut and that initiatives like Energize Connecticut will continue to support that growth,” said Connecticut Natural Gas engineer Schiavi.

April 26, 2017 - 6:52pm