Water consumption reduction project wins inaugural Environmental Category at Plexus BEST
A UN report published in May 2022 noted that drought frequency and duration has increased by nearly a third since 2000. As a consequence, more than 2.3 billion people around the world are currently facing water stress. In Romania, where our Oradea site is located, approximately 75% of the country is presently affected by drought, and the country’s cereal crop is predicted to drop by 30 million tonnes.
With water potentially being the world’s most precious resource, preservation is becoming increasingly important. In our daily lives, this might mean coping with water restrictions such as not being able to water plants in our gardens or taking individual actions like not running water each time we brush our teeth. For manufacturing environments, ways to reduce consumption might not always be as obvious or as easy to implement.
Understanding water scarcity concerns and against the backdrop of water restrictions in their local area, our team in Oradea gave themselves the challenge to reduce the site’s water consumption. The project resulted in:
Reduction in monthly
Reduction in monthly
Overall reduction in site’s
I’m really proud of the team who worked with me on this project. Being able to see such tangible results far beyond our expectations is really rewarding.
- Attila Barsony, Facilities Manager in Oradea
Their efforts were recognized with a win in the inaugural “Environmental” category at Plexus’ annual BEST (Bringing Employee Successes Together) continuous improvement competition which took place in Neenah, WI in August. Here’s how they did it.
Identifying options for reducing water waste
After installing a water meter to baseline actual consumption, the team understood the challenge. The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system which was installed when the facility was constructed in 2013 consumed significant quantities of water and was not easy to maintain or clean. The initial water consumption of the site’s humidification system was the equivalent of emptying 1.8 Olympic swimming pools every month and delivered erratic humidity levels during colder months. Stable humidity levels are essential within our manufacturing spaces to ensure ESD (electronic discharge) compliance. Maintaining stable humidity levels in the Oradea site was particularly challenging throughout the winter.
The team set the goal to reduce humidifier water usage by 30%, while maintaining humidity compliance (30 to 60 %RH) and increasing humidification process capability Ppk > 3.88. They identified three options for reducing water waste:
- Optimize the current system – this was ruled out early as the improvements would have been marginal
- Re-use the water by capturing the waste and re-routing it back into the site. However, the wastewater would need to be treated before being re-used and the cost for this was prohibitive.
- Separate humidification from the HVAC system and install a new system. The team considered steam generator systems, dry fog spray systems and high-pressure water spray systems.
Delivering water consumption reduction
After weighing up the potential new systems, a high-pressure water spray system was selected as the best option to deliver on their water reduction goals, which was then installed, tested and optimized. The results far exceeded the team’s expectations. Not only did the new system completely stabilize humidity levels across the site within the desired levels, but also the resulting savings in water and power consumption greatly surpassed the team’s initial targets to save water. This change also removed all potential health and safety concerns related to cleaning the old system.
We are thrilled to have introduced Environmental Sustainability as an official category at BEST in 2022, which this year saw projects focused on emissions reductions through equipment optimization and energy reduction, transitions to renewable energy as well as parts recovery capabilities to avoid waste to landfill. The Oradea team were worthy winners given the remarkable impact of their project on the site’s water and energy consumption and resulting decrease in overall carbon emissions. It is inspiring to see how these projects in addition to our other environmental sustainability efforts will help us to deliver on our promise to create a better world by the way we innovate and operate. I’m really excited to see what the teams come up with for next year’s competition.
- Megan Schleicher, Senior Director for ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)
The Oradea team won $5,000USD at the BEST competition, with funds from the Plexus Charitable Foundation going to the charity of their choice. As their project focused on improving the natural environment, the team chose to support an organization that directly aligns with this area of focus, the ‘Millions of Friends Association.’ Based in Romania, Millions of Friends Association maintains the biggest brown bear sanctuary in the world. They rescue brown bears from miserable conditions and allow them to enjoy life in their natural environment within the sanctuary. They also rescue injured stray dogs, caring for them until they find adoptive families, as well as educate children on how to care for animals.
Our team in Oradea and across the globe continue to identify new ways to reduce water usage, energy consumption and overall carbon footprint. Plexus’ global BEST competition provides all global teams, like Oradea, an opportunity to share lessons learned – all the highs and lows, in an effort to move Plexus forward. The successes presented act as inspiration for others across Plexus. It is through channels like this that we demonstrate our culture of continuous improvement and challenge ourselves to build a better world by the way we innovate and operate.