Pennsylvania steel mill improves all departments with lighting upgrades.
In continuous operation since the 1890s, the Sharon, PA, steel facility known as NLMK PA is one of the oldest steel mills in the United States. The facility is the birthplace of stainless steel, with an operational legacy of innovation and a keen eye on meeting the demands of tomorrow. Today, the massive 350-acre site serves as a hot-mill reheat, pickling, and cold-rolling facility whose products ultimately end up in the automotive, construction, pipe and tube, and heavy-equipment industries.
To keep the operation well-illuminated 24/7, the facility runs more than 10,000 lights throughout production, warehouse, and inspection areas; in roadways, waterways, and parking lots; and perimeter security lighting. Just a short time ago, the entire facility relied on a mix of conventional HID lights, including high-pressure sodium and mercury vapor, with a few fluorescents in key areas.
Because of the heavy industrial environment and the failure-prone nature of the HID bulbs and fixtures, electrical crews were continuously bogged down with lighting maintenance. “If we got two years out of the lights, we were happy, but they were very dim,” said Jeff Stidham, facilities maintenance manager at the site. “Changing the bulbs was extremely difficult and required that we take production equipment and cranes offline, which cut severely into plant operations.”
A better solution
Determined to find a better solution to reduce the cost and the headache, Stidham began investigating LED lighting as an alternative to the conventional HIDs. He invited several companies to come in and run a 6- to 8-month trial with test fixtures throughout the plant. Among the several products tested, Dialight, Farmingdale, NJ, rose to the top, primarily for its rugged, durable fixtures and extended, full-performance warranty.
“Dialight was hands down our top pick,” Stidham said. “We especially liked the heavy-duty aspect of the fixtures, because we needed something that could hold up to the steel mill environment. This is where Dialight blew everyone out of the water.”
In addition to durability, light output and visual clarity were also key factors. With a high color-rendering index, the Dialight LEDs produced a much more natural color, providing a tremendous improvement in visibility, particularly for troubleshooting and product quality inspection. The lighting company’s product portfolio promised to streamline supply-chain management, allowing NLMK to source all of its fixtures to suit a wide range of applications from a single vendor
Working with Advanced Controls & Distribution, located near Pittsburgh, NLMK placed an initial order of 800 LED high bays for its hot mill area, kicking off a full plant-wide conversion now in its sixth year. Stidham estimates the facility is roughly 40% converted to LED, with a total fixture count nearing approximately 5,000 in place.
So far, the plant has already saved at least $50,000 annually on maintenance, and Stidham says it could be perhaps as much as $100,000. The energy savings have also been “huge” and the cost is still coming down as more lights are added. In addition, the changeover has freed up substantial space in the storeroom because the plant no longer has to stockpile hundreds of bulbs and ballasts for the old, failure-prone fixtures.
“In 2015 alone, we purchased 2,500 lights. We still have a long way to go, but we’re already seeing a tremendous cost savings, drop in our kilowatt-hour consumption that could only be attributable to the new lights, and much less burden on our maintenance staff,” he said. “It used to be that on any given day, someone somewhere in this plant was always working on the lights. We’ve seen that cut dramatically by about 50%.”
In some areas, the high bays provided such an improvement in visibility compared to the older HPS fixtures, the plant was able to replace two HPS units with just one Dialight unit. In addition to the mass quantity of high bays in the rolling and other production areas, Stidham says their other “favorite” fixture and most popular are the 70-W area lights, one of the first test products installed at the facility. After just four months in place, the area lights were enough to prompt the second-largest retrofit project in the plant–a street-lighting upgrade using nearly 400 Dialight StreetSense fixtures.
“The street lighting and perimeter lighting have been a major upgrade. We used to have electricians on the road every day to change streetlight bulbs, so this has been a huge savings in man-hours, not to mention the reduced electricity consumption,” Stidham said. “It’s also helped improve plant security. We have 130 HD cameras in place, and the upgraded lighting gives us images that are like day and night compared to the old fixtures. The security department wants them everywhere now. We’re getting there—we still have about 50% of our exterior lighting to replace.”
Other Dialight fixtures installed throughout the plant include RTO jelly-jar type fixtures in the hazardous zones within the oil cellars near production equipment replacing incandescent fixtures, and linear fixtures overtop each cold-rolling inspection table, providing much improved visual clarity compared to the previous fluorescent fixtures.