Tracking Good Lighting

Rail-transportation company improves lighting levels in massive plant.

Lighting conditions at The Greenbrier Companies’ Gunderson facility had deteriorated to the point where light levels ranged from 13 to 36 foot-candles.

The Greenbrier Companies is an international supplier of equipment and services to the freight-rail transportation markets. It designs, builds, and markets freight railcars, tank cars, rail castings, and marine barges, and provides wheel services, parts, leasing, freight railcar repair, refurbishment, and retrofitting services to the railroad and related transportation industries. Greenbrier owns a lease fleet of more than 9,000 railcars and performs management services for more than 268,000 railcars.

Greenbrier’s Gunderson facility in Portland, OR, is its flagship manufacturing facility for marine barges and rail cars. The massive 58-acre plant contains more than 875,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing floor space under multiple roofs.

At its peak, more than 1,391 employees are on the floor. Lighting conditions at the facility had deteriorated to the point where light levels ranged from 13 to 36 foot-candles. It wasn’t uncommon to see a significant number of light fixtures out of commission and yellow lamps intermingled with white lamps. Employees frequently complained about shadows that made it difficult to perform their job. To operate at peak efficiency, the lighting needed to achieve an even 50 foot-candles throughout the facility.

The issue with the quality of light was beginning to trigger additional concerns.

Research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that, “the quality of lighting can have a positive impact on reducing the risk of the primary causes of occupational injuries.” The safety and security of its employees were of the utmost importance to ownership, and they realized better lighting would decrease the likelihood of accidents.

While the process for swapping out lamps and light fixtures might appear simple, at a facility such as this, it was a logistical challenge. The proven longevity of LEDs was appealing to the owners and they were optimistic they could identify an opportunity to decrease energy use, even though the lights at the facility are never turned off.

The Portland, OR, facility is the flagship manufacturing facility for marine barges and rail cars. The massive 58-acre plant contains more than 875,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing floor space under multiple roofs.

The lighting team of Creative Lighting, Portland, OR (gocreativelighting.com) and Hubbell Lighting, Greenville, SC (hubbelllighting.com) initiated extensive research to identify a solution that would work for the Gunderson facility. A detailed analysis of products from various manufacturers that compared wattage, efficacy, and annual energy costs was facilitated, and the team determined Columbia Lighting’s LLHV VersaBay high-bay LED and MPL Megaplane LED would offer the best combination of powerful, high light output with energy savings for a significant return on the investment.

The LLHV is available in six lumen packages, making it suitable for replacement of 150-W to 1,000-W HID fixtures. For this massive facility, the team selected the Ultra High Lumen Package with Wide Distribution (LLHV4-50-U-W-ST-E-U) to replace the 1,000-W metal-halide and HPS legacy fixtures. The optical design of the LLHV provides one-for-one replacement of metal-halide and fluorescent high bays with substantial energy savings.

At a projected 60,000-hr. L80 life, the LLHV is an excellent choice for warehouses, manufacturing centers, gymnasiums, convention centers, and other large, open commercial spaces. It is DesignLights Consortium (DLC) qualified, meaning the fixture selection would enable Gunderson to qualify for any applicable utility rebates.

The MPL is a linear, suspended luminaire suited for retail, design/build, back of house, warehouse, and commercial-storage applications. The industrial fixtures provide a lumen range of 6,000 to 24,000 and replace 150-W to 400-W HID and 2L, 3L, 4L, or 6L fluorescents with mounting heights of 12 to 30 ft. It also is DLC qualified.

The quality of the light source has made a noticeable impact on worker safety and morale and operation efficiency.

A new standard

The quality of the light source has made a noticeable impact on worker safety and morale, the efficiency of operations, the balance sheet, and Gunderson’s sustainability goals.

Employee vision has improved with the light uniformity, and in many areas light levels have doubled or even tripled to an even 50 foot-candles. Prior to the lighting upgrade, it wasn’t uncommon to see workers using additional light sources to support their jobs, especially in the Main Line final-inspection area where experts were looking for any defects in the final product. In the Plate Shop the MPL’s TIR directional linear optics are providing optimal lighting performance to guide the machinists where cutting, drilling, and forming of materials takes place.

Each of the LLHVs is performing at 138 lumens/W and the MPLs at 96 lumens/W. It is estimated that energy use for the entire 58-acre facility will be cut by more than 1.65-million kWh/yr., translating to annual energy savings of $130,000, more than $10,000 each month.

The Hubbell MPL is a linear, suspended luminaire suited for retail, design/build, back of house, warehouse, and commercial-storage applications. The industrial fixtures provide a lumen range of 6,000 to 24,000.

In addition, the Gunderson facility is benefiting from a local utility rebate since it selected energy-efficient LEDs that are DLC qualified. The one-time rebate helped defray more than 50% of the cost of the lighting upgrade, establishing a payback period of 1.7 years.

Geof Knutsen, maintenance and facility supervising electrician at The Greenbrier Companies commented, “It’s been great to see the renewed energy on the manufacturing floor. Employees are positive, excited, and emotionally enthusiastic because of the brighter environment. Management is thrilled with the impact the lighting has had on worker safety, the balance sheet, and our broader sustainability goals.”


— Download additional information on the LLHV.

— Get more information on the MPL.

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