Where the rubber meets the road

A pump audit at Yokohama Rubber showed potential energy savings of over 50 percent by replacing old and oversized pumps. The actual replacement proved it.

Story and photos by Roberto De Vido

In late 2009, Tsumoru Yamashita, Sales Office Manager of Grundfos Japan, got a call from one of his dealers. Would he join the dealer to see a customer – leading Japanese tire manufacturer Yokohama Rubber – and help close a deal to replace a competitor’s broken pump?

Tsumoru Yamashita said yes, and while at the Yokohama Rubber factory in the hills of central Japan at Shinshiro – one of five tire-manufacturing plants the company operates in Japan, he observed something of note. Yamashita noticed that the main pumps that delivered water to cool the factory’s production line were at least three decades old. He suggested a pump audit to Yokohama Chief Engineer Kenichi Hattori, who agreed.

Basically, a pump audit analyses a system’s efficiency, recording flow, pressure and power consumption. This audit returned data that showed Grundfos could deliver 51 percent energy savings if it replaced the existing pumps. Kenichi Hattori was unsure. Cutting energy consumption in half seemed like a preposterous promise, but in the end, he agreed to the upgrade.

Kenichi Hattori, Yokohama Chief Engineer

Kenichi Hattori, Yokohama Chief Engineer

“I have two budgets for boiler operations,” he says. “The larger budget is for repairing and replacing damaged or broken pumps, but I also have funds for replacing pumps in order to realise energy savings. This is not my first priority – reliability is the most important factor for us. But after the pump audit, I decided to go ahead and replace those old pumps.”

From scepticism to savings
Grundfos Service Manager Hiroki Inoue and his team conduct over 400 pump audits a year in Japan. He says the company’s sales teams often face scepticism when they tell potential customers about the amount of possible energy savings, but when it can affect the bottom line to such a degree, they are willing to try.

“Our data reports potential energy savings, and for customers that translates directly into saving money,” he says. “We did another audit for Yokohama Rubber after we installed the first four Hydro MPC-EF pumps, and we achieved the predicted result: we reduced their energy consumption by 51 percent,” he adds. In the first year, the pump replacements saved Yokohama Rubber more than JPY 4 million (around EUR 40,000).

With the new pumps delivering significant savings, Kenichi Hattori and Shinshiro plant General Manager Masaki Noro searched for more opportunities to upgrade and increase efficiency. In August 2011, they bought five more pumps for the Shinshiro plant, delivering savings of 52 percent in one installation and 39 percent in another. Despite initial doubts that the Grundfos pumps would be able to deliver so much energy savings, Kenichi Hattori had become a believer. “Today, over two years after we installed the first pumps, I am convinced Yamashita-san was not lying to me,” he jokes, prompting a quiet smile from Yamashita.

In the first year, the pump replacements saved Yokohama Rubber more than JPY 4 million (40,000 Euros) in electricity costs.

In the first year, the pump replacements saved Yokohama Rubber more than JPY 4 million (40,000 Euros) in electricity costs.

More upgrades
Kenichi Hattori shared the results with other Yokohama plants. Engineers in Hiratsuka bought and installed a Grundfos TP200-400/4 pump, which paid for itself in one year, in part because Grundfos engineers calculated that a much smaller pump motor (55 kW) than had been previously installed (95 kW) would do the job. Yamashita believes that Grundfos is well positioned to further help Yokohama Rubber cut costs and energy. “The first pumps we installed delivered 51 percent energy savings, but that was actually the lowest efficiency improvement we recorded in all our installations there,” he says. “Our next installation reduced the pumps’ energy consumption by 54 percent, and the third one came in at 53 percent.

Good for the bottom line
The Shinshiro plant aims to reduce energy consumption roughly three percent per year. “I am responsible for ensuring that we continually improve our environmental management policies and results,” says Masaki Noro. “We have targets for reducing our CO2 emissions, and energy consumption has a direct impact on that. We have a basic plan for replacement and renewal of our equipment, but the potential savings shown by the pump audit moved these systems to the head of the queue.”

The initial installation of Grundfos Hydro MPC pumps and their control systems paid for itself within 18 months through reduced energy costs. Payback time at the Hiratsuka plant was one year, and the second Shinshiro installation paid for itself within 15 months.

And then there is the even bigger picture. While the new pumps have bolstered Yokohama Rubber’s bottom line, they have also helped the company contribute to Japan’s national setsuden (electricity-saving) movement. The federal program began as a result from the meltdowns of several nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following the earthquake and tsunami in early 2011.

The Yokohama Rubber Company’s Shinshiro plant produces 40,000 tyres a day.

The Yokohama Rubber Company’s Shinshiro plant produces 40,000 tyres a day.

Noro notes his responsibility to meet the company’s waste-emission and energy-conservation targets: “We reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 13 percent in less than 20 years, and we need to continue to find ways to improve. The pump audit opened our eyes to significant energy savings that could be realised in an important area of our operations, and I’m sure we can continue to make gains in this area.”

Grundfos supplied
• Hydro MPC-EF 4 CR90-2-1 Booster System
• Hydro MPC-E 3 CRE32-6 Booster System
• TP 200-400/4
• CR 64-1-1
• CU 351 Control Systems

About Yokohama Rubber
The Yokohama Rubber Company was founded in 1917 as a tyre manufacturer, now also producing industrial and aerospace products and materials. It has annual sales of JPY 465.1 billion (EUR 4.57 billion). Yokohama Rubber has manufacturing and test facilities at nine locations in Japan, as well as in the United States, China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The Shinshiro factory runs 24 hours a day, 347 days a year, with some 1,500 employees working in two shifts (plus overtime), manufacturing 40,000 tyres a day.

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