An “Xten-sive” look at life as an American molder: Chapter 1

Did the recession slow the pace of progress at your company? Likely it did, 
but that does not mean you still aren’t striving to improve. In this, first in a 
four-part series, MPW will be tracking one company’s efforts to be sustainable 
and profitable. (Ed: You can read the rest of the series here: Xten Chapter 2 ; Xten Chapter 3 ; Xten Chapter 4 .)

Officials at Xten Industries, a custom injection molder and contract manufacturer in Kenosha, WI, believe that sustainability and profitability are not competing goals. They also are out to prove that profitable manufacturing and “Made in the U.S.A.” are not mutually exclusive terms.

“Sustainability is about making responsible choices that help the environment and ensure that your company will survive the business pressures it faces,” says Mark Dirr, Xten’s director of engineering. “Ultimately, this is how you must approach your efforts to be a more sustainable operation—the two go hand in hand. When you find ways to responsibly use less of anything, you reduce your expenses, and that goes directly to your bottom line.”

Xten’s director of engineering, Mark Dirr, is helping the company pursue a number of different approaches to more sustainable, and more profitable, plastics processing.

Lead quality tech Jorge Escobar explains the new heater bands to machine operators, demonstrating the cool-to-touch aspect. Xten retrofitted some of its largest presses with the bands to save power, reduce heat loss, and transmit heat more efficiently.

Thomas Tucker of Kinergetics LLC, contracted by Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy, is verifying that Xten Industries realizes the cost savings that the VFD manufacturers indicate for the drives. By checking the electrical readings on the power supply to the machines, the amount of energy savings is calculated.

Shown here is the enclosure for the VFDs, linking the control panel to the press. Xten has installed four such drives on its largest machines. The VFDs automatically vary the energy usage depending on the process cycle demand.

Xten Industries, formerly Hauser PlasTech, experienced strong growth over the past few years. During this recession the company saw some drop in business early on, but by September 2009 things had picked up substantially. Because of this growth, explains Xten’s president Matthew Davidson, the company was reaching the limits of its electrical capacity. It was time to think about energy use and ways the company might save on electrical costs. ( Download the most recent letter showing Kinergetics’ findings on the efficiency of three of Xten’s presses.)

Xten’s local utility, Wisconsin Energy (WE), offers a program in which it will evaluate a company’s current energy usage and estimated future needs. “Beyond saving money, we had the incentive of finding a solution to our upcoming capacity limits,” says Davidson. “Unless we became more efficient with the equipment we had, we’d have to invest heavily to expand our electrical capacity, which would cost us over $100,000. Our goal became cost avoidance and learning to live within our kilowatt means. The fact that we were helping to cut overall electrical consumption was an added benefit.”

Xten began its sustainability

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